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Children’s commissioner for Wales criticises school toilet facilities

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The Children's Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towley, says more has to be done to improve school toilets

School toilets are still not good enough despite repeated warnings that they need to improve, according to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

Watch interview with Keith Towley at ITV.com/Wales

In his annual report, Keith Towler said children were avoiding going to the toilet in school because some lacked seats and cubicle doors.

His office made recommendations to improve toilets in 2004, but in today’s report Mr Towler complained about a lack of progress since the Assembly Government pledged a big increase in funding for school buildings in 2001.

He said: “It is now 2010 and whilst we have seen progress in some schools and in the new buildings, it is not good enough that some of our children in school are using toilets with no seats or doors on the cubicles, with inadequate washing facilities, and feel so strongly about it that they avoid using the toilets during the school day.

“Surely our children deserve better than this. A fair society for children would show more respect.

“There is a gap here between policy intent and practice and whilst difficult decisions need to be made within schools, priority must now be given to putting this right so that children don’t continue to have dignity and respect denied them.”

Mr Towler called on the Government, councils and the public sector to “get the basics right” as budgets come under pressure from spending cuts.

The report welcomed important developments for children’s rights during the year, including action to address child trafficking and guidance to make councils listen to children when reorganising schools.

The UK Government’s forthcoming spending review makes it more important than ever that money is budgeted for children on a “right-based approach”, the commissioner said.

Mr Towley went on: “Only in this way can we ensure the most vulnerable children are protected.

“There has been a commitment by Welsh Government to develop a system which should improve budget forecasting but I’m fearful of the loss of momentum.”

The report said there are continuing difficulties with caring for sick and premature babies. It questioned whether £2 million pledged by the Assembly Government to improve services is enough.

And Mr Towler said he still found examples where children are not allowed to play in public places, where parents are chastised for letting their children play in the street and where others are scared to let their children play without supervision.

He added: “I can’t help but feel we have lost something. People of my generation enjoyed much more freedom as children.”

An Assembly Government spokesman said: “We welcome the Commissioner’s annual report which raises many important issues that affect children and young people across Wales.

“Ensuring children and young people are aware of, and can access their rights as individuals remains one of our top priorities

“Responsibility for the provision of adequate school toilet facilities rests wholly with local authorities. We are, however, aware of concerns and are in the process of preparing best practice guidance to assist school governing bodies, headteachers and local authorities.

“We will now take time to consider the report in full and will respond in due course.”

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