An MHK says a school’s new rule on restricting toilet breaks during lessons unfairly singles out girls.

Douglas South MHK Claire Christian has written to the Education Minister to voice her concerns about the rule change at Ballakermeen High School.

In a letter sent out to parents, Ballakermeen head Graeme Corrin said teachers have been asked not to allow students to leave lessons to go to the toilet unless they have a medical issue or it is judged an ‘extraordinary situation’.

He wrote: ‘We currently have too many students requesting to leave lessons to go to the toilet. Many of these students are subsequently missing large chunks of lesson time and learning.’

But Mrs Christian said: ‘I have many concerns about the newly-implemented policy at Ballakermeen High School.

She said: ‘I have concerns this policy will single out female students, particularly those who may need to visit the toilet for specific reasons like menstrual health. ‘Requiring a medical pass for such a natural and necessary requirement can indeed single out female students and cause undue stress or embarrassment.’

She said it was not acceptable that girls would have to put their hands up in class and explain in front of classmates that they were menstruating.

Mrs Christian said restricting students' access to the toilet during lessons can create various issues, including potential bottlenecks during break and lunch times, which could lead to overcrowding and students rushing to use the facilities within a limited timeframe.

Other consequences, she said, could include soiling and wetting accidents in the classroom, urinary tract infections, and children reducing the amount they either eat or drink in the mistaken belief that this will stop them needing to use the toilet.

She said all of these can have a ‘devastating impact’ on a child’s learning, development, and well-being.

In his letter to parents, Ballakermeen’s head teacher said some students were gathering in toilet cubicles to vape.

The Douglas South MHK said in terms of addressing underlying issues such as vaping and other misuse of the facilities, it was important for schools to ‘find a balance between maintaining discipline and ensuring that students' basic needs are met’.

(Claire Christian MHK)

‘Has the school really considered the diverse needs of all students while still addressing behavioral issues effectively?’ she asked. She said she has now written to the Education Minister Daphne Caine.

And she added: ‘Knowing the head teacher and the extremely hard-working teachers, everything will have been done to try to avoid this restriction, but what I am concerned is that in reality this is putting a very small plaster on a much bigger problem.’

Parents posted comments on the MHK's Facebook page, echoing her concerns. One wrote: ‘We have girls too worried to go into school at the time of the month due to this.’

Another posted: ‘A teacher cannot possibly know who really needs to go or not.

‘They cannot see and should never assume, it is ludicrous.’ In a statement, Mr Corrin defended the new rule.

He said: ‘There will, of course, be times and situations where students need to leave lessons, and teachers are able to show understanding and use their professional judgment and discretion.’

Mr Corrin said the school was ‘embedding a culture where every second of learning time counts’.

Mrs Christian said she was pleased that the head teacher had adopted a far softer and supportive tone in his statement.

She added: ‘I would highly recommend that if a parent finds this new regime restrictive for their child now or in the future they raise it directly with the head teacher to get the assurance needed.’