Access to toilets during lessons.

The request was successful.

Dear Department for Education,

Please provide me with answers to the following questions:

1. Is there anything in law or DfE guidelines that gives schools the right to enforce a BLANKET ban on children going to the toilet during lessons. Meaning: can school children be denied access to toilets during lessons regardless of circumstances / urgency of the need to relieve themselves? If so, please provide me with links to the relevant legislation / guidelines.

2. What is the DfE's advice to schools on provisions for children to access toilets during school hours AND during lessons?

3. Can schools (ie: do schools have the LEGAL right to..) ask for medical evidence before allowing a child to go to the toilet during lessons? If so, please provide me with links to the relevant legislation / guidelines.

3. Does the DfE offer advice /guidelines to schools on children's right to access fluids / water during school hours? Specifically, is there a restriction on the amount of liquid (a minimum or a maximum) children are allowed to access or a time restriction on when they can access fluids / water whilst attending school? If so, please provide me with links to the relevant legislation / guidelines.

Yours faithfully,

Karin Siemund

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. We can confirm that
we have received the Freedom of Information request you submitted.

We will respond to you within 20 working days.

 

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Dear Karin

 

Thank you for your email of 19 February, concerning access to toilets
during lessons. I will respond to your questions in point order.

 

1. All schools must adhere to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The employer in a school must take reasonable steps to ensure that staff
and pupils are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. We expect
schools to be mindful of their duty of care responsibilities to pupils and
ensure that individual circumstances are fully considered and any health
issues are fully taken into account.

2. It is for schools to decide whether pupils are allowed to take toilet
breaks during lessons or are expected to use the toilets during planned
breaks. Governing bodies are also responsible for deciding the length of
each lesson and the timings for the morning session, the midday break, and
the afternoon session.

3. We would expect schools to be mindful of their duty of care
responsibilities to pupils and ensure that individual circumstances are
fully considered and any health issues are fully taken into account when
reaching decisions of this nature.

4. The statutory School Food Standards state that drinking water must be
provided free of charge at all times to registered pupils on the school
premises. It is the responsibility of the head teacher and the governing
body to decide when water should be made available as part of the
day-to-day running of the school. The standards can be viewed at
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio....

I hope this is helpful.

Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2018-0009479. If
you need to respond to us, please visit:
[2]https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus and quote your reference number.

As part of our commitment to improving the service we provide to our
customers, we are interested in hearing your views and would welcome your
comments via our website at: [3]http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/8IW1A/

Yours sincerely

Susan Hall 

Web: [4]https://www.education.gov.uk
Twitter: [5]https://www.twitter.com/educationgovuk
Facebook: [6]https://www.facebook.com/educationgovuk

References

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2. https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus
3. http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/8IW1A/
4. https://www.education.gov.uk/
5. https://www.twitter.com/educationgovuk
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Dear Susan,

Thank you very much for your initial reply, however, I feel that you have not fully answered my questions (the following bullet points refer to the same bullet point numbers as my original FOI request):

1. Does your reference to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 mean, that children have the same rights as employees referred to in the above Act? Yes or no.
Furthermore, quote (your reply): ''We expect schools to be mindful of their duty of care responsibilities to pupils and ensure that individual circumstances are fully considered and any health issues are fully taken into account.'' Fully considering individual circumstances implies that a BLANKET ban on going to the toilet regardless of circumstances is not legal as it could not possibly reflect that individual circumstances have been considered? Correct? Yes or no.

3. Your reply does not answer my question. Let me repeat it in a more obvious way: Can schools (ie: do schools have the LEGAL right to..) ask for medical evidence BEFORE allowing a child to go to the toilet during lessons? Meaning: can a teacher point blank say ''unless you have a valid medical issue, and something like a toilet pass to prove this, I will not allow you to leave the classroom to go to the classroom, regardless how desperate your urge to do so may be''. Yes or no?

Yours sincerely,

Karin Siemund

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. We can confirm that
we have received the Freedom of Information request you submitted.

We will respond to you within 20 working days.

 

Dear Susan,

Apologies, I've just noticed an error in my latest reply to you earlier on today (last paragraph):
''.....I will not allow you to leave the classroom to go to the classroom...''
It should read:
''....I will not allow you to leave the classroom to go to the toilet.....''
Sorry again, looking forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,

Karin Siemund

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. We can confirm that
we have received the Freedom of Information request you submitted.

We will respond to you within 20 working days.

 

Dear Department for Education,

I am still waiting for your reply to my FOI request. I would appreciate a speedy response, please, thanks!

Yours faithfully,

Karin Siemund

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. We can confirm that
we have received the Freedom of Information request you submitted.

We will respond to you within 20 working days.

 

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Dear Karin

Thank you for your further email of 26 February, concerning access to
toilets during lessons. I apologise that my response of 6 March, did not
get to you and for any inconvenience caused.

Employers retain responsibility for the health and safety of pupils, but
they can delegate tasks to headteachers or other school staff. What a
school employer needs to consider in its policy will vary depending on the
size of the school and the risks associated. The Health and Safety
Executive has published guidance on ‘Sensible health and safety
management in schools’, which can be viewed at 
[1]http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education....
The department has also published guidance on Health and Safety, which can
be viewed at
[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio....

In my previous response, I informed you that it is down to the school
whether they allow pupils to take toilet breaks during lessons or if they
are expected to use the toilet during planned breaks. If a child has a
medical condition and needs to go to the toilet during times, which are
different to the school’s policy, then they can ask for medical evidence
to ensure that the required measures are put into place to accommodate the
child’s needs.

If you have concerns over an individual schools policy, I would suggest
that you contact the headteacher at the school. If you remain dissatisfied
with the response that you have been given, you should then put your
concerns in writing to the school’s governing body. I would advise you to
obtain a copy of the school’s complaints procedure, which by law the
school is required to publish. This should fully explain its complaints
process and you will be able to establish whether the school is following
its published complaints procedure when dealing with your complaint.

I hope this is helpful.

Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2018-0019500. If
you need to respond to us, please visit:
[3]https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus and quote your reference number.

As part of our commitment to improving the service we provide to our
customers, we are interested in hearing your views and would welcome your
comments via our website at: [4]http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/8IW1A/

Yours sincerely

Susan Hall 

Web: [5]https://www.education.gov.uk
Twitter: [6]https://www.twitter.com/educationgovuk
Facebook: [7]https://www.facebook.com/educationgovuk

References

Visible links
1. http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education...
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...
3. https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus
4. http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/8IW1A/
5. https://www.education.gov.uk/
6. https://www.twitter.com/educationgovuk
7. https://www.facebook.com/educationgovuk