A top private school in London is contemplating building unisex toilets – despite the school being exclusively for girls.
The £16,000 ($22,340)-a-year Blackheath High School is planning to build gender-neutral toilets after students raised the issue. Headmistress Carol Chandler-Thompson said: “Obviously you can read alarmist headlines about these things, but these are valid questions to be asking.”
Pupils must be female when they enroll at the school, but Chandler-Thompson said: “We may have young people who are transitioning here, and we would support that."
The gender-neutral toilets would be included in major reconstruction work the school is undergoing, with one-third of the buildings being bulldozed and rebuilt. "We are in the middle of a giant building project. If we are introducing a single toilet, why would you put a gender on it? We are not about asking that question,” she told the Evening Standard.
Chandler-Thompson said pupils raised the subject during PSHE (personal, social, health and education) classes, during which transgender issues were discussed. Students had already led a successful campaign for the school to allow trousers as part of the uniform.
The headmistress said she was pleased that pupils felt they could challenge the school’s policies, adding: “Girls are interested in issues of gender. We look at what topics we cover in PSHE. Are they relevant to children's lives? Things are moving quite rapidly. We try to make sure it's relevant to the students — gender identity and sexual orientation and racial identity — making sure there is a safe space to discuss these issues.
“The way we work here is we try and involve the students in these discussions. We try and work with them. We have intelligent conversations with the girls about the language used within lessons and what we are normalizing. When we say ‘ask your mum to sign the homework planner’ what assumptions are we making without thinking?” she asked.
It comes as more institutions face pressure to be more gender-inclusive. In January, a female-only school dropped the term ‘girl’ in a bid to support trans pupils. In December, British soldiers were ordered to use gender-neutral terms to make women and people from the LGBT community feel included.
In November, London Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to introduce gender-neutral toilets across the capital in a bid to support trans people.
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