School toilets: Guidance and regulations

Written by: Paul Thorn | Published:
The high school my daughter attends has closed all toilet blocks except 1 for girls and 1 for boys ...

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What are the legal requirements when it comes to school toilet facilities? Paul Thorn offers us a quick guide, considering the most recent government guidance for toilet facilities and some best practice ideas and advice

When designing toilet facilities for educational institutions, getting your head around the rules and regulations can be a minefield of contradictory information, with several inconsistencies between different versions of governmental guidance.

Confusion arises from the dissolution of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in 2007. It briefly became the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), before reorganising into the Department for Education (DfE) in 2010.

However, when looking for “school toilet regulations” online, the 2007 DfES Toilets in Schools guidance document still features towards the top of search results, despite the guidance being 10 years out of date.

The latest advice is contained within the DfE’s 2015 document, Advice on Standards for School Premises (see further information).

The 2015 advice allows for more freedom, empowering schools to take greater control in how buildings are laid out. The 2015 advice is non-statutory, but has been produced to help schools "understand their obligations and duties in relation to the (statutory) School Premises Regulations (SPR) 2012".

The 2015 advice includes the following:

  • Handwash amenities must be located within close proximity to every toilet, while it’s imperative that washrooms are sufficiently well lit and properly ventilated.
  • Toilet blocks have to be easy to access for students and allow for passive supervision by staff, without infringing on privacy.
  • Quoting the SPR 2012 (Regulation 4.2), the guidance states: "Separate toilet facilities for boys and girls aged eight years or over must be provided except where the toilet facility is provided in a room that can be secured from the inside and that is intended for use by one pupil at a time."
  • For secondary school children, appropriate changing rooms and showers must be available for PE lessons.
  • Staff facilities should be separate from those used by students, although disabled toilets are allowed to be accessed by both students, staff, visitors and volunteers.

The 2015 advice adds: "Where there is unisex provision, the privacy of the occupant needs to be ensured and this will be achieved by, for example, having adequate enclosure and a full height door."

In terms of the appropriate number of units to have, the key guidelines to have in mind is “British Standard 6465-1: 2006+A12009”, which states the appropriate number of units for secondary school children. This details:

  • Male toilet and urinals: one per 20 students while urinals should constitute no more than two-thirds of the boys’ fixtures.
  • Female toilets: one per 20 students.
  • Handwash basins: one per toilet/urinal where there are three or fewer fixtures. Two per three toilets/urinals where there are three or more fixtures. Toilets and urinals should be near to a handwash basin.

Elsewhere, disabled amenities must be situated away from any staircases, with doors that open outwards and onto a circulation space of at least 750mm. Where you have four or more cubicles to a block, at least one should have a diameter of 1,200mm, with both vertical and horizontal grab rails. Other cubicles, for comparison, should have a minimum of 450mm manoeuvring space clear of the door. Moreover, it is of fundamental importance that disabled amenities are designed and furnished to the same quality of all other facilities.

School toilet advice

Despite the DfES’ 2007 Toilets in Schools guidance document now being obsolete, it outlined some great advice:

  1. Wash troughs are favourable to individual wash basins, as they look nicer are easier to clean, and have a reduced risk of flooding. Students take pride in facilities that are more aesthetically pleasing, lowering instances of anti-social behaviour, while the robust nature of troughs makes them vandal-resistant.
  2. It is advisable that temperature-limiting devices are fitted to taps, reducing instances of scalding. Additionally, tamper-proof mixer taps which stop running after one litre of water passes through should also be considered, removing the danger of flooding. Infrared taps are also growing in popularity in schools, which go a step further in terms of water conservation.
  3. Locks must be easily operable with one single movement and doors have to be accessible for emergency services.

The complete design of school toilet facilities undoubtedly has a great impact on the overall wellbeing of students, so every aspect of their construction should be carefully planned. This includes the provision of drinking fountains, which are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly, reducing the reliance on plastic bottles and the inherent problems they bring.

Moreover, ERIC, a children’s bowel and bladder charity, offers advice to schools on how to support children with medical conditions such as incontinence.

  • Paul Thorn is the founder of School Toilets, a supplier of washroom equipment for schools. Visit

Further information & resources

* This article was updated in December 2021 to clarify, verbatim, the exact wording of Regulation 4.2 as referenced in the DfE's 2015 Advice on Standards for School Premises and to include links to the School Premises Regulations 2012 and the relevant British Standard.

My child's primary school has installed portaloos outside for them as they run out of water on the first day back to school. I can't say I am happy with the idea of my child coming out of class, in the middle of winter and use an outside toilet. Who monitors the safety of these?
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Im a student in a secondary school in Hampshire. In one of the male restrooms, there are three cubicles. All toilets function, however only 1 door locks properly. Does this violate any of the regulations?
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Yes my childrens High School alsop in Liverpool has locked toilets and the toilets which are open do not accommadate the population of the school. This is a violation of rights and is damaging to childrens sense of saftey and physical well being
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The high school my daughter attends has closed all toilet blocks except 1 for girls and 1 for boys with 4 cubicles in each. The pupils are only allowed to go to the toilet at breaks and lunch and have to queue. The toilets also have staff members supervising at these times. The pupils are not allowed to go to the toilet at any other time. The queues are too long so not all pupils are getting enough time to go. Is there a law against this, surely it’s an infringement of human rights.
I know pupils can take advantage of being allowed to leave class during lesson time but to not have enough toilets is beyond ridiculous. Please advise of the rights these kids have. Thanks

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Is it illegal for school toilets to not shave any soap available
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Do teachers have the right to stop children form going to the toilet even if they ask?
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My school closed all toilets for girls, there is now only 3 single cubicles for all the girls in the school (yr7-6th form)
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My school doesn't have locks on the stalls or soap
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Is it right that the teachers can stop a child going to the toilet when in a lesson even though the child really needs to go
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Hi, is it reasonable to ask my year 6 child (age 10 nearly 11) to use school toilet facilities designed for, reception to year 2? His whole year has had to move into the infants section of the school for his last year, even though there are junior facilities elsewhere in the school.
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