School Toilets

Storying School Toilets is a sister project of the Around the Toilet which so far has been funded by the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science. We are interested in children, young people and staff’s experiences of toilets in schools and early year settings.

 Storying School Toilets emerged as one of the first conversations that we had in the Around the Toilet workshops was about school toilets.

Adult participants spoke retrospectively of toilet paper that was like tracing paper, and little use for doing the job that it was intended. 

Some participants who had used the toilet assigned to ‘girls’ at school talked about ‘buddying up’ to go to the toilet – either because of enforced school rules, or for fear of bullying. Participants assigned female at birth (AFAB) also spoke of seeking solitude, eating lunch and hiding in the school toilets.

A genderqueer trans woman who used the urinals when at school talked about a childhood competition between those assigned male at birth to see who could pee over a high-up bar. They said that this was fun at first, but, as they grew older she became uncomfortable about what could be perceived as displays of masculinity in the bathroom.

[You can read a full paper based on some of these conversations, and arguing for more research around school toilets, here]

So far, Storying School Toilets workshops have involved making comics with children, alongside Nicky Ward from The Bower Wirks.

Like in the Around the Toilet making-creating workshop, we began our first in-school workshop by sitting with children and teaching assistants in a circle of chairs, and imagining how we’d feel if the chairs were toilets. Interestingly the conversations were very similar with the children, as with the adults –  issues of visibility, gender, sexuality, sights and smells.

We then broke into groups to make some comics based on imaginary toilet stories. We gave the children the option of choosing a ‘first sentence’ to start their stories.

  • The most (smelly/beautiful/adventurous toilet) would have…
  • You go into the school toilet and something surprising happens…
  • Your adventure started in a toilet in the middle of nowhere…
  • You fall into the toilet and what happens…
  • You sit on the toilet, and the toilet is having a bad day, what’s it cross about…

[You can read some more reflections of one of the workshops, here]

Below you can see the comics that the children made from both the workshop in school, and a similar workshop later that month, but run in a cafe.

If you are interested in talking more about school toilets then get in touch with

The Elves that Live in the U-Bend

The Chicken, Fox and Talking Toilet Portal

The Bubble Trap and the Germs

The Toilet is Cross and The Cat’s Toilet Problems

Potty’s Story (this one was written by an adult participant at the coffee shop event)

When I Fell Down the Toilet

Rupert The Rabbit’s Toilet Adventure

The Poo Eater