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Was it OK for children to change in public?

(76 Posts)
spooksfan Wed 13-Jul-11 04:09:15

My daughter has just started a new school, and is in reception. Her class recently had a trip to a local wildlife park, and I was a parent volunteer. The activities included a splash in the paddling pool, and the class teacher asked children to get changed in the open, by the paddling pool, even though changing facilities were available. I said at the time that I felt this was inappropriate and took my daughter to get changed in the changing rooms. Also, I was asked to take the group of children I was supervising to the toilet out of the view of the teachers, and I was also asked to help the children get changed, even though I have not been vetted in any way by the school.

I subsequently raised my concerns in an email to the headteacher and had a meeting with her yesterday. She was fairly lukewarm about my comments saying the usual PC stuff like 'it's good to have your views' etc. She said that there had been a breakdown in communication and that the teacher had not asked me to help get the children changed but merely to supervise them. However, later on in the conversation she said that parents should expect that if a trip involves changing parent volunteers will be assisting.

My question is: is it standard practice for classes of children to get changed outside on trips, and would parents generally have any concerns/objections?

Also, is it reasonable to expect that only vetted individuals should be supervising children for toilet visits/changing?

TheFlyingOnion Wed 13-Jul-11 06:25:28

"Also, is it reasonable to expect that only vetted individuals should be supervising children for toilet visits/changing"

No, it is not. How many hands/pairs of eyes do you think teachers/TAs have? How many parent helpers on a trip do you think have been CRB'd?

There really isn't a "paedo" hiding behind every bush, you know...

IndigoBell Wed 13-Jul-11 06:28:40


You always have to take kids to the toilet when you're a parent helper on a trip. You weren't alone with them - you were taking a whole group.

If a reception kid was struggling to get changed you would have rather watched then help them?

These weren't random people helping. They were parents of the children in your Childs class.


basingstoke Wed 13-Jul-11 06:36:13

You can't be a helper on a trip at my DC's school unless you are CRBed by the school.

spanieleyes Wed 13-Jul-11 07:17:20

Mine neither.

TheMagnificentBathykolpian Wed 13-Jul-11 07:24:04

When you say get changed in the open by the paddling pool, do you mean the children stripped off to naked right there by the paddling pool?

If so, then that is totally inappropriate for a school to allow on a school trip and worth a complaint to the governers. Not because of 'paeeeedo' fear, but because children have a basic right to privacy as much as adults do.

Re people helping out, well, <shrug> all a crb check proves is a person has never been convicted of anything. Since most abusers never get caught, a crb as some sort of guarantee that the person is 'safe' - next to useless. Common sense. That's what's needed.

purepurple Wed 13-Jul-11 07:27:38

Actually, if the choice is between children getting changed as a group where they can be seen or children getting changed in cubicles where they are out of sight, surely it is safer for the children to do the first option?

Goblinchild Wed 13-Jul-11 07:29:47

We don't take parents on trips who haven't been checked, and we wouldn't have let children change in the open, or probably go in the paddling pool in the first place.
These sorts of changes have been driven by safeguarding and parental objections. So if it bothers you, encourage the school to change. Of course, you then have many disappointed parents who can't be involved in things because of the restrictions but that's how it goes.

magicmummy1 Wed 13-Jul-11 07:32:09

You need a crb check to volunteer at our school as well. I think you may have a point about unchecked volunteers taking kids to the toilet with anyone else around. It doesn't strike me as good practice to have unvetted people left alone with the kids.

Having said that, I think you're being quite unreasonable about the kids getting changed in the open - they are only four or five, and this seems quite harmless to me. I imagine that the teacher was quite annoyed when you said it was inappropriate and took your dd off to change elsewhere - as a parent volunteer, you are there to assist the teacher, not to single out your own dc for special treatment.

RitaMorgan Wed 13-Jul-11 07:35:20

Changing in the open I'm not sure about - depends on the circumstances.

But really, we won't trust another parent to supervise a group of children unless we know if they have a criminal record (which of course is not the same as being safe, responsible or not a peedo)? I think things have gone too far there and we've lost all sense of perspective.

Goblinchild Wed 13-Jul-11 07:36:05

Let's see if they pick her next time. grin
It's one of the lists you pass informally to the next teacher. Which parents to have on trips and volunteer in class, and which ones to avoid.
I had one bunk off to buy herself, her DD and friend an icecream. Leaving everyone else out.
I had another who virtually ignored every other child in her group for special 1:1 with her DD.
Both were CRB checked, but inappropriate to choose as helpers.

magicmummy1 Wed 13-Jul-11 07:46:11

shock at going off to buy an ice cream!! No wonder you have to pass lists to the next teacher!

Goblinchild Wed 13-Jul-11 07:47:20

Not written down lists. smile

magicmummy1 Wed 13-Jul-11 07:49:15

grin fair enough.

spooksfan Wed 13-Jul-11 10:53:28

Thank you all for your posts - always good to have different perspectives.

In answer to TheMagnificentBathykolpian, yes it was in the open and I agree with you about privacy - one of the points I discussed with the HT.

To magicmummy1, had I been aware of the 'procedures' I would not have volunteered or sent my daughter on the trip. Maybe though, the teacher was too busy mentally preparing lists to communicate effectively with parents ;-)

With regard to taking my daughter to get changed, I acted in accordance with what I felt was right, and unfortunately was not in a position to change the situation for any child except my own. Rather than feeling 'angry' the teacher should be taking note of a parental objection - if she feels she has done the right thing she should not be concerned about being questioned. After all, reflective practice is considered a cornerstone of professional practice and development in teaching.

Goblinchild - I think the term volunteer describes who does the picking! No surplus volunteers that I've heard about round here...

...anyway, think next time we'll stay at home to eat ice creams ;-)

onadifferentplanettoday Wed 13-Jul-11 11:05:56

When you went off to change elsewhere, did you just abandon the rest of your group? I totally agree with the comment about parents who volunteer and then treat their child differently from the others ice creams and expensive stuff from the gift shop whilst the others have been told only to bring a certain amount of pocket money. We were lucky enough at my school to have a long list of volunteers willing to go on any trip and not just the ones their child was going on so tended to use parents from different year groups. I was also lucky enough to have several old girls who came back during their Uni holidays to help with end of year events and they were brilliant with the younger children.

TheMagnificentBathykolpian Wed 13-Jul-11 11:39:43

I agree with you that that is an important thing to raise. I feel that a child is never too young to be entitled to privacy. I know a lot of people think privacy doesn't matter for a child of what? 4? 5? 6? but I disagree. I think the right to privacy is a basic human right regardless of age. It's not about <spooky voice> what could haaaappen. When you live in a culture where being clothed is the norm, then it's the norm and you ensure the privacy of those too young or too vulnerable for other reasons to ensure it themselves or to make an informed decision that they don't want that privacy.

I know when I've said it in the past, that children aren't our property, but are seperate human beings and we have the responsibility to ensure certain things - such as privacy - I have been laughed off mumsnet grin but it remains my opinion.

trifling Wed 13-Jul-11 12:23:46

I've yet to meet a five year old who wants privacy - all the ones I know would happily strip off in public and preferably stay naked as long as possible. Am I missing something?

Bramshott Wed 13-Jul-11 12:38:57

If the children are still young enough to be happy changing in their classroom (I think that doesnt' really become a problem until junior school age), then they should be fine changing outside on a school trip IMO.

In the DDs school parents are CRB checked if they help in school regularly, but not necessarily for a one-off school trip.

Teachermumof3 Wed 13-Jul-11 12:51:28

You sound just the sort of parent who I would not ask to help on a school trip in future!

What happened to the rest of your group when you took your own daughter off to get changed in private?

Pagwatch Wed 13-Jul-11 12:54:04

I would offer a child privacy if they gave any indication at all that they wanted it. I have never yet met a four or five year old who feels the need to change in private.
I have met one who repeated that her mother thought she should change in private. But that does not seem to me to be the same thing

starfishmummy Wed 13-Jul-11 12:57:32

I'm a parent-governor and I think that asking a parent to help other children get changed or even to supervise them while doing so/in the loo is not acceptable.
As a governor I have a crb check but even so I would not expect to be the only adult with a group of children either in school or out (and yes I have been on school trips, which with 30 children all with some form of disability is hard work; but the staff still manage to do all the toileting)

TheMagnificentBathykolpian Wed 13-Jul-11 13:14:37

Well, imo it's not about them identifying their need for privacy by themselves. At that age, they don't generally have that level of awareness. The question is - well, for me it is - does a person need privacy only if they are able to understand the concept, have awareness of themselves, their body, the world around them? If they don't care, then should they be allowed to do whatever pleases them? I would have to say no. The right to privacy is not dependant on understanding of privacy. For example, a person who for whatever reason does not understand that it is deemed socially inappropriate to strip off in public may be quite happy to do it. They don't want privacy. Do you say that because they have not identified a need for privacy, that their privacy should not be ensured by their advocate or other responsible person until such time as their understanding is such that they are able to make an informed choice, taking into consideration the social 'rules' and understanding about their own body etc.

For me it is the understanding of what a vulnerable person is (child or adult) and how and in what ways you support and safeguard them. You have to ask yourself - if this person had the level of understanding of the average adult, what choices would they be likely to make. What is the reason that they don't make those choices and do you, as their parent, carer, advocate, whatever, have a responsibility to make those choices on their behalf.

I suppose my work history may make me view this in a different way (supporting adults with ld... supporting young women with behavioural problems...running an agency providing support workers to homes for people with ld...) and my experience of my own children, who have autism. Perhaps that has put me out of step with mainstream opinion, I don't know.

I do understand that many people don't see it the way I do, fair enough, but I am very aware (had it drummed into me for years I suppose grin ) about the rights of vulnerable people and the responsibilities of those whose duty it is to support them. I include being a parent in that.

Waffle over grin

Pagwatch Wed 13-Jul-11 13:28:14

I am very aware of what you are trying to explain.

My 14 year old son would walk around naked without a thought. I have to apply my sense of appropriate privacy for him. It is difficult not to be over protective but equally important that he is protected even though it is outside his understanding.
I was also abused as a toddler so I have an awareness of those issues too.

I still think if an adult thinks that a four year old need their privacy protected to the extent that they should not change in public, that is the adults issue and their radar is a little off.

But , like you, that is just my opinion.

One of the things that made me silent about my abuse was the growing sense that bodies and nudity were shameful so I felt I had done something awful and unspoken without understanding what.

Excessive prissiness about a young Childs body does not protect them. It just activates their shame radar.

RitaMorgan Wed 13-Jul-11 13:29:35

But - it isn't socially or culturally inappropriate for a small child to strip off in public. As it is both acceptable to society as a whole, and to the individual child, I don't see the problem. Big difference between 4 year olds and 14 year olds on this issue.

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