THE head of a posh North London school has issued a grovelling apology after his policy to make toilets 'gender-neutral' sparked a furious backlash from parents.
Highgate School, which sets parents back £20,370 a year, installed the loos over the Summer holidays with 51-year-old headmaster Adam Pettitt saying it would help "gender fluid" students.
But the move was condemned by parents and pupils – some as young as 12 – who said they felt "less comfortable and happy" at the £20,370 a year school – where old pupils include cricketer Phil Tufnell and former BBC presenter Barry Norman.
Now former Eton Sir Mr Pettitt has apologised to parents in a rambling letter that vows staff were now "taking stock and working hard" to ensure the 452-year old school's toilet facilities would "meet the needs of all pupils."
He even included a photograph of the "gender neutral" toilets – and promised a new set of plans for them, vowing that staff would "test our thinking much more carefully and widely than hitherto."
He said: "Thanks to thoughtfully made representations on the Lower and Middle School Councils and also a number of similarly thoughtful letters from parents, I'm aware that this change has left a number of pupils particularly in Years 7 and 8 feeling less comfortable and happy at school.
"That sits uneasily in any school but especially here at Highgate as many of you have pointed out, pastoral care in a top priority and something of which the school school can feel proud – I'm sorry that we have not got this right.
He added: "Those questioning the change have been vocal in expressing their support for the intention to ensure the school is a welcoming and inclusive place for pupils who are gender fluid, gender querying or who dd not identify themselves by gender.
"We will continue to support gender fluid and non gender binary pupils. However I have been asked whether the change which has impacted on many pupils is proportionate to the needs of a smaller number.
"I'm sorry on a number of fronts. First that pupils returned in September without having had the opportunity of knowing that this change would take place or to know why it had been introduced – and this has led pupils to wonder whether all toilets will eventually become shared in this way (this is emphatically not the plan).
"Second that parents have had no opportunity to learn about these changes before they were introduced and thus to query them. The School's communication hasn't been effective nor has it been sufficiently mindful of the concerns of younger pupils.
"I wish to reassure that we are taking stock and working hard to improve matters so that our toilet facilities meet the needs of all pupils. I'm aiming to have proposals next half term to ensure that in effecting these improvements over the
Christmas holidays if not before, we will have tested our thinking much more carefully and widely that hitherto and will avoid introducing a secondary set of difficulties.
"And I will of course let parents and carers know of the plans to cater sensitively and comfortably for the needs of all."
A parent blasted: "I'm afraid the headmaster has been fixated with this issue and with this letter he has lost what little credibility he had left.
"He should be focusing on the running of the school itself and not on pandering to issues such as gender fluidity. He's just got his priorities completely askew. Many parents are wondering whether he should reconsider his role within the school."