A picture of a shuttered toilet in a Welsh secondary school that has been shared hundreds of times has provoked a dispute over accuracy and a school's policies. The image shows a shutter over a door to toilets at Tredegar Comprehensive School in Blaenau Gwent.

A Facebook user published the picture earlier this week with the caption: "How pathetic is Ysgol Gyfun Tredegar Comprehensive School putting shutters on toilets?" Since then the post has been shared 247 times and attracted more than 220 comments. It even appeared to spark a Change.org petition which included the same picture and called on authorities to "mandate unrestricted access to toilets during school hours". In two days, 167 people have signed the petition.

Facebook users reacted to the picture with words such as "ridiculous" and "vile". One pupil at the school commented: "I wanted to go to the toilet today and they were locked and the teachers said that I weren't allowed a toilet until break... Someone gotta do something about it." Another pupil wrote: "End of an era for the vape room then."

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But the school insists that the shutters are only ever used at night when the school is locked up, to stop anyone breaking into the school accessing the toilets. It says the picture is being used out of context.

A spokeswoman for Blaenau Gwent council told WalesOnline: "Following discussions with the headteacher at Tredegar Comprehensive, we can confirm that the toilets at the school are not closed to pupils at any time during the school day. Over the Easter holiday period new shutters were fitted to the toilet block entrances in order that when the school is locked at night these can be closed to prevent any damage to the toilet block should the school be broken into — therefore, providing an extra level of security. These doors were tested briefly [on Monday morning] at which point we believe the photo in question would have been taken and unfortunately used for social media collateral to make what are completely false claims."

One woman who was a pupil at Tredegar Comprehensive up to 2018 claimed access to the school toilets had been a point of contention for years. She told WalesOnline: "We were only allowed to attend the toilet during break times and were told during lessons that we are to go during breaks, which can’t always happen. Due to the queues for food, then eating food, you haven’t always got time to go to the toilet. You should always be allowed access to the toilet any time of the day, it’s a human necessity."

We asked the council whether there are any restrictions on pupils using the school's toilets during lessons. Its spokeswoman responded: "The headteacher has confirmed that at Tredegar Comprehensive School, pupils are allowed to access the toilets throughout the day, both during lesson time as well as during unstructured times (break and lunch times). There are no restrictions on access to the toilets. This is the case at all our schools in Blaenau Gwent." When we asked how much the shutters cost, the school did not respond.

Welsh Government guidance says learners should be "always allowed to use the toilet, whenever they need to". It adds: "Restricting toilet access to set times encourages ‘I’ll go just in case’ practice which may contribute to ‘small-bladder syndrome’. Emptying the bladder before it is full can reduce capacity and means the bladder does not get used to holding on until it is full. This can create problems such as needing to go more often during the day and night, and having to get to the toilet in a hurry to prevent accidents."

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