Stoke-on-Trent high school installs sensors in toilets to catch vapers

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One of Stoke-on-Trent’s top high schools has installed smart sensors in the toilets in a bid to stop students vaping. St Joseph’s College, in Trent Vale, has put in the devices in two ‘hotspot’ toilet blocks.

Another five sensors have been ordered to cover the rest of the London Road school. As well as detecting vaping, they also pick up whether there are ‘abnormal’ noise levels and provide alerts if they are being tampered with.

Deputy headteacher Charlotte Slattery says she had initially been put off by the cost of the sensors. However, she now credits them with helping to reduce vaping among pupils.

She said: “We had seen an increase in incidents of vaping in our toilets. It was difficult to ‘prove’ that this was happening and to be able to respond in a timely way.

“Some toilets were believed to be more of a hotspot than others and we focused on these toilets first. I had dithered about it for over 12 months due to the cost but it has been transformational for us. We started with only two devices in our worst areas and have now ordered another five to go into more toilets.”

The action has been taken after latest research by the public health charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found that in March and April 2023 the proportion of 11 to 17 year olds experimenting with vaping had grown by 50 per cent year on year. Latest figures show one in nine children aged 11 plus now vape nationally.

Ms Slattery said a number of staff can receive the vaping alerts, which are sent by email from the US-manufactured Halo Smart Sensors.

She added: “In the first week of them being installed we had repeated alerts – we were very busy – but this has decreased week on week.”