From education to employment

Free period products will continue to be available for schools to distribute to their pupils in England

Will Quince, Minister for Children and Families

Government extends its fully funded scheme providing tampons, pads, and menstrual cups and other environmentally-friendly products until the end of the academic year

The programme, which launched in January 2020, aims to make sure girls can access period products when they are needed, reducing stigma and keeping young people attending school and college and engaged in education, when they might have otherwise missed out.

A study by PHS Group with 250 young people suggests 35% of girls aged 13-18 have taken time off school or college because of their period, with 11% of those claiming they missed school due to lack of affordability of period products.

The scheme helps young people make the most of every possible day in the classroom, particularly following the pandemic when most young people spent time learning from home rather than in class.

Will Quince, Minister for Children and Families, said:

“I’m delighted that the incredibly important scheme providing free period products for schools and colleges across England is to continue running.

“Nothing should get in the way of students spending every possible moment in class, and no girl should ever be ashamed of being on their period.

“Any school or college that has not yet ordered through the scheme should do so at the first possible opportunity.”

State funded organisations in England can order free period products for the remainder of the academic year, from supplier PHS Group. Each school or college has a budget that will remain intact until the end of the calendar year, after which it will be renewed with a new spend cap in January 2022.

GemmaAbbott, Director of #FreePeriods, said:

“Young people have already had so many hours away from the classroom – this scheme is an amazing opportunity for all schools and colleges to ensure that no young person has to miss out on their education for lack of access to period products.

“We want to urge every school and college in England to place orders for free period supplies as soon as they can. We’re glad to see the scheme has been extended to the end of the academic year – let’s take the chance to show just how valuable it is, so we can secure its continuation well into the future.”

Sharon Common, Head of Portland Academy, said:

“Having access to free period products with no questions asked has made our female students feel more comfortable and confident, and as the products are visible around school, boys have also increased their understanding of menstruation.

“Some of our autistic young ladies have sensory difficulties and find wearing sanitary protection a challenge which can lead to absence from school each month. Using school supplies means staff can work with students to work on improving this.

“Having free stock also means parents and carers do not have to ration what they send in to school with their daughter which reduces impact on low-income families and increases personal hygiene.”

Commenting as the government announces that their free period products scheme for schools will be extended, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Too many children and young people miss out on vital education each month as a lack of access to period products forces them to miss school. Even those pupils who do not suffer period poverty benefit from free access to period products, as it helps to break down stigma and ensures no one goes without protection during what can be a vulnerable time.”

Teens Are Missing School Because of Their Periods: What Can We Do?

24th Nov 2021: Now that children and teens across the UK are back in the classroom, things are beginning to feel much more normal again.

With the mass return to school and college, however, new issues are sure to arise. Or, more specifically, old issues that we’re yet to tackle.

One problem that was rife before the pandemic was the number of children, particularly girls, who were missing school when they shouldn’t have had to.

Historically, there have been a number of reasons for this, from period poverty to the stigma surrounding periods. Today, we’re learning more about these causes and finding out how to tackle them.

The impact of period poverty

Recently, we’ve all been concerned about the number of pupils missing out on lessons due to COVID-19. However, there are other critical reasons why some teenagers are missing out on education. One of these is period poverty. In 2019, it was found that more girls in the UK were missing school because of their periods than flu, truancy, or holidays. Of the 1,000 girls who responded to one survey, 52 per cent of them said they’d missed school because of their period. Of these, nearly one in ten explained that this was because they hadn’t been able to afford period products. One-fifth of those surveyed said that they didn’t have access to free sanitary products, either at home or at school.

The stigma surrounding periods

The problem extends even further. Not only do girls often miss school because they have no access to period products, but they also avoid school because of bullying or stigma. Research by Plan International UK shows that one in five young girls are bullied in school because of period poverty. The combination of not having access to tampons or pads and being teased about periods has meant that many young girls have missed lessons. According to Plan International UK, as many as 66 per cent of girls reported that they had missed either part or a full day of school due to worries about leaking, anxiety, or general embarrassment about their periods. Without access to products, young people are likely to feel far more insecure and might opt to stay at home rather than face bullying at school.

What can we do to make a change?

Now that classrooms are full once more, this problem needs to be tackled head-on. From access to period products to tackling the stigma[DKR2] , there are many ways in which we can fight period poverty and reduce absenteeism in schools. Last year, a new scheme set up in England made a great first step. On the 20th of January 2020, the Department of Education launched its plan to ensure that all school pupils have easy access to period products at their school or college. Not only does this help young people have access to products, but it serves to battle the stigma around periods. Now that schools have all reopened, hopefully, it will also help with getting young people back to school and feeling confident.

As well as supporting laws such as this one, there are other ways in which we can all help tackle the problem of period-related absenteeism. One major way is to fight the stigma surrounding periods. According to Plan International UK, nearly half of girls aged between 14 and 21 say that they’re embarrassed by their periods. This could be a major reason why they choose to stay off school. There are many ways that we can make a change and tackle the taboo surrounding teenage periods. For example:

  • Improved education about periods for both girls and boys.
  • Influential public figures speaking up about periods and the impact of stigma and period poverty.
  • Families engaging in open conversations about the topic and listening to young girls and other menstruators, so they feel confident talking about their experiences.

By tackling the stigma surrounding periods and doing our part to reduce period poverty, we can make a big change. Young people should not have to miss any more school because of their periods. Education should be available to all, and misplaced shame or financial difficulties should never get in the way of that.

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