Social Justice

Primary school pupils to have access to free period products from next year

The Westminster announcement follows similar commitments from the Scottish and Welsh governments

The government has announced free sanitary products will be made available in primary schools across England in early 2020 as it continues its bid to tackle period poverty and stigma.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said in his spring Statement last month that Westminster will fund period provisions for secondary schools and colleges – and was criticised for snubbing primaries.

Now children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed that the Department for Education will fully fund access to free period products for more than 20,000 primary schools.

Zahawi said the government is “determined to ensure that no-one should be held back from reaching their potential” and wants everyone to “lead active, healthy, happy lives”.

He added: “That is why earlier this year we committed to fully-fund access to free sanitary products in all secondary schools and colleges in England.

“After speaking to parents, teachers and pupils, we are now extending this to more than 20,000 primary schools so that every young person in all our schools and colleges gets the support that they need.”

Last week the Welsh government committed to a £2.3m initiative similarly putting period products in primary and secondary schools.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of women across the UK have missed work or school because they could not afford period products, campaign group Bloody Big Brunch found earlier this year.

And over two-thirds of those surveyed said they had been forced to use makeshift menstrual products at some point.

Period poverty activist Amika George – a Big Issue Changemaker – called it “fantastic news”.

She added: “Period poverty should never be a barrier to education.

“With free access to menstrual products for every child in compulsory education, every student can go to school without the anxiety or stress of worrying where their next pad or tampon will come from.

“This commitment will ensure that all children can fully participate in lessons and focus in class, and their period will never hold them back.”

Girlguiding research discovered that a third of girls aged 11-21 said they had missed school or college because of their period.

Isla, 19, a member of the charity’s panel of advocates, said the government scheme will help “break down the stigma” surrounding periods.

She added: “Too many people think periods are a secret or something to be ashamed of. But giving primary school girls access to tampons and pads will help break the taboo of periods from a young age.”

In the UK, period products are classed as “luxury” and “non-essential” and as a result are subject to a five per cent tax.

The Scottish government announced last year that it would fund free sanitary items in schools, colleges and universities.

UK ministers have not yet confirmed any details of the scheme’s rollout or if pupils will be given a chance to influence it.

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