Free sanitary products scheme in England extended to include primary schools

The move comes after campaigners criticised the government for excluding primary schools from their initial announcement

Maya Oppenheim,Sarah Young
Tuesday 16 April 2019 14:00
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Labour MP Danielle Rowley addresses period poverty in Commons

Primary school pupils in England are to be offered free sanitary products from early next year.

The move comes after campaigners hit out at the government's announcement tampons and sanitary towels would be made available in secondary schools, saying it did not not go far enough.

The Department for Education has now backtracked on last month's announcement and pledged to fund the supply of sanitary products in primary schools too.

Period poverty is a prevalent problem in the UK – with 49 per cent of girls having missed a day of school due to periods and one in 10 women aged 14 to 21 not able to afford period products.

There have also been reports of girls using toilet roll, socks and even newspapers to manage their periods.

Amika George, a 19-year-old student, founded the Free Periods campaign back in spring 2017 but waited two years for the government to take any decisive action on the issue.

She said: “Free provision of menstrual products in all schools and colleges is something that Free Periods has been fighting for over two years.

”Access to menstrual products for all children in compulsory education will mean that every child can have access to the products they need, and no-one will have to miss school because of period poverty.

“Every child should be able to go to school without wondering where their next pad or tampon will come from, and this will mean that no child will be held back from realising their full potential and being their very best.”

The scheme, which was announced on Tuesday, is due to be rolled out across primary and secondary schools early next year.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “This 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."

She added: “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.”

Sanitary products in the UK are classed as a “luxury, non-essential item” and taxed at 5 per cent – with the average lifetime cost of sanitary products estimated at £4,800.

Polling company YouGov recently found almost half of British girls have witnessed their peers being bullied and shamed about their period. The study found nearly half of girls in Britain said boys tease or joke about periods.

Earlier this week, the Welsh government also announced that free sanitary products would be given to primary and secondary pupils across Wales under a new £2.3m scheme.

The new Welsh government grant will provide more than 141,000 female students with a range of sanitary products free of charge.

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