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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Almost 10% of pupils in Northern Ireland missed school due to no period products

Almost 10 per cent of pupils have missed school ‘many times’ because they had no period products, according to a survey carried out by exams body CCEA.

A pupils’ questionnaire, which had 1,711 respondents, revealed that 6.5 per cent had difficulty accessing period products because their parents couldn’t afford them and 8.1 per cent missed school when they had a period as a result.

The survey has been assessing the extent of period poverty across schools and colleges in Northern Ireland amongst pupils and staff.

Key findings published last week also suggest that there remains a stigma or taboo surrounding menstruation.

More than half of pupils and students, 53 per cent, said that they had felt embarrassed when purchasing period products.

Most teaching staff were aware of the term “period poverty”and 70 per cent had noted a pupil asking another pupil or member of staff for period products.

Period poverty is lack of access to sanitary products due to financial hardship.

Last December, then Education Minister Peter Weir announced that period products were to be made freely available to pupils in primary and secondary schools.

The three-year pilot expected to cost £2.6m was due to commence in the 2021/22 academic year. The survey found that just 44 per cent of schools provide period products at present.

The scheme has been welcomed by the East Antrim-based Equality Period group in an online post saying:

“Any pupil in Northern Ireland who needs period products can access them at school thanks to the CCEA period dignity scheme.”

The group has praised pupils from Larne Grammar School saying that senior pupils wanted to support those facing an increased risk of period poverty during the Christmas holidays by asking for the group’s help.

“We delivered a big red bin full of period products to the school so students can take full packs of whatever they need home with them before the end of term,” Equality Period NI stated.

“We would encourage any young person who is anxious about access to period products or personal care items over the holidays to speak to your school nurse or pastoral care lead.”

Larne Library is also supporting the initiative with the provision of accessible free period products in its toilet facilities with contact information for further support.

In August, DUP councillors did a U-turn over support for the provision of sanitary products free of charge in Mid and East Antrim council buildings after a proposal by Alliance that the local authority provides free sanitary products in its sports grounds, public buildings and council facilities, starting with Mid and East Antrim’s town halls was defeated.

Alliance Councillor Lauren Gray said at the time that the motion had been about “changing mindsets” by making period products “as visible as possible” and to “give girls a safe space to access products if they need to”.

The borough council has agreed to replenish sanitary products placed in its community centres after being asked by Equality Period NI and for the provision of donation bins in support of its ‘Here if you Need’ campaign.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is providing period products free of charge in leisure centre and council-owned community buildings. The provision will be made during a 12-month pilot project at a cost of £3,500.


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