DfE to ask heads and pupils about 'period poverty'

Officials say they want to take action 'based on robust evidence'

Charlotte Santry

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The Department for Education is to ask headteachers, pupils and parents about "period poverty" amid concerns that girls are missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products.

The department plans to add extra questions to its regular "omnibus" series of surveys aimed at determining the attitudes of school leaders, pupils and parents on a range of issues.

The news comes as campaigners demand national government funding to help girls who are missing out on school due to period poverty. Ministers have so far put the onus on schools to support these pupils.

Last week, the DfE published research suggesting there was no strong link between period poverty and school absence, but campaigners questioned the strength of the findings.

Now, Tes understands that the DfE wants to gauge the views of headteachers, pupils and parents.

'Period poverty' projects

The exact questions have not yet been confirmed, but a spokesperson told Tes: “Current guidance to schools encourages them to make adequate and sensitive arrangements to help girls cope with menstruation.

"We want to make sure that any action we take is based on robust evidence, which is why as a next step we intend to place questions on these issues in the department’s upcoming surveys for pupils and senior school leaders.”

Schools can use their pupil premium funding – extra payments aimed at helping pupils from disadvantaged pupils – if they feel that period poverty is a problem, the DfE pointed out.

There have also been calls for the VAT on tampons to be scrapped. The government says it cannot do this due to European Union rules, so instead will direct the funding generated from the tax towards women's health and support charities. 

It has invited applications from projects that aim to address period poverty, but schools are excluded.

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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