Providing free sanitary products to schoolgirls is "challenging" because pupils may "misuse" them or find it too embarrassing to ask for them, a report has found.
A trial project in Aberdeen, which is being rolled out more widely across Scotland, found schools were reluctant to leave sanitary products in toilet areas due to fears they would be used for vandalism.
An evaluation report into the six-month Scottish government-funded project found one school had to quit the scheme altogether after towels and tampons were being "thrown around" toilet areas.
The secondary school "felt unable to keep the trial going for long”, it says.
The report records the comments of the project lead in the school, who said: “The product was shoved down the toilet and thrown around the room. So it’s hard to say if anybody genuinely took the product but it’s less likely."
The project lead said the school already had difficulties keeping the toilets tidy, and that the scheme might work in other schools where this was not such an issue.
One primary school member of staff involved in leading the project was similarly worried that “children might play with them and they might end up making a mess with them”.
More generally, the report finds that “making products freely available can be challenging in a school context”.
However, forcing girls to ask for the free products was also found to be problematic.
Having to ask a member of staff was the least popular way to access free products for school, college and university students.
The report states: “Embarrassment was highlighted as a particular issue for younger people, and having to speak to someone in order to access products was considered to be a key barrier for students and pupils. Limits on the times products could be accessed was another issue raised.”
The report also highlights what can happen if girls do not have easy access to sanitary products, including having to use toilet paper or “change to a less suitable sanitary product” because they could not afford the better alternative.
Many staff in education and community roles were “surprised that demand for provision had not been higher”.
Where the pilot project was successful, however, the most common feedback from school, college and university students was that they were now “less worried about having their period”.
The experience of the project has led some schools to highlight “a need for more discussion of this issue and more education around menstruation”.