More than nine girls in 10 worry about going to school when on their period because they fear they will be shamed, a report has said.
This amounts to around 350,000 girls missing school, equivalent to 2.1 million hours of lost education a year, according to a YouGov survey.
Twenty seven per cent of girls who miss school because of their menstrual cycle cite “embarrassment” over leaking, teasing by boys and being unable to go to the toilet during lessons as reasons for cutting classes.
And 43 per cent of girls said that boys joked about periods, with 40 per cent of them saying this happened during class under the noses of teachers.
Just under three-quarters of boys said they had not received dedicated education on periods in the survey, which questioned 1,020 school children aged between 11 and 16.
Across UK secondary schools 42 per cent of boys found talking about periods “awkward”, with 26 per cent fearing they would “say the wrong thing”. Just 17 per cent of boys who had been taught broader sex education lessons that touch on periods found them “useful”.
Female hygiene brand Bodyform, which sponsored the survey, said it will continue its three-year programme to donate 200,000 packs of menstrual products to schools by 2020.
The firm, together with youth health charity the Self Esteem Team, has launched a Fear Going to School Less initiative, which will see them work with teachers to provide resources to improve period education for boys and girls. More than half of all the children surveyed said period education should be taught in mixed groups.
Grace Barrett, who co-founded the Self Esteem Team in 2013, said: “People are still uncomfortable talking about periods because of how we educate about them. Humour is a common tactic used to handle things that make us uncomfortable.”
She added: “Because periods fall into that category, girls are often left feeling like the butt of the joke. We need to educate boys better about periods, so they feel comfortable and don’t need to use humour as a defence. Sometimes jokes stick and we don’t want another generation of girls to carry that shame with them for the rest of their lives.”