Portsmouth schools urged to make use of free period product scheme

SCHOOLS across Portsmouth are being urged to take advantage of a free period product scheme for students, as it was revealed only around half had signed up so far.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 11:45 am
Schools can order free period products for students. Picture: PA Wire

Driven by the Red Box Project - that was founded in the city four years ago - the government launched its own initiative in January last year in a bid to tackle period poverty, which affects around one in 10 young people.

Under the Period Products Scheme all state schools were provided a budget to spend on menstrual products including tampons, sanitary towels, and cups, to be accessed by students.

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Education boss Cllr Suzy Horton. Picture: Habibur Rahman

But according to new data from the Department for Education (DfE), only 26 out of 50 eligible schools in Portsmouth ordered free period products between January and December.

And each participating school spent on average £358, around 57 per cent of the £626 spend cap - totalling £9,308 across the city.

Co-founder of the Red Box Project, Clegg Bamber, said: ‘Starting your period at any age can be a distressing time, even more so when you are at school, but by having the period products there available to students who need them it takes away some of the pressure and angst of wondering where they are going to be able to find a suitable period product from.

‘Government should be striving for 100 per cent take-up across all institutions – primary, secondary and further education – and more has to be done to see those levels increase.’

Across England, the uptake of the scheme has been around 41 per cent in primary schools, and 76 per cent across secondary schools.

A report published by the DfE said that schools had been less likely to order period products while pupils were learning from home during the pandemic.

Anna Miles, another co-founder of the Red Box Project, added: ‘We would love to engage with all schools in supporting them with the ordering of free products online. It is crucial that all young people, who require this support, are provided with access to the products that are freely available to them.’

Councillor Suzy Horton, the city’s education boss, said she would encourage schools to make use of the project in the next Portsmouth education bulletin.

I am really supportive of this scheme,’ she said.

‘We know that for some children that can be such a difficult situation for them and it can prevent them wanting to come into school.

‘With the two big lockdowns and the summer holidays there wasn’t much in school time, which is maybe why not all schools have taken up the offer yet.’

Across the Hampshire County Council area 42 per cent of 426 schools ordered period products, spending £57,970.

Nationally 16,698 orders had been placed by the end of December, totalling £2,791,000 - which is 48 per cent of the total spend cap for all organisations.

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