The YouGov research found more than a quarter (27%) of girls have missed school at least once while on their period. This equates to 350,000 girls nationwide missing 2.1 million hours of education. The reasons they gave ranged from shame, teasing, and boys knowing, to a fear of leaking and not being able to go to the toilet during lessons.
The ‘Fear Going to School Less’ report, by Bodyform, also highlighted that period education for boys in schools is failing to engage them or provide the basic facts, increasing the stigma. 94% of boys admitted to not knowing a lot about periods, with 42% finding them awkward and 38% embarrassing.
YouGov polled more than 1,000 children aged 11-16 and found that nearly half (43%) of the girls had experienced boys teasing or joking about their periods.
[Read More: How to speak to girls about periods]
“Our report indicates a worrying problem regarding a lack of knowledge around periods from boys and a gap in education, resulting in girls fearing going to school while on their period,” said Traci Baxter of Bodyform. “While period poverty remains a significant issue, our report shows that economic factors are not the only reason girls stay away from school, with shame and fear of embarrassment affecting girls across the social spectrum and the country.”
As well as revealing a clear lack of knowledge about periods among boys, the report highlighted the need for schools to provide children with more engaging information, with 31% of all children and 48% of boys saying that school lessons are their main source of information about periods.
When questioning boys, the study found 20% didn’t know the basic facts, including whether you can hold periods in “like wee” or whether it’s safe to exercise when you’re on your period. And 72% of boys have not received dedicated education on periods.
Bodyform is now calling for schools to play a better role in educating children to normalise and remove the stigma around periods. “We have pledged to work collaboratively with high schools to look at how they can create more engaging lessons, and to teach boys and girls together to create a positive, informed conversation,” added Baxter.
When questioning boys, Bodyform found that 20% of boys don’t know the basic facts about periods.
The company will address these issues by launching a pilot programme in early 2019 working with schools to provide staff with the resources and classes they need to improve period education for all children, as well as increasing access to menstrual products. The pilot will be conducted in conjunction with the Self-Esteem Team, an organisation that delivers school workshops to children.
Grace Barrett, co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team, believes education is key to normalising periods: “People are still uncomfortable talking about periods because of how we educate about them,” he said. “Humour is a common tactic used to handle things that make us uncomfortable. 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.”
For more information on the ‘Fear Going to School’ Less campaign, visit https://www.bodyform.co.uk/ and join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #bloodnormal.
For more information:
Bodyform: The website has information for girls on their first period and answers many questions teenagers may have.
Self-Esteem team: A group of mental health speakers touring schools to help children open up on everything from body image to exam stress.