Teaching Students About Menstruation Will Go A Long Way To Ending The Period Taboo

Almost half of menstruating pupils have missed school because they are embarrassed about their periods and a quarter can’t access period products – this is not okay
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Periods, FGM and LGBT rights to be taught in all schools from 2020. That is massive.

The Department for Education made a big announcement today. From 2020, the curriculum will look different. It will be compulsory for all schools to teach pupils about periods, female genital mutilation, depression, LGBT rights and other topics exacerbated by the stigmas that surrounds them. That is massive. Tackling these stigmas from primary school will go a long way to solving a whole heap of abuse and challenges that many face, including period poverty. Here’s how.

Schools will teach all things periods to both boys and girls from primary to secondary school. These classes will cover the basics, as well as related health problems including endometriosis, which should help to speed up the diagnoses and tackling of many debilitating conditions. This is huge. It will go a long way in tackling the period taboo, which damages the education of many pupils across the UK. Plan International UK has recently found that almost half of menstruating pupils have missed school because they are embarrassed about their periods and a quarter can’t access period products because they don’t feel comfortable talking to adults about their needs. That is not okay. We only began to research period poverty a few years ago, and now all schools will be working to tackle it through education. This new curriculum will help to change the way menstruating pupils feel about their bodies. Ultimately, it will help to keep pupils in school.

The physical and mental harms of female genital mutilation will also be taught in schools from 2020, in a bid to support FGM survivors and stop the practice from taking place in the UK. Yet again, this is a subject few talk about and one that has only recently gained media attention, despite being routine in some communities for generations. Now, the curriculum will help to end it. Damian Hinds, the education secretary, recently tweeted: “we know that FGM can have a catastrophic effect on the lives of those affected, causing lifelong physical and psychological damage”. His announcement today will help to tackle the stigma surrounding FGM, raise awareness of the issue amongst those most at risk and support the children effected.

Schools will also be required to teach LGBT inclusive issues, including LGBT rights and homophobia. This subject area is another encrusted with stigma. For the government to endorse the widespread tackling of such stigma is to legitimise LGBT rights and struggles. Not only this, but it will also help to protect LGBT children from abuse at school and give them the freedom to explore and accept themselves. Yet, it faces backlash. A petition calling for parents to have the right to opt their child out of LGBT rights lessons has attracted more than 106,000 signatures. The government has yet to respond.

Other new subject areas to be taught from 2020 include depression, anxiety and staying safe online. All of these important issues are growing in scale. The need for young pupils to be supported and helped while dealing with them has only grown in recent years. From 2020, it seems the support they need may well be delivered in this nationwide attempt to tackle stigmas that hold our schoolchildren back. That is pretty huge.