Free Period Products and Schools – Everything You Need To Know

As period inequality is becoming increasingly understood as an issue, more places are providing free period products to those who need them.

In particular, educational organisations have been identified as key to helping young people affected by period inequality with many now offering free period products to students. Across the UK there are several different strategies and funding mechanisms to sourcing products. If your educational setting wants to provide free period products for students but wants to know where you can source them cost effectively or if you’re entitled to funding, you’re in the right place.

Read on for phs’ guide to free period products for education.

What is period inequality?

While many of us would think that access to period products is a basic necessity, this is not always the case. In fact, a significant proportion of people in today’s modern society are either not able to afford or cannot access period products. This is known as period inequality, sometimes called ‘period poverty’. Awareness of this issue has been growing and there are regional, national and global movements to help create period equality; increasing access to period products to ensure nobody is held back because of their period.

What is the impact of period inequality?

A shocking number of people are affected by period inequality and it can have a detrimental impact on their day to day lives. Independent research commissioned by phs found that more than a third of teenage girls have missed school due to their period, averaging more than three days a term. Of these, more than one in 10 were due to period inequality; 14% said they missed school as they had no access to period products while 11% said they simply could not afford them.

The pandemic has highlighted the disruption to education which missing school causes. However, while students are back in the classroom, period inequality persists as an issue keeping young people out of school and further missing out on their vital education. An overwhelming 91% of teenage girls warn that period inequality is a real issue. 

What is being done to create period equality?

When asked what action needs to be taken to tackle period inequality, free period products in education was the top response – cited by 71% of teenage girls. Accordingly, we’ve seen a number of schemes to provide free products in education whether funded by governments and local authorities or organised by charities or schools themselves. The approach varies depending on location.

What funding for period products is available for UK schools:

All state-maintained schools and 16-19 education organisations in England can access free period products for students, funded by the Department for Education (DfE). Through this, the UK Government wants to make period products available for all students who need them, when they need them, in order to access education. This includes students who cannot afford period products as well as those who have forgotten products or come on their period unexpectedly.

phs is proud that we have been awarded the contract for the supply of all period products through this scheme from the DfE. Education organisations can order free period products directly from the dedicated phs order portal, with direct delivery at no cost to the establishment. At present, schools and colleges can order their products for the Spring and Summer 2022 terms until 8 July 2022. Every organisation has a log-in for the phs order portal. If you have not had your activation email or for more information, contact phs directly by emailing or calling 01827 255500.

Scotland was the first country in the world to offer free period products in schools, colleges and universities and has done so since 2018. Funding is provided directly to local authorities. Arrangements for distribution are made with schools, depending on each council’s process.

In addition, 2020 saw Scotland became the first to make period products free for all. There is now a legal duty on local authorities to make free period products available to anyone who needs them. Scottish schools, colleges and universities should check with their local authority for their period product strategy; whether products are sent directly to schools or if funding is provided to be spent on products.

Under its Period Dignity Action Plan, Welsh Government has provided funding for free period products across education in Wales from 2019. This includes schools and Further Education Institutions. Funding is given to local authorities to facilitate distribution of products, with varying approaches depending on local strategy. Some are ordering products to be delivered to schools while others are distributing funding for products to be ordered directly by schools to their individual requirements. Schools and FE institutions should check with their local authority over product access.

All schools in Northern Ireland can provide free period products to students under a new period dignity scheme designed to promote attendance at school by tackling period poverty. Funded by the Northern Ireland Executive and delivered by the Department of Education, the three-year pilot began in September 2021. Schools have been allocated an initial budget to purchase products. There is a policy and guidance document for schools and schools can order free products via an online portal.

What about private schools, universities and other settings which don’t receive funding?

Your educational organisation can still make a difference in the fight for period equality, supporting young people to stay in education and not be held back simply because of a period. By providing free period products to those who need them, either because they cannot afford them or don’t have access, you’re making a real difference to their lives and creating period equality.

Even if you don’t receive funding, you can source period products cost effectively and delivered directly to your establishment ready to be distributed to those who need them.

Where can you order period products for education?

phs is a national provider of period products to the education sector from state primary and secondary schools to private schools, FE institutions and universities – both those who receive funding and those who don’t. phs offers a wide choice of products to suit your students’ needs, ranging from tampons and pads to plastic-free and eco-friendly products alongside reusables at competitive prices. Check out our product brochure for more details.

If you have access to funding or simply want to provide free period products for students yourself, you can benefit from phs’ period products online order portal and door-to-door delivery service. 

Simply get in touch with phs to set up your free account and order today.

phs and period equality

When it comes to period equality, phs is committed to doing the right thing. Alongside being a national provider of period products to education, phs is a long-standing campaigner to create period equality. Our work has included commissioning independent research to lift the lid on the issue and drive awareness so that action can be taken with two thought-leadership white papers on the topic. We were also appointed to the UK Government’s official Period Poverty Taskforce, leading one of just three workstreams tasked at improving access in partnership with Bloody Good Period. We also sit on the Welsh Government’s Period Dignity Taskforce and Blaenau Gwent’s Period Equality Taskforce, set up to ensure products reach the people who need them. To tackle the taboos and stigmas associated with periods, we’ve also partnered with Lil-lets to provide support for schools and advice for teenagers, product guides and period equality posters.

Find out more by visiting phs’ period equality pages.

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