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Nearly two million girls in the UK miss school because of their period

20th October 2021

Nearly two million girls (64%) aged 14-21 in the UK have missed a part day or full day of school because of their period, with 13% of girls missing an entire school day at least once a month, according to a new survey by global children’s charity Plan International UK.

Lack of proper education around periods, the stigma and shame around menstruation and the cost of period products all form part of a 'toxic trio’ of issues fueling period poverty in the UK. Because of this toxic trio, periods can interrupt daily life for girls and negatively affect their attendance and performance at school.

More than a third (36%) of those that have missed a part day or full day of school because of a period say they have struggled to catch up on schoolwork as a result of missing time off school. Nearly two thirds(62%)of girls have felt less able to take a test or sit an exam when on their period.

For those that have missed a part day or full day of school because of their period, two thirds (66%) cite physical symptoms - such as cramps or headaches - as the reason for them missing school, while 34% were worried about leaking and 22% had anxiety linked to periods.

A shocking 77% say they have felt less able to pay attention at school, college, or work because of their period, with nearly a third (32%) feeling this way at least once a month.

The stigma associated with menstruation still exists in schools, with one in six girls saying they have been teased or bullied because of their period.


Emma Thompson O’Dowd, Health and Wellbeing Specialist at Plan International UK, said:

“It is deeply concerning that period poverty is impacting girls’ education in the UK. These findings show the need for a comprehensive approach to menstrual health and education, one that not only makes available free period products for the girls and young women who need them, but also challenges the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation.

These new figures come as fewer than half of all eligible schools and colleges have accessed the UK Government’s free period product scheme in England since its introduction, and yet the need is greater than ever.

Signing up to free period products schemes is a great way for schools and colleges to support girls and challenge the ‘toxic trio’, so girls can feel confident and able to thrive in school, including while on their period.”

Many girls express frustration that menstruation and the pain it can bring is often dismissed and trivialised. A girl from Swansea told Plan International why she finds it very frustrating:

“Because they don’t actually understand that it is really painful and it’s not just us being weak, dramatic”.

“My friend Amyi was on her period and there was blood coming down her legs but she hadn’t realised until someone pointed it out. And everyone took the mick out of her”, said a girl from Newcastle.

Earlier this year, new survey data released by Plan International UK had revealed that more than a third of girls aged 14-21 in the UK had struggled to afford or access period products during the pandemic, up a fifth on last year. This is equivalent to more than a million girls in the UK.


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