Government to fund free sanitary products in colleges

The government will fund free sanitary products for all students in colleges and secondary schools from September.

Chancellor Philip Hammond made the announcement in his Spring statement today in an effort to tackle period poverty.

“In response to rising concern by headteachers that some girls are missing school attendance due to an inability to afford sanitary products, I have decided to fund the provision of free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England from the next school year,” he told MPs.

“I congratulate those honourable members who have campaigned on this issue on all sides of the House, and the education secretary will announce further details in due course.”

Newcastle College became the first college in England to offer tampons and other such products for free in October.

It followed a successful fight in Scotland when its government committed £5.2 million to fund the initiative. The announcement, made last August, made Scotland the “first in the world” to offer free tampons and sanitary towels to all students.

The Treasury told FE Week today it has not costed the plan for England, but confirmed it will be fully funded for all secondary schools and colleges – not just sixth forms.

A survey conducted by development charity Plan International in 2017 found that one in 10 young women aged 14 to 21 had been unable to afford sanitary products. It also discovered that 12 per cent of those surveyed had to improvise sanitary wear and one in five had changed to a less suitable sanitary product due to cost.

Following today’s announcement, University and College Union acting general secretary, Paul Cottrell, said: “Having a period should not be a barrier to education and we welcome the chancellor’s promise to provide free sanitary products in schools and colleges.

“Ensuring that sanitary products are available to all students will enable women and girls facing real hardship to be able to attend their classes in comfort and dignity.”