The Period Project

Mar 21, 2022

The Period Project

Inspired by a TED Talk and the 2019 Act which secured funding for free period products to be available across schools in the UK, some of our sixth form students brought a group together called ‘The Period Project’ which aimed to provide an invaluable service to their fellow St Edward’s students and has helped to change views and the school’s approach to periods and period education.

We spoke to the group’s founding members, Izzy and Gala about the project;

What inspired you to start the project?

“We had seen a TED Talk about demystifying periods and opening up discussions around the topic and we’d also seen how campaigners in 2019 managed to secure government funding to provide free period products to students in schools so we wanted to ensure that our own school was fully utilising the service and that they had the right approach to informing other students about it. We found out that even though we had free products at our school, the range was quite limited and many students felt embarrassed to ask for them.

We joined together as a collective and started to have discussions with our tutor about what we could do.  We did some research around the school and looked into the school policies.  We found out that there was lots more that our school could be doing; for example, not all students knew about the free products, the sanitary bins weren’t being emptied regularly enough, students were not permitted to leave lessons to go to the toilet and a lot of students felt uncomfortable about explaining to a male teacher if they needed to use the toilets during their period.

We reflected on our younger selves and thought about how it feels for some of the younger students to experience periods at school and we really wanted to change the stigmas and make them aware of their right to go to the toilet if they need to and not to be embarrassed to ask for products, we also wanted to create a culture of feeling more comfortable talking about periods for everyone.”

At the end of 2021, a group of students formed ‘The Period Project’.  With the support of their tutor, the sixth formers took on responsibility for formalising a process to provide a wider range of free products for students – now students have a choice of everything from various size pads and tampons to reusable options such as cups and absorbent underwear.  The Project created a system where students could order their monthly products online and the group would collate orders and distribute the products to students. They also provide a drop-in service for students who get taken by surprise or need further advice.

What goals do you want to achieve through the project?

“It’s about education and improving students’ understanding across the school – informing everyone about the normality of periods and how they affect you, even things like knowing that the stress of exams can actually change your cycle for example. We wanted to encourage more open discussion and get rid of the shame around periods and include boys in the discussions too.”

The group is formed solely of sixth form students who have been safeguard trained to provide a bespoke service to their fellow students. “We felt it was important that no teachers were involved so that our boundaries were respected and it was pure peer support we were offering.  But we do get advice from teachers and training to ensure we’re implementing things in the correct way.” said Izzy.

The Project members also trialled all the free products so they felt in a better place to be able to advise students on what was available and suitable for them.  They worked with the School’s senior leadership team to formulate their communications ensuring the correct approach was being taken to provide impartial, appropriate, inclusive and effective use of language. As a result, the Project is mindful of gender biases and supports non binary students for example. “We don’t use the stereotypical ‘pink’ in our marketing materials and we don’t specifically target ‘women’ with our language use, it’s much more inclusive and considered.” said Gala.

How did you raise awareness of The Period Project in school?

“We put together a presentation to take to all tutor groups which included a video.  The video tackled stigmas and looked at periods from a male point of view too.  We looked at the facts and what happens to people when they have their period and how it can affect you physically and emotionally.  We have two videos which are aimed specifically for the younger year groups and another for the older year groups.

Abigail and Skye, two other members of the project from Year 12 also created some marketing materials such as posters and information leaflets with pro-bono support of a designer, Emma Hegarty who commended them on their professional design and delivery.”

What feedback have you received about the Project?

“It’s still early days but so far the response has been really good. It’s great to have a better understanding from male students and we’ve taken the approach of changing their mindset to be more along the lines of ‘it’s better to find out about periods before it’s too embarrassing to ask’.

When we took the presentation around to each of the tutor groups the tutors were really supportive and encouraged girls and boys to asks questions and I think they really appreciated this and thought it was good. We sent a letter home to parents informing them of the project and the service available and we’ve received some feedback saying what a great idea they think it is.”

The Year 13 students currently running the group are now beginning to train up Year 12 students to take their place when they leave the school this summer. “We’re really proud of the Project and think it’s a brilliant legacy to be able to leave the school with as we move on.  We’re pleased to have played a part in beginning to change opinion and challenge stigmas around periods to make them a more approachable subject because the fact is, they are perfectly natural and happen to half of the world’s population – we should all be better informed and supported.”