Students unable to access sanitary products because of cost

Ipsos MORI carried out the fifth wave of the Department for Education’s Pupils and their Parents/Carers omnibus survey in July/August 2018, which asked young people about their access to sanitary products.

The author(s)

  • Lucy Lindley Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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Just 46% of secondary school girls and 22% of female college students are aware that their school provides free sanitary products at their school/college.

Around 1 in 20 secondary school girls and 3 in 20 female college students have been unable to access sanitary products (e.g. tampons, towels) at least once over the past 12 months because of their cost. This financial challenge has been termed ‘period poverty’ and is a priority for the Department for Education (DfE). These statistics, collected on behalf of the DfE, provide a quantitative estimate of the extent of period poverty among secondary schools and colleges in England. In the UK, the girls’ rights charity Plan International UK estimates that 1 in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary wear.

Infographic: Students unable to access sanitary products because of cost

In addition, the Pupils and their Parents/Carers omnibus survey found that just under half of secondary school girls (46%) and a quarter of female college students (22%) were aware that their school/college provided free access to sanitary products for those who need them. Notably, secondary school girls who lived in more deprived areas (defined by the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index; IDACI) were more likely to say their school provides free access to sanitary wear. In secondary schools, this free access was most often provided through the school nurse or office.

Following the 2019 Spring Statement and ministerial commitments, the government will lead work to develop a national scheme to ensure the provision of free sanitary products in all schools and colleges. This follows concerns that the inability to access sanitary products could act as a barrier to education. This recent policy announcement demonstrates DfE’s commitment to tackling period poverty as – in their own words – “nobody should be held back from reaching their potential”.

Technical note

This fifth wave of the omnibus survey of pupils and their parents/carers surveyed a nationally representative sample of young people at secondary schools and colleges in England. A postal push-to-web approach was used, using the National Pupil Database (NPD) as a sampling frame for secondary school pupils (at state-funded schools), and the Individualised Learner Records (ILR) as a sampling frame for college students. In each household, two separate questionnaires were administered: one to the school pupil or college student, and one to their parent/carer. All respondents self-completed the questionnaire. Wave 5 was soft-launched to a subset of the sample on Monday 2nd July 2018. The main fieldwork began on Monday 9th July 2018, and closed for all respondents on Tuesday 28th August 2018.

The author(s)

  • Lucy Lindley Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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