Menstrual cycle education in UK schools is inconsistent and inadequate, and teachers feel they lack time, confidence, and subject knowledge, according to new research
Researchers conducted a survey of 789 UK primary and secondary school teachers, 88% of which felt that periods affected pupils’ attendance, participation in exercise, as well as behaviour and confidence.
The study, led by Swansea University, found that only 53% of secondary school teachers in the UK reported that menstrual cycle education lessons were taught in their school. Of the teachers who were aware of their school’s menstrual cycle syllabus across primary and secondary schools, 144 reported that a maximum of two lessons were provided within one academic year.
90% of teachers that responded to the survey were female and almost one in four reported that they were uncomfortable teaching about the menstrual cycle, with many drawing on their own experiences, and less than half felt confident in their knowledge.
Commenting on the study’s findings, lead researcher Dr Natalie Brown, of Swansea University, said: “I believe we have a long way to go when it comes to period education across the UK. We face the danger of disadvantaging girls by failing to help them prepare, manage and understand physical and emotional symptoms when menstruating.
“It’s integral that we support teachers to improve their confidence and knowledge of the menstrual cycle for young people – both boys and girls – to grow up feeling confident talking about this. It should no longer be a taboo subject. We need to reframe the narrative and normalise conversations about menstruation. This needs to happen among teachers, young people and their parents.”
Dr Jessica Piasecki, a researcher in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, said: “This is such an important area to be addressed to enable young girls to have a sound understanding of their menstrual cycles. We hope that this research highlights some of the gaps in areas of education and enables future education guidance to be more consistent across all schools.”