Introduction to the NI Period Dignity Pilot Scheme
Period Dignity refers to the accessibility and availability of essential care needed to support a period, in conjunction with the breaking of stigma and taboo around periods.
On the 17 December 2020, the NI Executive agreed to fund a pilot scheme to provide free period products to all schools in Northern Ireland with effect from September 2021. The scheme aims to ensure products are available to learners who menstruate where and when they need them, as well as aiming to provide educational support within the school setting. CCEA is working in collaboration with the Department of Education, the Education Authority and a wider educational steering group to oversee upcoming curriculum materials and an online teacher professional learning programme for schools.
Education is a key factor in breaking the stigma surrounding periods, promoting respect and understanding, as well as enabling open discussions about what people may experience when menstruating. This pilot scheme also aims to tackle period poverty, helping learners who menstruate to reach their potential. Period poverty generally refers to poor menstrual knowledge and/or access to period products.
CCEA's Period Poverty Surveys
In June 2021, CCEA launched four online surveys to find out more about the frequency and extent of period poverty among pupils in Northern Ireland. The feedback collated in these surveys has formed the basis for the project by delving into the experiences of pupils, students, and teaching professionals in relation to three main themes:
- the cost of period products;
- accessibility of period products; and
- related shame, stigma and taboo.
In total, 1,711 pupils and 770 teachers responded to the surveys.
98.2% of pupils and 98.8% of teachers who responded to these surveys said that they support the new government scheme to supply free period products to schools. A full report on the survey findings will be available on the CCEA website in October 2021.
Support for schools
The Period Dignity Pilot Scheme addresses the specific needs of the school sector and will be supported by CCEA with curriculum materials and an online teacher professional learning programme for schools later this term.
Inclusive education on periods and menstrual wellbeing is key to giving all young people opportunities to understand and challenge common misconceptions and related stigma. To support this, the training provided by CCEA on Period Dignity and Menstrual Wellbeing is available to all schools in Northern Ireland, including all boys’ schools.
The Education Authority (EA) is responsible for the procurement system that enables all schools to purchase period products for their learners. In all boys’ schools, some classes may be shared with girls from neighbouring schools. In recognition of this, they have also been allocated a budget to purchase period products to ensure they are accessible to pupils who need them.
All schools should follow the Period Dignity policy and guidance document they received earlier this year to check their allocated budget for free products and place orders on the EA iProcurement portal.
In this document, schools are also able to access an online form which enables them to nominate a Period Dignity Key Contact for communication and training purposes. Larger post-primary schools may wish to identify an additional key contact.
These representatives will be notified of further details on the Period Dignity and Menstrual Wellbeing training and will be provided with a link to the appropriate Eventbrite page via email for registration in the coming months.
All queries in relation to the Period Dignity key contact online form or policy and guidance document from schools should be directed to CCEA using the contact details below.
Operational queries on the provision of these period products should be addressed to the Education Authority:
CCEA will answer queries on the upcoming curriculum materials and online teacher professional learning programme that will be available later this term:
Deidre Coffey | CCEA Education Manager – Period Dignity Project
Roisin Radcliffe | CCEA Programme Manager
Department of Education
The Department of Education will answer wider policy questions about the overall purpose and funding of the pilot scheme.
Ashleigh Mitford | Tackling Educational Disadvantage Team
Dale Heaney | Tackling Educational Disadvantage Team