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Insufficient menstrual cycle education provided in UK schools, study finds

Menstrual cycle education in UK schools is inconsistent and inadequate, and teachers feel they lack time, confidence, and subject knowledge, according to new research involving Nottingham Trent University.

The study calls for improvements to be made to menstrual cycle education

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 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 (23%) 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.

Funded by Sport Wales, the ‘Teachers’ perceptions and experiences of menstrual cycle education and support in UK schools’study is the latest stage of research into the impact of the menstrual cycle on female participation in sport.

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.”

The study calls for improvements to be made to menstrual cycle education for boys and girls across the UK, including:

  • Making time available for delivery, particularly to increase the regularity of teaching and lowering the age at which young people are first taught.
  • Delivering resources for teachers to deliver information relating to emotional, social and physical aspects of the menstrual cycle.
  • Providing training support to teachers, with the minimum expectation for teachers to receive online professional development through e-learning and/or webinar.

Dr Brown warns that schools need to urgently address the fact that many pupils missed out on learning about menstrual education as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic: “The timing of this report means we must also highlight the impact of COVID-19. With the enforcement of home schooling during national lockdowns, there is a group of young people with significantly less menstrual education than previous years.”

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Dave Rogers, Public Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8782, or via email.

    Findings are taken from the research paper ‘Teachers’ perceptions and experiences of menstrual cycle education and support in UK schools’ and accompanying report Menstrual cycle education and support in UK schools.

    The full report can be accessed here:

    The research was conducted and written by Dr Natalie Brown, Swansea University & Welsh Institute of Performance Science; Dr Laura Forrest, University of the West of Scotland; Rebekah Williams, Stride Active; Dr Georgie Bruinvels, Orreco & University College London; Dr Jessica Piasecki, Nottingham Trent University.

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens. NTU was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards). It was the University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards). NTU is one of the UK’s largest universities, with over 33,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 4,000 and an NTU community representing around 160 countries. In the past 15 years, NTU has invested £450 million in tools, technology and facilities. NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2019 UCAS UG acceptance data) It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 75% of NTU students go on to graduate-level employment or graduate-entry education / training within fifteen months of graduating (Guardian University Guide 2021). NTU is 4th globally (and 3rd in the UK) for sustainability in the 2021 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

Insufficient menstrual cycle education provided in UK schools, study finds

Published on 26 April 2022
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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