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Survey finds “lack of access to sanitary products” is causing Wrexham students to miss lessons

Nearly 500 students across Wrexham have had their say on the provision of sanitary products in schools, with over a quarter of high school respondents saying they have had to miss lessons in the past 12 months,

The figures have been released as part of of cross party task and finish group, which was set up to explore the current provision of sanitary equipment and feminine hygiene products in schools across Wrexham.

Tomorrow the findings of the group and how the council can look to stop period poverty in the county, will be presented to members of the lifelong learning scrutiny committee.

A total of 495 secondary school students took part in a recent consultation process, with participation ranging from 106 respondents in Ysgol Clywedog to 21 in Ysgol Rhiwabon.

A further 45 members of staff from local schools also took part in the process.

Contributions to the process were also made by the Wrexham Nappy Library, Senedd Yr Ifanc Focus Group and WINGS Wrexham – an organisation involved in providing Ysgol Clywedog with sanitary products as part of a pilot scheme.

Other findings in the report include over half of respondents to that question stating they had to miss out on activities in secondary and primary school because of a lack of access to sanitary products.

More than a quarter of pupil respondents have had to take time off secondary school in the last year because of lack of access to sanitary products and more than a third of respondents in primary school.

94 per cent of pupil respondents stated that sanitary disposal bins were available in secondary school toilets as opposed to only 51 per cent of responses in respect of primary schools.

In terms of staff 47 per cent of the respondents stated that there was no budget for the provision of free feminine sanitary products in school and the remainder didn’t know. However 43 per cent said that they were provided.

Earlier this year the Welsh Government announced that local authorities across Wales could access a share of £1 million of funding to help tackle period poverty in local communities.

Local authorities will share a portion of £440,000 over the next two years to tackle period poverty in their communities where levels of deprivation are highest.

£700,000 of capital funding will be used to improve facilities and equipment in schools – ensuring that all girls and young women can access good sanitary facilities when they need them.

As part of tomorrow’s report and the task and finish group’s findings, it has been recommended that Wrexham Council look to provide sanitary dispensing shelves in as many female toilet cubicles as possible across all secondary schools, within the limited Welsh Government grant funding available.

In terms of revenue funding for free sanitary products it is recommended the money is prioritised to provide a provision of sanitary towels across all secondary schools for direct access within the toilet cubicles, with tampons also being made available on request from a nominated member of staff, in accordance with education guidance; along with some provision of sanitary towels in all primary schools.

However the report notes that WINGS Wrexham have “expressed disappointment that there was such emphasis in the recommendations on the use of dispensing shelves”.

The report continues onto say: “Moreover, to place them in toilet cubicles did nothing at all to open up conversations about periods and make the issue less of a taboo subject. This was something that WINGS Wrexham had endeavoured to achieve.

“Although WINGS Wrexham appreciated why responses from pupils had focused on privacy, a clear understanding of how the WINGS Wrexham scheme operates in schools may alleviate these concerns and help the pupils realise that there is privacy involved and conversations with adults are not an expectation but an adult is available to support if necessary.

“Additionally, the peer group system of WINGS Wrexham Ambassadors opens up these conversations with the girls. The use of dispensing shelves will deter from this aspiration.

“The success of the WINGS Wrexham scheme in schools is based on the way in which it is operated. The involvement of the girls themselves is an important element of the scheme and the way in which it is publicised in the school.

“WINGS Wrexham also advocated the need for education and health professionals to work together to improve this element of health and well being education for all young people, not just female pupils.”

Cllr Andrew Atkinson Lead Member for Youth, Leisure and Anti-Poverty, said: “I welcome the findings of the Task & Finish Group regarding access to free sanitary products which supports the work of the Education Department in allocating the limited Welsh Government grant funding, which was announced this year to help address the issue of period poverty, to schools.

“I thank the group for their work and findings and attended as many meetings as I could and thank the group for allowing my contributions.

“The conclusions are very similar to the views held on this matter before the group was founded so again I thank the group for the research that backs this up.

“I’m conscious of the work and effort of ‘WINGS Wrexham’ and want to do all I can to see that they play a key role in this matter going forwards as whilst I recognise the importance to many young women of not having to speak to an adult about their need for sanitary products.

“I also recognise how the WINGS scheme plays a key role in an adult helping young women think ahead about their time outside of school in holidays etc and making sure that they are given enough products, in advance, to meet their needs.

“I am of the view therefore that WINGS play an important role and hope that they will continue their work and work with the new arrangements.

“I introduced the Wrexham Nappy Collective to the group as I believe that although they will never appeal to everyone that reusable products have a place not just for their environmental benefits but for the incredible value for money that they offer which is essential for a tackling poverty agenda.

“I will continue to work with the organisation to promote them as an alternative especially as such a high number of respondents from our schools expressed an interest in them.”

The report and its findings will be presented to members of the lifelong learning scrutiny committee at 11am on Thursday 8th November. The meeting will also be webcast on the Wrexham Council website.

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