Primary school children will receive free sanitary products from early next year, after government plans to provide the products in secondary schools were criticised for not going far enough.
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced funding for the scheme in secondary schools last month, but campaigners said younger children should also have access to the hygiene products.
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed on Tuesday the scheme would be extended to primary school age girls.
He said: “This government is determined to ensure that no-one should be held back from reaching their potential – and wants everyone to lead active, healthy, happy lives.
“After speaking to parents, teachers and pupils, we are now extending this to more than 20,000 primary schools so that every young person in all our schools and colleges gets the support that they need.”
The scheme will be rolled out across primary and secondary schools in England early next year.
Government to provide free sanitary products at secondary schools in England
Campaigners say some girls from low-income families have skipped school during their period as they couldn’t afford sanitary wear.
Amika George, who started the Free Periods campaign, said she has been fighting for free provision of sanitary products for over two years and welcomed the news.
She said: “Access to menstrual products for all children in compulsory education will mean that every child can have access to the products they need, and no-one will have to miss school because of period poverty.
“Every child should be able to go to school without wondering where their next pad or tampon will come from, and this will mean that no child will be held back from realising their full potential and being their very best.”
Campaigners have warned that some girls from low-income families are forced to miss school during their periods as they could not afford sanitary products.
A survey conducted by Plan International UK in 2017 found one in ten respondents – girls and women aged between 14 and 21 – said they had been unable to afford sanitary wear.
In 2017, a crowd of 2,000 protesters gathered outside Downing Street to call for all children receiving free school meals to have access to free menstrual products.
The following year, Scotland became the first government in the world to offer free sanitary products to students at schools, colleges and universities nationally.
The NHS has also pledged to provide free tampons and sanitary towels to patients.