Period product scheme for schools and colleges

Updated 7 September 2023

Applies to England


The period product scheme provides free period products to girls and women[footnote 1] in their place of study. It is available to state-maintained schools and Department for Education (DfE) funded 16 to 19 education organisations in England. The scheme is available for organisations to order until at least July 2024.

This guidance is for state-maintained schools and DfE-funded 16 to 19 education organisations. For ease of reference, the guidance will refer to schools and colleges throughout.

DfE has a contract with Personnel Hygiene Services Limited (phs), which allows you to order a wide range of period products and have them delivered when you need them.

This guidance contains information on:

  • choosing and ordering period products
  • distributing products within institutions
  • tackling stigma

Period products should be available for all who need them, when they need them, so they can access education. Having periods should not be a barrier to education for anyone.

Eligibility for the scheme

Girls, women, and pupils and students who identify as non-binary or transgender, who have periods may all need to access this scheme. All pupils and students in schools and 16 to 19 organisations should be able to access period products if they need them.

This may include, for example, where individuals:

  • have forgotten or run out of products at their school or college
  • cannot afford products
  • have come on their period unexpectedly

When ordering products, you should consider the specific needs, characteristics and preferences of all pupils and students.

The scheme is available to all:

  • state-maintained primary schools with year 5 pupils and above
  • state-maintained secondary schools
  • state-maintained special schools and non-maintained special schools
  • alternative provisions, including pupil referral units, with pupils or students in year 5 and above

It is also available for DfE-funded 16 to 19 education organisations across England, which receive 16 to 19 funding allocations from DfE or the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), including but not limited to:

  • further education (FE) and sixth form colleges
  • state-maintained school and academy sixth forms
  • 16 to 19 academies
  • higher education (HE) institutions delivering 16 to 19 provision
  • independent learning providers (ILPs)
  • special post-16 institutions (SPIs)

Women aged 19 or over are only eligible for support if they:

  • are continuing a study programme they began aged 16 to 18 (‘19+ continuers’)
  • have an education, health and care plan

The scheme does not cover:

  • students on higher education qualifications
  • apprentices
  • staff, including supply staff, volunteers and contractors

How to order products

Our supplier, phs, will stock and deliver period products. They will also offer customer service support relating to the ordering and delivery of products.

You will be able to order a range of period products, either online via the phs portal or over the phone, and have these delivered free of charge.

There will be a spend cap which will be for the 2023 to 2024 academic year. Find out how we calculate this and what you will get.

The available budget for your school or organisation will show on the ordering portal.

You can order at any point in the year until July 2024.

When ordering products, you should consider:

  • reducing waste, and only order products when your stock is low
  • whether the types of products you have selected address the needs of your pupils and students
  • the environmental impact of the frequency of deliveries

The supplier phs has created a user guide which explains how to access the portal and order products.

Annual budget Maximum recommended deliveries per year
Up to £40 2
£41 to £720 3
£721 to £1,800 6
Over £1,800 11

We recommend these ordering frequencies based on your annual budget for period products.

Setting up an account

We have provided phs with the email address for each school or college that is held by DfE. The email address is linked to your account on the phs portal.

Phs will send an email in September 2023 with details of your new spend cap and how to order.

If you have not received an activation email by 18 September 2023 check your ‘admin@’ and ‘enquiries@’ accounts and spam folder. Call phs on 01827 255500 if you:

  • cannot find the activation email in any of these locations
  • want to change the email address linked to your account
  • want to request additional log-in details

Customer support

For customer service support or complaints, contact phs customer services on 01827 255500 or email

phs will respond to questions about orders within 24 hours, and to other queries or complaints by the end of the following business day.

If your queries or complaint relates to the policy behind this scheme, including the funding available to each organisation, contact DfE. You will usually get a reply within 15 working days.

Funding allocations

In September 2023, your funding allocation or spend cap will be available on the phs portal for the coming academic year. You can use this to order products up to and including July 2024.

Your spend cap is based on 35% of the number of recorded girls and women in your school or college who, based on age, are likely to have started their periods. This is how your total amounts have been calculated in previous years of the scheme.

The 35% is an assumed take-up rate, reflecting the fact that not all girls and women will have a need for products all of the time. This mirrors the assumed take-up rate used in the scheme to provide pupils and students in Scotland with access to free period products.

Spend caps have been set for each school and college within a multi-academy trust.

You will be able to track spend against your spend cap throughout the year via the phs ordering portal.

Larger schools or colleges with spend caps of over £2,000 will be able to order up to 25% of their total spend for the year, each time they order. To keep our carbon footprint low, each order should have a minimum value of £5.

You will be responsible for monitoring and staying within your spend and order caps. The phs portal will ask you to reduce your order if you try to exceed your maximum spend or order cap.

Products available

You will be able to select from a wide range of period products. When deciding which products to order, you should consider individual needs and preferences.

Feedback from our roundtable discussion with pupils and students showed that they value being involved in deciding which products are ordered for them at their place of study.

You could do this by :

  • engaging with pupil or student councils and other pupil or student-led groups within your organisation
  • holding informal discussions with pupils and students
  • sending out anonymous surveys or polls
  • encouraging girls and women interested in menstrual health and wellbeing to be involved in the process, for example as ambassadors for the scheme

Parents or carers may object to the use of some period products. You should consider the views of girls and women and parents or carers from all religious and cultural backgrounds when ordering products. More information is available in the equality requirements section.

Not all period products are suitable for girls and women with specific disabilities. You should ensure you have methods to gather the views of disabled girls and women, and make suitable products which meet their needs available in your setting.

You must provide safety information for each product in an accessible format, prior to use. Further information is available in the your responsibilities section.

You do not need to order the same products throughout the year. You may wish to trial some products in smaller quantities to begin with. We may adjust the product range available to you following feedback and monitoring of purchasing patterns.

You will be able to order:

  • period pads
  • environmentally friendly period pads
  • reusable period pads
  • applicator tampons
  • non-applicator tampons
  • menstrual cups
  • period pants in a variety of sizes
  • pantyliners
  • tights

Up to 10% of spend caps can be spent on tights. This is so you can order a small amount of stock for occasions when pupils or students may come on unexpectedly or leak and would feel more comfortable with a fresh pair of tights.

Where products are sold in packs, the number of products per pack is outlined on the phs portal.

Your responsibilities

All management information on the phs portal is available to DfE. You will not need to routinely report on the scheme or how you have used it.

DfE will publish data on use of the scheme on an annual basis. See the last data publication on the period products scheme for more information.

All period products available through the scheme meet the relevant industry standards and regulations. You can find detailed information about the products on the phs portal and via your order confirmation email.

You will receive safety guidance specific to each product you order. Product and safety information may be updated and you should always refer to the information provided with the product.

You must provide pupils and students with safety information for each product in an accessible format before they use the product. This is particularly important for internal products.

To minimise the risk of injury from use of period products, you should:

  • ask pupils and students or their parents or carers if they have experienced an allergic reaction to period products or their materials
  • provide all pupils and students with the relevant safety and usage information for each product they are using
  • provide expiry dates with each individual product
  • keep a record of the batch numbers of products supplied
  • follow safety guidelines when stocking products
  • make sure all products remain individually wrapped
  • dispose of any expired products

It is possible to get toxic shock syndrome (TSS) from using some period products, including tampons and menstrual cups. TSS is a rare infection but symptoms develop quickly and need urgent treatment, so it is important for staff, pupils and students to be aware of this. Further information will be available in the safety guidance included with products, and on the NHS website.

Equality requirements

You are required to comply with the relevant requirements of the Equality Act 2010, including the public sector equality duty.

Under the provisions of the Equality Act, schools and colleges must not unlawfully discriminate against pupils or students because of their age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, or sexual orientation (collectively known as the protected characteristics)[footnote 2].

This includes pupils and students who identify as transgender or non-binary and who have periods (or who may later have periods). You must also make reasonable adjustments to alleviate disadvantage and be mindful of the SEND code of practice when implementing this scheme.

You should consider the gender, culture, religion and age range of your pupils and students. This will help you decide if it is appropriate or necessary to provide additional support for those whose protected characteristics present considerations for these decisions.

Religious and cultural beliefs concerning periods and the use of period products can restrict access to some period products. Girls and women from certain backgrounds may be less aware of internal products such as tampons and menstrual cups and how these should be used.

Understanding girls’ and women’s religious and cultural beliefs and building relationships between the school and local faith communities will help:

  • make sure you’re providing individuals with products which meet their needs
  • individuals, parents and carers feel comfortable with the ways in which products are provided

See the period products scheme: impact assessment for more information.

Making products available to your pupils and students

Once products have been delivered, you need to decide how to make these products available. There are a variety of methods you could choose, some of which are set out in this section.

When deciding how to make products available, you should make sure the needs of all pupils and students are met. This includes pupils and students who do not identify as female – but instead identify as transgender or non-binary – but still have periods. You must follow the Equality Act 2010, under which sexual orientation and gender reassignment are among the protected characteristics.

You should also consider:

  • whether all pupils and students can access the products easily and when they need them
  • if the safety information for each product is available in an accessible format
  • the individual needs of users, including those with SEND, those with medical conditions affecting menstruation and those with English as an additional language
  • if the way in which accessing products minimises the risk of embarrassment
  • if you have clean and dry storage space for the products you’re ordering

Our research found that participants prefer products to be available without having to ask for them as it avoids feelings of embarrassment. This was also one of the main areas of feedback from our roundtable discussion with young people in July 2023.

Distribution examples

This section provides some example methods of distributing period products. This is not an exhaustive list. You should use a different, or combination of methods if appropriate.

Making products available in toilets or communal areas

Our research found that having appropriate products available in toilets can reduce stigma and feelings of embarrassment. Products would also be available at the time and place they were most needed, particularly for those who have come on unexpectedly, or have leaked and require a product immediately.

Having products in communal areas such as libraries or student services would raise awareness of the products being available, and be easily accessible for girls and women to take them as and when needed.

If you decide to place products within toilets or other communal areas, you will need to consider how you can:

  • provide safety information and advice prior to use
  • monitor the products to ensure there is sufficient stock available
  • check the products to make sure they have not been tampered with

Making products available on request from a member of staff

Our engagement with stakeholders and teachers found that it was easier to provide safety information and advice when members of staff supply products on request. They also reported that it was easier to keep track of the number and type of products being distributed.

Our pupil and student research found that:

  • asking a member of staff for products was embarrassing and, in some cases, pupils and students would rather go without products than ask
  • some pupils and students would feel more comfortable asking a student representative or ambassador rather than a member of staff
  • having posters or stickers on the back of toilet doors directing to where products are available would be useful

If you decide to make products available on request from a member of staff, you will need to consider how you can:

  • minimise any embarrassment for girls and women who may feel uncomfortable asking for products particularly in front of others
  • make the scheme accessible to all, for example, those with English as an additional language or those with SEND

Making products available via restricted access

Another option is making products available via restricted access. This could be through token vending machines or through lockers placed in or near bathrooms.

If you are making products available in this way, you must ensure access to safety information and advice prior to use of the products.

Research with pupils and students found that they felt this distribution method was a safe option. It meant that products could not be tampered with and were more likely to be taken based on need.

Participants also felt a benefit of this approach was that they did not need to ask a member of staff for help. However, participants thought it may be embarrassing to obtain products in front of other people.

If you decide to make products available via restricted access, you will need to consider how you can:

  • use a token system for vending machines or lockers without causing embarrassment
  • provide safety information and advice prior to use
  • provide access to pupils and students who do not use female toilets

Promoting the scheme

Communicating about the scheme will help:

  • make sure girls and women know where and how to access products and which products are available
  • encourage girls and women to access period products when needed
  • reduce the stigma around periods

There are several ways you can raise awareness about the scheme. This could include:

  • posters
  • assemblies
  • engagement with pupil or student voice groups such as school councils
  • letters to parents and guardians

Feedback from pupils and students shows that posters with details of where to access products are useful, particularly when placed in toilets or communal areas. You may wish to use the template poster provided by phs.

Some words associated with periods may discourage pupils or students from using the products and cause embarrassment. When talking about periods or promoting the scheme, you should avoid using words most negatively associated with periods like:

  • sanitary (such as sanitary product) - may be associated with uncleanliness
  • female hygiene - this could imply that periods are in some way unclean
  • poverty - using language associated with poverty may discourage pupils and students from using these products
  • affordability - using this word or ‘struggling’ may imply that the products are only available for those who cannot purchase the products themselves
  • shame - this may discourage openness and reinforce the idea of stigma and embarrassment

How to reduce stigma

The UK still experiences many challenges regarding stigma and taboo relating to periods, which works to create a sense of shame around what is a natural bodily process. You should consider what you can do to create an open, whole-school approach to menstruation, for example by:

  • including pupils and students who do not have periods in your discussions - this could include inviting them to talks about menstruation, or placing posters in areas accessed by all pupils or students
  • extending conversations and tools to parents and carers
  • making sure all staff have enough knowledge about periods and about the products available
  • using open and positive language about periods

Educating all pupils and students about periods is crucial to tackling the stigma which surrounds it. You may currently cover periods and the use of different period products in health education. From September 2020, teaching both boys and girls about periods and menstrual wellbeing has been compulsory in all state-maintained schools, primary and secondary, as part of health education.

You can find a range of free resources online to help you discuss periods with your pupils and students. You should assess each resource before using it to make sure it is appropriate for the age and maturity of pupils and students and sensitive to their needs.


We used our research with teachers, pupils, students and other stakeholders to develop this scheme. The results of our research have been included as part of our advice to schools and colleges on distributing products and promoting the scheme.

Management information data on the period product scheme is available.

Pupil and student research

To inform this guidance, we carried out independent research with pupils and students aged 9 to 19.

We commissioned Hopscotch Consulting Ltd to help us understand:

  • pupils’ and students’ perceptions of the period products scheme
  • different methods for making period products available
  • how institutions could communicate the scheme with their pupils or students

Hopscotch used an online forum for this research and recruited 62 pupils and students from a range of:

  • ages
  • locations
  • institution types
  • free school meals and SEND statuses

See period product scheme: the learner perspective for more details.

Stakeholder survey and discussion group

We held a discussion group and carried out a survey with charities and interest groups who shared their views and experiences regarding period product provision.

We asked stakeholders to share their perspectives on:

  • what information institutions need when ordering period products
  • the types of period products suitable for pupils or students with different characteristics
  • how organisations can make period products available
  • how organisations can tackle period-related stigma

Teacher engagement

We held discussions with staff in education organisations including:

  • primary headteachers
  • secondary headteachers
  • teachers
  • leaders from further education organisations

Stakeholder roundtable discussions

In July 2023, we held two roundtable discussions to gather views on the current guidance and communication around the scheme. The first was charities and interest groups, and the second with a group of pupils and students. Feedback from these sessions has been taken into consideration in this guidance update.

  1. Throughout this guidance, a reference to ‘girls and women’ also includes a reference to pupils and students who menstruate (or may later start menstruating) who may not identify as female but, instead, identify as transgender or non-binary. 

  2. The protected characteristic of age does not apply to students in schools. The protected characteristics of marriage and civil partnership do not apply to students in either setting.