PSHE KS3 / GCSE: Just say the word

Young people from across the UK talk about their experiences of shame and embarrassment around periods. Euella Jackson examines the consequences and promotes open conversation.

Euella explains that the stigma and shame around periods can cause real problems. Some people are too embarrassed to buy the period products they need and many young people struggle to even afford period products.

Many schools and colleges across the UK now have the funding to access free period products. To make sure that everyone who needs them can access the products, we all need to start talking more openly about periods.

This short film is from the BBC Teach series, Talking Periods.

Teacher Notes

Before watching the film

During the planning stage, be sure to watch the film first to fully consider whether it will be appropriate for your specific pupils and how it can be best utilised. An initial assessment of your pupils' understanding of periods, their views and feelings around menstruation, including any stigma they may have, will give you a direction in which to take.

It is advisable to check government guidance and your school policies in order to make sure you follow guidelines and talk to a member of the SLT (Senior Leadership Team) if you have any queries or concerns.

If you are able to have period products (including reusable options) for this lesson this is highly recommended as it will create a valuable opportunity for pupils to investigate the wide range of period products available.

Watching the case study film about Stirling High School prior to showing this film to your students, may give you some ideas to support making period products available in your school. You could use this lesson to begin to build or launch a similar program with your pupils.

Setting up a working agreement with the class and creating a list of ground rules for the session together will make sure everyone feels safe and able to talk and join in without feeling judged.

Watching the film

You may find it useful to pause the video at certain points to discuss or clarify certain aspects or check for understanding.

Here are some activities that would work well alongside this film:

  • Have a wide range of period products on different tables, put the class into small groups and allow them time to explore the items and read the instructions on how they are used. Perhaps they could consider the advantages and disadvantages of each (e.g. ease of use vs environmental implications?)
  • Give small groups a range of period products and empty sticky labels/price tags - enough for each product. Each group can then work out what they think the cost of each pack is. (As a cheaper alternative activity you could do this as a carousel activity with just one or two different types of all the period products on different tables.)
  • The class could work out the average cost of using different period products per period and then year and see what the best items to buy would be if you were on a budget. (e.g. is using reusable/sustainable products cheaper in the long run, even though they are more expensive to pay for initially?)
  • Where appropriate, you could invite a fully inclusive group of older, confident peers who do and do not have periods, to come into this lesson to sit with small groups and talk about periods and period products with them.
  • Tell your class about the support and period products that are available in your school - including where to go, who to talk to, etc. You could use this film as a catalyst for change or use this opportunity to build a class/school agreement for how everyone will support those who menstruate when they have their periods or any symptoms or issues surrounding this, spending time considering what sort of situations might unfold when at home, at school or out and about.

After watching the film

At the end of the film allow time for any questions or further discussion, pull everything together and make sure you allow for some quiet reflection at the end – this might be a good point to do an assessment to find out what students have learnt and what they would like to know more about.

Remind them to talk to someone if anything they have seen or discussed has made them feel uncomfortable and remind them of the importance of visiting a GP if they are worried about anything.

Curriculum Notes

These lessons will fit within:

  • Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education at KS3 and GCSE in England
  • The Curriculum for Excellence (Health & Wellbeing Education) at National 4 and 5 in Scotland
  • Learning for Life and Work at KS3 and GCSE in Northern Ireland
  • Personal and Social Education (PSE) at KS3 and GCSE in Wales

More from Talking Periods

What is a period?
How it feels