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education.vic.gov.au

Personal Hygiene

Including hand hygiene, menstrual hygiene, and sanitary items in schools

Policy last updated

2 June 2021

Scope

  • Schools
Date:
January 2020

Policy

For specific information about COVID-19 refer to the COVID-19 — School Operations Advice on PAL, which brings together key operational information for schools. Schools can also refer to the  COVID-19 advice on the Department's website for information and updates.

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to protect the health of the school community and help students manage their own personal hygiene routines.

Summary

  • Schools have a responsibility to provide appropriate hand hygiene consumables (for example, soap, hand dryer) to support the personal hygiene routines of students.
  • The cost of school consumables such as soap is provided for in the cash component of the Student Resource Package (SRP).
  • Strategies and actions that schools can undertake to help students manage their own personal hygiene routines include:
    • provision of soap and other hygiene consumables
    • hand hygiene education
    • menstrual hygiene management and education
    • personal hygiene care and learning plans.
  • Schools must support all students to manage their own personal hygiene routines, including those with disability or those who identify as trans or gender diverse.
  • Schools must ensure that students accessing tampons at school understand the importance of good menstrual hygiene to reduce associated health risks. This includes providing universal access to sanitary items when and where they are needed, soap and water to wash their hands, privacy to change products when required, and providing facilities to dispose of used sanitary products.
  • Schools must provide accurate and age appropriate education on menstrual hygiene, including how poor menstrual hygiene can lead to toxic shock syndrome and various reproductive tract infections.
  • Information and resources to support the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative including Frequently Asked Questions, guidance on promoting positive menstrual health and operational guidance on preventing and managing misuse of sanitary items are available on the Guidance tab.
  • Schools may request replenishment of their sanitary pad and tampon dispensers outside their usual schedule by filling out this online form.

Details

Provision of soap and other hygiene consumables

Schools have a responsibility to provide appropriate hand hygiene consumables to support the personal hygiene routines of students. Consumables include:

  • soap, preferably in liquid form via a dispenser (for example, wall mounted)
  • a method for hand drying (for example, paper towel or hand dryer)
  • alcohol-based hand rub (where deemed appropriate).

Although washing hands with soap and warm water is the preferred method of hand hygiene, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are a useful substitute to hand washing and can be provided in classrooms or where running water is not available. Non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers are not recommended.

Menstrual hygiene management

Menstrual hygiene is a basic need for all students who menstruate. It is an important part of reproductive health. Having periods is a normal and healthy part of growing up, however taboos about menstruation mean that managing periods is often not talked about. Having a supply of sanitary pads and tampons available in school bathrooms can help normalise menstruation. Having open discussions about the safest way to use sanitary products can help to build positive social norms and help menstruating students manage their menstrual hygiene with dignity.

Free sanitary pads and tampons are available in all Victorian government schools. With the provision of sanitary items, schools must provide students with information about the safe use of sanitary items. Schools can refer to the Guidance tab for further information about their obligations and specific strategies to facilitate positive menstrual health.

As with other school environments, schools should engage with students to promote responsible behaviour and respect in school bathrooms. This includes respecting sanitary items such as soap, hand dryers, toilet paper, pads and tampons and sanitary disposal units.

Schools can refer to the Guidance tab for further advice and resources to support schools to prevent and respond to vandalism and misuse of sanitary items in school bathrooms.

Schools should ensure that all menstruating students, including those with disability or those who identify as trans or gender diverse, have access to free sanitary pads and tampons.

For trans and gender diverse students, access arrangements should be outlined in their student support plan – gender affirmation. For advice and information on supporting LGBTIQ students, refer to LGBTIQ Student Support or contact the Safe Schools Unit.

For students with disability, schools may seek to understand a student’s personal care requirements related to menstrual management via the Toileting, Hygiene and Menstrual Management – Medical Advice Form.

Hand hygiene education

Schools can incorporate hand hygiene education into the curriculum and daily school activities to maximise opportunities for students to develop and maintain personal hygiene practices. Visit the Clean Hands Hygiene Curriculum for further information.

Hand hygiene must be routinely performed:

  • before, during and after preparing food
  • before and after eating
  • before using pads and tampons
  • after using the toilet
  • after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • after touching animals or pets
  • before and after treating a wound or cut
  • after handling garbage.

Students requiring support for toileting, hygiene and menstrual hygiene management

For students with disability; toileting, hygiene and menstrual hygiene management arrangements can be outlined as required in their Student Health Support Plan to accommodate preference and medical advice.

Schools can create a Personal Hygiene Learning Plan that positively reinforces progress for students identified with a learning need in the step-by-step processes of:

  • hand hygiene
  • face washing, especially after eating
  • blowing and wiping their noses
  • toileting
  • menstrual hygiene management.

Occupational health and safety

All personal hygiene management practices must reflect occupational health and safety standards for the school. Refer to the Department's policy on Environmental Hygiene for further information.

Definitions

Personal hygiene
Personal hygiene is the action, habit or practice of keeping oneself clean, especially as a means of maintaining good health. The practice of personal hygiene can also protect the health of others.

Hand hygiene
Hand hygiene is a general term referring to any action of hand cleansing. It includes hand washing with soap and water and the use of antimicrobial hand rubs (for example, alcohol-based hand rub).

Menstrual hygiene management
Menstrual hygiene management can be described as the practice of using clean materials to absorb/collect blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary when they have their menstrual period.

Management includes using soap and water for washing the body as required and having access to facilities to dispose of used sanitary products.

Relevant legislation


Guidance

Guidance — planning for and supporting student’s personal hygiene

This guidance assists schools in planning for and supporting the management of students’ personal hygiene.

It contains the following chapters:

  1. Information on the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative
  2. How to promote positive menstrual health in schools
  3. Preventing misuse of sanitary items

1 Information on the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative

1  Information on the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative

The Victorian Government began providing free sanitary pads and tampons in every government school in Term 3, 2019 because access to sanitary products shouldn’t be a barrier to students getting the most out of their education.

The Government’s commitment to providing free pads and tampons in all government primary, secondary and specialist schools:

  • provides students with the confidence that there will always be sanitary items available at school
  • relieves students of the stigma, anxiety and discomfort that can be associated with menstruation and its management so they can focus on their studies
  • eases the cost of living for families.

Sanitary items are a necessity, not a luxury, and the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative will support tens of thousands of students across the state.

Lack of easy access to pads and tampons can negatively impact on students' participation in sport and everyday school activities. Students may not be able to concentrate in class, feel comfortable or feel confident doing physical activity, or they may miss school altogether.

Using inappropriate products, or using products for too long, carries health risks as practices related to poor menstrual hygiene can lead to toxic shock syndrome and reproductive tract infections.

By making sanitary pads and tampons freely available at school, we are one step closer to educational equality.

Schools may request replenishment of their sanitary pad and tampon dispensers outside their usual schedule by filling out this online form.


2 How to promote positive menstrual health in schools

2  How to promote positive menstrual health in schools

Schools have an important role to play in promoting a positive culture around menstrual health, facilitating safe use of sanitary items by students and supporting the initiative among the school community. There are several strategies and actions that schools can undertake to do this:

Strategy 1: Implement the Personal Hygiene policy in your school community

Action: Schools are required to follow the Department’s Personal Hygiene Policy to protect the health of the school community and help students manage their own menstrual hygiene routines

Strategy 2: Schools must provide information to students on the safe use of sanitary items

Action: Provide accurate and age appropriate education on the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative

A Teacher’s Guide along with 3 student facing PowerPoint presentations have been designed for teachers to have a conversation with students regarding the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative:

The teacher conversation guides contain age appropriate information on:

  • periods as a normal, healthy part of growing up
  • where sanitary dispensers are located at their school and their contents
  • explaining about pads and tampons
  • good personal and menstrual hygiene practices, including disposal of products
  • being responsible and respectful in the bathroom
  • opportunity for students to ask questions.

Teachers may adapt the content as appropriate to meet the needs of their students.

Action: Provide students with information about menstrual hygiene management

Schools must ensure that students accessing tampons at school understand the importance of good menstrual hygiene to reduce associated health risks. Schools must:

  • provide universal access to sanitary items when and where they are needed, soap and water to wash their hands, privacy to change products when required and provide facilities to dispose of used sanitary products
  • provide accurate and age appropriate education on menstrual hygiene, including how poor menstrual hygiene can lead to toxic shock syndrome and various reproductive tract infections. 

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare illness that is thought to be caused by infection with certain types of bacteria. In some circumstances the bacteria can overgrow, producing large amounts of the TSS toxin that sets off a severe inflammatory response which can be potentially life threatening. Using tampons has been associated with an increased risk of TSS. Sanitary products sold in Australia are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure they are produced with raw materials that minimise health risks. Tampon-related TSS has significantly declined as a result of changes in the manufacture of tampons, regulation and greater awareness of safe tampon use.

With tampons being made available in schools, schools must ensure that students understand the importance of good menstrual hygiene to reduce the risk of getting TSS.

The information that menstruating students need to know when using a tampon includes:

  • always ensure good handwashing before and after using tampons
  • only unwrap the tampon immediately before use and dispose of the tampon if the wrapper is damaged
  • tampons should be changed at least every 4 hours and sanitary pads used overnight rather than tampons.

For further information about TSS refer to the Better Health Channel.

Strategy 3: Include menstrual health education at appropriate points in the Health and Physical Education Curriculum

Action: Provide accurate and age appropriate education on menstrual health management through the curriculum

Menstrual health can be included as part of the current Health and Physical Education curriculum to ensure that all students are provided with opportunities to learn about menstrual hygiene management. Information provided to students should include when and how to seek medical advice and more general support.    

Strategy 4: Promote a supportive school environment and engage with student voice

Action: Encourage students to engage in discussion and be a part of your school’s approach to help normalise periods and remove the stigma associated with menstruation

Schools can facilitate positive menstrual health through normalising menstruation and promoting periods as part of healthy adolescent development. Schools may choose to involve their Student Representative Council in raising awareness of the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative.

Action: Adopt a whole-school-approach to normalising periods to remove the stigma associated with menstruation

Myths related to sanitary items and menstruation can contribute to gender-based discrimination and can also reduce women’s access to education, jobs, and overall equality.

This Myth Busting Menstruation resource (login required) discusses some of the most common myths that arise in relation to the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative.

Strategy 5: Provide parents/carers with information

Action: Provide information to the broader school community about menstrual health and the Free Sanitary Pads and Tampons in all Government Schools initiative

Letter from schools to parents introducing free sanitary initiative (login required)


3 Preventing misuse of sanitary items

3  Preventing misuse of sanitary items

Schools are invited to use one or a combination of the below strategies to prevent vandalism and misuse of sanitary items. These strategies have been suggested by schools who have had success in addressing these issues and are provided as a guide only.

Schools may select strategies that best match the context of the school.

Reinforce expected behaviour

Provide specific feedback and encouragement for students demonstrating the desired behaviour in bathrooms. This involves explicitly teaching, supervising, interacting, and acknowledging correct behaviour, as well as correcting undesirable behaviour consistently.

Involve students in exploring ways to reduce vandalism and misuse of sanitary items

Engagement with students is the crucial step to encourage responsible and respectful behaviour.

Consider forming a student committee or including sanitary items as an agenda item at the next Student Representative Council meeting. This is a great opportunity for students from Grades 5 to 6 and 11 to 12 to improve and demonstrate their leadership skills. Make sure all students are represented, regardless of sex or gender.

You may also consider including school staff, administrators, school council members and a representative from the school cleaning or facilities team.

Other ways to engage students in promoting positive use of sanitary items include:

  • encouraging students to design imaginative, high-impact signage to inform students of the availability of sanitary pads and tampons
  • encouraging students to take responsibility for the hygiene products in their bathrooms, such as knowing how to report when tampons, pads, toilet paper or soap has run out
  • encouraging students to define what is meant by positive behaviour in relation to pads and tampons, and the consequences that follow when this is not adhered to.
  • encouraging students to act as upstanders against disrespectful behaviour and implement your schools Bullying Prevention and Student Engagement policy in a bathroom setting
  • enabling students to seek feedback from their peers about their school bathrooms and considering ways students can take positive ownership of the space. For examples visit 21 Amazing and Inspiring Makeover Ideas for School Bathrooms or The School Toilet Project to see how Cheltenham Girls' High School transformed their school bathroom.

When engaging with students about the sanitary products and menstrual health, it is important to be consistent with relevant Health and Physical Education programs and other curriculum, in particular Personal and Social Capability, for example in providing feedback on definitions of positive behaviour.

Positive actions schools can take to correct student behaviour related to vandalism and misuse once it has occurred

Bathrooms are largely an unsupervised environment. This makes responding to vandalism and misuse of sanitary items challenging for schools, especially when it is not always possible to identify the student(s) responsible. For this reason, schools should focus efforts on preventing vandalism and misuse through the steps in this Guidance.

Schools facing difficulties in addressing these issues may consider outlining consequences for minor and major incidents involving sanitary products in their Student Engagement Policy.

Minor incidents could include graffiti or scratchiti (with a sharp object), tampons and pads pulled out from dispenser and thrown on the floor, pads stuck to the mirror.

Major incidents could include incidents which result in significant financial cost for the school, such as plumbing issues as a result of tampons and pads inappropriately flushed down the toilet.

Consequences for incidents involving bathroom graffiti and vandalism will depend on the severity of the incident. Schools may consider:

  • placing emphasis on instructional responses, such as re-teaching the desired behaviour.
  • where the students responsible for the vandalism or misuse are known, logical consequences should follow. For example, the student could be responsible for removing graffiti from the dispenser or picking up sanitary items from the floor.
  • discuss with students issues of graffiti on government property and more pro-social ways to express creativity and individuality
  • referencing 'sanitary initiative' in appropriate policies such as the Student Code of Conduct, Student Engagement Policy and Bullying Prevention Policy.

Where incidents occur, schools must follow the Reporting and Managing School Incidents (including emergencies) Policy.

Other suggested responses schools can take to respond to vandalism and misuse

The existence of vandalism and misuse promotes further acts of vandalism and misuse, including graffiti. On the other hand, a well-maintained bathroom will likely encourage the students to treat it with respect.

Schools are encouraged to address bathroom maintenance issues as they arise using funding allocated through the annual Student Resource Package and to undertake maintenance in accordance with the Department’s Buildings and Grounds Maintenance Policy.

Infrastructure

School infrastructure can impact on school bathrooms location, layout, accessibility and ability to be monitored/supervised. If you think your bathroom infrastructure is limiting you from addressing vandalism concerns contact the Victorian School Building Authority at vsba@education.vic.gov.au


Resources

Resources

Templates and forms

Department resources

Additional information to encourage parents to speak to their child about positive menstrual health

Other useful websites on personal hygiene


Reviewed 01 June 2021