A school head of Sixth Form has sparked a row after telling her pupils that being on your period is not a valid reason to call in sick.
The teacher, Jackie Watson, emailed all Year 12 students at Oxford Spires Academy in Cowley, Oxford, telling them “learning to deal with monthly inconvenience is all part of being a woman”.
She went on to remind girls that painkillers and even heat packs are available from the school matron.
But students have reacted angrily, pointing out that sending the email to all students, male and female alike, will encourage boys to think that being on your period “isn’t bad and that they shouldn’t be sympathetic.”
One pupil, speaking anonymously to the Oxford Mail, said: “Obviously I have to understand that people cannot take their whole period off each month but that is not what anyone is trying to do.
“Personally, when I am on my period, I experience really painful cramps, meaning I cannot walk without having to be bent double.
“Sometimes, I get so dizzy I pass out or vomit – obviously on these days, I would not consider myself fit to go into school.
“The fact Dr Watson sent the email out to the whole of sixth form as well, including the boys, is just making boys think it isn’t bad and that they shouldn’t be sympathetic.
“I am now quite uncomfortable to think of my next periods and how I will manage them at school, as I’m sure the majority of girls are.”
Dr Watson made it clear that there would always be exceptions, but most girls should be able to make it into lessons: “Anywhere where you work you can’t take two days off for being on your period,” she said.
“If it’s just an ordinary period, you should come into school – unfortunately taking that time off is not how society works.
“The email is about attendance, that was simply the point – my slightly tongue-in-cheek way of saying it maybe got to some of the girls, but the email was to get across the message to be in school.”
She admitted that sending the mail to boys as well had probably been a mistake.
“I probably shouldn’t have done that and perhaps it was a bit foolish of me,” she said.
But she stressed that there was ample support for female students, saying there was “a huge amount of time supporting students with issues and health-related matters”.