Like every other woman of my generation – or older – to whom I have spoken, my first reaction to hearing about betty for schools was, “I wish we’d had that when I was at school!”
The revolutionary period education team are taking the UK education sector by storm, and are tremendously popular with students and teachers alike. Providing comprehensive and open education about periods, betty for schools are changing the way young people talk about puberty, and are encouraging inclusive and supportive learning for both girls and boys.
Starting with the online monthly magazine for young women, betty.me, the team behind betty for schools noticed a gaping hole in PSHE provisioning for period education. From here came the betty bus. A striking, hot pink double-decker bus, kitted out not only with wonderful interactive displays for children, but also with the bonus feature of a slide, it goes without saying that the demand for the betty bus at schools has skyrocketed since its launch in March of this year.
There is too much taboo and stigma talking about the changes that our bodies go through – Dr Yasmin Walters
So what is it they actually do? As well as providing comprehensive and purpose-written teacher notes and resources for PSHE education, the betty for schools team are also available to run courses themselves for schools in the UK. There are two levels of education; one directed at children between the ages of 8 and 11, and one for 11-12 year-olds in secondary school. The courses cover not only the biological side of female puberty and health, but also social and emotional implications for both sexes. And this is where betty for schools differs from traditional PSHE education. Becky Hipkiss, Education Manager at betty for schools, said, “Betty for schools is something that teachers have been crying out for. It came about because we noticed a huge gap in PSHE education; the current system is very biology-based, and quite often taught over only one lesson. The children don’t get to learn about the emotional or social implications of what is going on.”
Betty for schools has set out to change this for good. With sessions for both girls and boys, there are a range of resources and lessons that both inform pupils about the various elements of periods, and also normalise the subject, with the aim to do away with the taboo surrounding female health, and of periods in particular.
Dr. Yasmin Walters also works with betty for schools on helping to create their resources, and providing medical information. On her work with betty, she says, “There is too much taboo and stigma talking about the changes that our bodies go through. As a doctor I feel I have a responsibility to open people up to these conversations. I also find the area fascinating and am pretty much impossible to embarrass!”
Survey reports find that before the betty bus visit, only 54% of boys felt that they knew generally about periods, whereas this figure rose to 81% after betty for schools sessions
“As doctors we focus more and more on the holistic approach, i.e. considering the patient as a whole, and not just their individual symptoms,” continued Yasmin. “The same approach could be taken in teaching puberty in schools. We shouldn’t box the experience up. We need to connect the biological changes with the social effects and emotions experienced.”
Recent research surrounding the effects of the betty bus education shows some astonishing statistics. Conducted in ten schools that have already received a visit from the betty bus, survey reports find that before the betty bus visit, only 54% of boys felt that they knew generally about periods, whereas this figure rose to 81% after betty for schools sessions. Additionally, the amount of boys that felt able to support someone who is suffering because of their period rose from a mere 31% to an incredible 81%. This huge 50% rise in confidence and knowledge shows that the betty for schools team are achieving their goals. The courses are also having a great impact across the gender spectrum, with 90% of pupils generally now feeling that they know about how periods can affect girls emotionally, compared to only 63% before the lessons, and the amount of pupils who feel that they know all about the different physical symptoms of periods rising from 59% to 84% as a result of betty for schools sessions.
So what’s next? After just over four months in business, betty for schools are already thinking about the future. Speaking about plans for expansion, Becky explained, “For the first year, we’re focusing on just getting the period lessons delivered well, but we are interested in expanding come year 2. We’re looking at covering puberty, including boys. It’s definitely something that teachers want. We’re consulting with current registrants to see which angle they’d most like us to take; physical, social, emotional, etc.”
This new and fresh approach to PSHE education is very much in line with the current focus on pupil wellbeing and social education, and with over 700 schools already requesting the bus and the accompanying lesson programmes, the phenomenon of the betty bus is not going anywhere soon.