School uniform bank prepared for demand for clothes as kids go back to the classrooms on Monday

A uniform bank is gathering stock and preparing bundles of back to school clothes ahead of a predicted boom in parents needing help with kitting their children ahead of new terms this year.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 6:00 am

Children go back to school on Monday following an eight week long national lockdown.

For many children it will be the first time back at school since December as the January term was abruptly called off after just one day.

After another prolonged period out of school, it is expected that parents will realise clothes don’t fit, some items of uniform have been lost and more essentials are needed to cope with a full school week.

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Jennie Poppleton at the school unform bank at the Church of the Nazarene in Morley.

Under the Zero Waste Leeds umbrella there are more than 90 uniform banks operating across the city to try and relieve the financial burden on parents who are faced with an average bill for school uniform items per year, per child of £348.55.

The scheme also aims to reduce the amount of textile waste in the UK. Zero Waste estimated that every year 4,000 tonnes of clothes end up in black bins in Leeds and school uniforms are part of the problem. If every new school starter in Leeds had either one second hand shirt or blouse it would save in the region of 122,000kg of CO2 emissions.

The uniform banks, dotted across the city, have seen an increase in demand as parents rush around to get the items they need after it was confirmed, just a fortnight ago in the Prime Minister’s ‘road map’, that all pupils will return to school, full time from Monday March 8.

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Bundles of school clothes can be saved from landfill by donating to uniform banks.

They are planning a 'pop-up shop' at Easter once lockdown restrictions are eased which allows people to browse the items on offer and this is where she predicts a spike in requests for uniform to see children to the end of term.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I think people are leaving it to the last minute as there is still scepticism about going back and next week there will be a burst and people will panic. I expect people will be walking to school behind their children, realising trousers are too short, where is that jumper that never came home?

“Supermarkets have not got a lot in, there is not much available. A lot of schools, I believe, are making allowances and will work with parents if there is a problem with uniform. It is more important they are in school than having the right uniform.”

However, despite increased levels of poverty, there are still some families reluctant to take the help from the scheme - which does not charge for the pieces of uniform it redistributes - and Zero Waste is working to reduce the stigma about accepting second-hand uniform.

Mrs Poppleton added: “Poverty is still a big thing and our foodbanks have seen an increase in people coming to that from different backgrounds for various reasons.

“For the uniform, a lot of people don’t want to accept charity despite what they are going through and still think people are worse of than them. We are trying to get around that and say it is not charity.

“We look at what we have got available and that would have been thrown away because kids have grown out of it and the quality of the stuff that we have got is unbelievable.”

It comes as Leeds City Council encourages schools to apply for funding to deliver a food and activity programme for vulnerable children over the Easter holidays.

Individual schools, or schools in partnership with other organisations, are invited to submit proposals by March 10 at 12pm for the opportunity to be involved.

The extra funding has been awarded by the Department for Education following successful Healthy Holidays programmes in Leeds, which have been providing vulnerable children with food and activities since 2018.

They give vulnerable children access to nutritious food, as well as the chance to try new activities, make new friends and develop new skills. The programme also helps to ease the extra pressure some families are under during school holidays.

Coun Jonathon Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for learning, skills and employment, said: “We are so pleased that the Healthy Holidays programme has been given additional funding this year. More funding means that the programme can reach more vulnerable children than ever before, ensuring they have access to nutritious meals, a range of engaging and educational activities and the opportunity to create happy holiday memories for life.”

He said he was aware of the tight timescale for applications so to make it easier the application forms have been simplified.

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