One of the projects that we're most proud of is Leeds School Uniform Exchange.
You can read lots more about the background to it here, and there's lots of information about opportunities to share school uniform on our website. Our LSUE Facebook group is a great starting point too.
Leeds School Uniform Exchange recently featured on Sky News.
Our co-director Rob has also written about how our work on school uniform sharing is part of our wider work on practical circularity - and building a more generous city.
A practical response to the cost-of-living crisis
The project has been so successful in large part because of the times we are living through.
Increasing numbers of families in our city are really struggling financially - and school uniform can be a significant cost for families - typically somewhere between £200 & £300 per child per year.
So making it as easy as possible for people to share good quality, second-hand school uniform - with no forms to fill in, no hoops to jump through - is increasingly important.
The exchanges that we've helped to set up across Leeds are run in three main ways.
Some are Facebook groups - often run by groups of parents, based around one neighourhood, or a particular school.
Others are run by schools - often starting with unclaimed lost property, and uniform donated at the end of term.
And then there are others run by community groups - often as an add-on to an existing activity, such as a food bank or a charity shop.
We support them by promoting them, sharing best practice on how to run them, and by helping to move uniform around the city - so if one exchange has lots of uniform, whilst another doesn't have much, we'll step in to help.
The beauty of the approach is that it's hyperlocal, and it's about mutual support. People helping eachother.
Maybe this term you'll have uniform to offer, that your child has grown out of. And then next term you'll ask for some PE kit. We firmly believe that this kind of community-level co-operation is the way to tackle the stigma that can sometimes exist around second-hand.
So what's the role of schools?
It depends. Some schools run schemes themselves to share school uniform, whilst others work with exchanges set up by parents or community groups - by promoting the schemes to parents, or encouraging people to share unwanted uniform.
We know school staff are really busy people. And this is why we chose not to create a model where it was only about schools.
But the best exchanges always have good involvement from schools - as they know their school community better than anyone else.
What's this about new guidance?
And as a result of all their hard work, new guidance comes into force over the summer, which means that schools must review their uniform policies to see how they can be made more cost-effective.
Schools need to follow this guidance and should start making changes before the new school year in September 2022.
This webinar gives a useful overview too:
What does the guidance say about second hand?
Clearly there's much more to the affordability guidance than just making second-hand an easier choice.
But schools will be required to ensure that parents have the opportunity to acquire second-hand clothing - and will also be obliged to ensure that parents know about these opportunities - as this screenshot from the Department for Education presentation at the above webinar outlines:
And this is where we can help
The good news, if you are a school in Leeds, is that Leeds School Uniform Exchange makes this easy!
It's possible that there's already an exchange where people can get hold of uniform for your school - you could find out more by searching on the map on our website.
Or you could talk with us to find out more about setting one up for your school. Maybe you could do that yourselves - or we could explore together opportunities to encourage parents, or perhaps a local community group, to set up an exchange.
Either way, it really couldn't be easier.
Working with us, you'll have responded to one of the key requirements of the new guidance - and you'll be making a big difference to young people and parents, by making it really easy to get hold of good quality second hand school uniform, at a time when many families are really struggling financially.
If you'd like to find out more about Leeds School Uniform Exchange, and how we can help, please get in touch.