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The heart of schoolwear
For schoolwear suppliers looking to invest further in social responsibility and charity partnerships, CWB highlights three charities appealing for support from the school uniform sector in 2016.

By Laura Turner

10 February 2016

WOOD STREET MISSION – SMARTSTART
 
Manchester children’s charity Wood Street Mission is one of the oldest in the region, helping more than 3,000 families and 7,000 children every year by providing practical support to alleviate the impact of poverty and improve life chances. 
 
Both Manchester and Salford have high levels of child poverty, with more than one in three local children living in hardship. And while schools do have some funding to supply families with uniforms, it is not enough to help all children living in low-income households. For this reason, in 2015, Wood Street Mission launched SmartStart Manchester & Salford. The objective of SmartStart is to distribute £1m of school clothing and sports kit to local, low-income families: enough to give every child living below the poverty line a school uniform.
 
By helping with school costs, the project aims to improve the life chances of children in poorer households – who typically perform worse at school than their better-off peers – enabling them to fit in and not breach school regulations. 
 
SmartStart runs all year round, distributing donations of new, non-branded school uniform and sports kit to local families through the charity’s Manchester base. Its peak time is during the summer, when it runs a highly customised service to provide uniform in time for the new school year. Wood Street Mission is now planning the project for 2016, and is interested in talking to suppliers of school uniform and sports kit who are interested in supporting SmartStart. It is also opening a new community shop in central Manchester later this year, which will distribute school uniform and coats, as well as other children’s clothing, toys and books to families throughout the year. 
 
The project has a campaign video, Every Super Hero Needs a Uniform, available to view at here, which powerfully demonstrates the impact not having the correct school uniform can have on a child.
 


 
SmartStart case study: Trutex
In 2015, the Wood Street Mission teamed up with schoolwear supplier Trutex to kit out over 1,700 children for the new school year. All families were given a ‘virtual budget’ from which they could ‘purchase’ the school uniform items their children needed most. These items were then posted out in time for September. On average, families – all of which were referred by a professional support worker – received over £100 of school clothes. “Trutex was delighted to supply Wood Street Mission to enable them to successfully provide school uniform to those in need around Manchester and Salford,” says Trutex’s marketing manager, Rowena Allen. “The scheme is a fantastic way to enable children to start Back to School on the same level as all of the other children. All Trutex uniform is ‘Made to Last’, so these pupils will also benefit from high quality products improving 
self-esteem.”
 
PENNY APPEAL – EDUCATION FIRST CAMPAIGN
 
Formed in 2009, Yorkshire based charity Penny Appeal combats poverty in both the UK and overseas through a variety of projects including building wells, providing food, delivering emergency medical aid and caring for orphans and the elderly. All of Penny Appeal’s projects are carefully constructed and designed to be accessible and effective and offer a blend of emergency support, short-term relief, and longer-term sustainable interventions. This multi-focus approach means the charity can save lives immediately, improve situations in the coming days and weeks, and transform communities for years to come, always giving desperate people the support they need depending on their situation.
 
In June 2015, the charity launched the Education First campaign to give children a comprehensive education in a quality setting, where all their learning needs can be catered for. Its schools in Asia and Africa are fully equipped with everything that pupils need to learn, develop and grow. Everything a new school needs is provided, including desks and chairs, a library full of textbooks, stationery and computer equipment, play areas and fully trained teachers. The schools offer a safe, inspiring and fun environment where orphans and impoverished children can enjoy lessons in English and the local language, covering a range of subjects. The charity’s school uniforms are proudly worn by the children, who relish being part of a positive community that will improve their lives. To help boost the campaign’s work in 2016, Omer Shah, head of programmes at Penny Appeal, is appealing to UK schoolwear suppliers for their support.
 
“We’d love to hear from schoolwear suppliers that can support our Education First pupils,” he says. “A quality, practical uniform makes a big difference to the children – it gives them a real sense of belonging and is a positive reinforcement of the importance of education. You can help: whether it’s donating shoes, socks, shirts or whole uniforms, the children would be very grateful.”
 
In the past six years, Penny Appeal has helped millions of people across Asia, the Middle East and Africa, transforming entire communities by helping to break the poverty cycle and build brighter futures. 
 
 
PARENTING 2000 – SCHOOL UNIFORM BANK (SUB)
 
The charity Parenting 2000 was established in 1993 after the tragic death of James Bulger. Its objective, throughout the north-west of England and Wales, is “to advance the education of the public concerning safety issues in everyday life, and thereby to preserve and protect the moral and physical welfare of any vulnerable members of society, in particular, but not exclusively children.” 
 
In 2013, the charity formed the School Uniform Bank (SUB) at its centre in Litherland, in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton, in Merseyside. The aim of SUB is to provide new or pre-loved school uniform items, in good condition, to families living on benefits who are struggling financially to kit their children out for school. Parents or young people can contact Parenting 2000 directly for support, or are referred to the charity by schools, health visitors, social care or other organisations that help and support families in Sefton.
 
While the project sees great support from members of the public donating outgrown schoolwear items, it is keen to increase the number of new school uniforms it receives. 
 
“We have plenty of families recycling their uniforms, but unfortunately some are not fit for purpose,” says Parenting 2000 chief executive officer, Colette Aslanian. “Although we never refuse donations, we are in desperate need of new uniforms: we haven’t had any brand new school uniforms donated for a while. It’s lovely to see children go to school with one full, new school uniform and then we supply a back-up one to alternate.” 
 
Since the launch of SUB, Parenting 2000 has established storage for school uniforms in its other two centres located in Crosby and Southport, enabling the project to become Sefton-wide.
 
 
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