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School uniforms play an important part in creating the identity of a school, and in particular ‘poverty-proofing’ classrooms from the pressures of latest trends, but school uniform can be expensive. It can be a real struggle to afford new uniform every year, sometimes more often than that with the rate children grow.

Some of you have large families with school-age children of different sizes, different genders and at different schools – that’s a LOT of money to find in one go at the start of a new term. And then there’s the child that comes home regularly with holes in the knees of their trousers a week after you bought them, and the child that left their tie on the bus.

Research carried out by the Children’s Society in 2020* suggests that one in eight families made cutbacks to pay for their children’s school uniform. The last thing a parent wants is for their child to feel anxious or embarrassed about their school uniform at the school gates.

So, what to do? Hive Uniform Share Store to the rescue!

HIVE helps families across Portsmouth by getting children and young people kitted out in their school uniform. In fact, they can help with everything your child will need for school, including sports kit, shoes and coats as well, they also have World Book Day outfits.

I visited the HIVE in Autumn of last year to meet the people that run the Uniform Share Store and to see how the scheme delivers pocket power for families with school age children and saves perfectly good uniform from ending up at the tip.

I met with the wonderfully bubbly Sandie Davies and her equally wonderful and bubbly colleague Claire Travis. Sandie started the uniform share store scheme during the first lockdown and Claire makes sure it all runs smoothly. We chatted about where the share store began and where it’s going.

How and when did the Uniform Share Store begin?

Sandie told me that during the pandemic she was involved in all sorts of community responses like food drop-offs and prescription pickups etc. She explained that in 2020, during the first lockdown, parents had bought school uniform in preparation for their children to wear to school and then suddenly schools closed. As a result, there was a massive pile of unused school uniforms that children could no longer wear as they’d outgrown them, and schools could not collect as they were closed. Even when everything re-opened, schools found that they didn’t have the space to store the uniform or the resources to get it back out to the parents who needed it.

Sandie Davis, HIVE, holding bags of uniform
Shelves with bags full of school uniform

That’s when the HIVE decided to take-over and become a central collection point and to look after the whole process of taking enquiries and making sure that parents get what they’ve asked for.

Sandie explained that “People can get in touch with us and tell us how many children they’ve got, how old they are, which school they go to and we will do our very best to see what we’ve got (in store) and actually give out a parcel of school uniform, completely free of charge”.

Sandie said that the scheme has been really popular, “it’s taken off so well, there’s obviously a need for it. Schools are now getting on board and sign-posting parents to it too!”

How can people use the Uniform Share Store?

Claire is the person that sorts out all the donations, deals with email requests that come in and arranges for the uniforms to get to the parent or caregiver. She told me that there are a few ways people can get in touch for uniform:

  • Email uniform@hiveportsmouth.org.uk with details of your requirements – the items of clothing needed, age and gender of the child and the school they go to.
  • Complete the online request form
  • Pop into the Central Library. You’ll find friendly faces at the HIVE reception desk. If they can’t help you straight away, they will take your details and contact you when they have the item of clothing needed.
  • Call the HIVE on 023 9400 7124 (if you can’t email or complete the online request form).
Clair Travis, HIVe, holding a school shirt

“People tell us what they want, we find it and let them know when it’s ready for them to collect” explained Claire. “We can also have the parcel sent to a local library closer to them if that’s more convenient. There are a couple of places in other parts of the city that store certain items. Community Kettle in Cosham High Street for example and there are also racks of uniform at various food banks and pantries“.

Do you need a referral for the share store?

Sandie explained that “there’s no referral for it because the scheme is not just based around helping families out financially, it’s also about recycling and reusing perfectly good school uniform so that it doesn’t end up at the tip”.

 

Rack of school uniform

Can you only get school uniform at the share store?

The share store can provide school shoes and coats as well as uniform and the last couple of years they’ve also had costumes for World Book Day and the odd Halloween costume.

Last year HIVE Portsmouth had a MASSIVE response to its World Book Day appeal.

This year they’re once again asking people to raid the fancy dress box and donate any outfits in good condition, whatever size, character, or theme.

This year World Book Day is Thursday 7 March and HIVE Portsmouth aim to kit out the kids of Portsmouth in literary-themed costumes FOR FREE.

Contact HIVE Portsmouth directly on 023 9400 7124 or email uniform@hiveportsmouth.org.uk to ask about World Book Day outfits.

If you’ve got a donation, this can be dropped off at any Portsmouth library, just pop them in a bag and stick a label on it saying ‘for HIVE Portsmouth’.

Find out more about the HIVE’s World Book Day appeal

* Children’s Society – The wrong blazer report 2020