Reusing and recycling school uniforms in Haxby and Wigginton

01 September 2023

Since 2020, the Yorkshire village of Haxby and Wigginton has been organising its annual School Uniform Bank. This service lets families donate their outgrown children’s uniforms and pickup some of the donated ones to take home for free. The Haxby and Wigginton Methodist Church aims to help struggling families as well as reduce landfill. 

A group was sitting in a park in Haxby during the 2020 lockdown when, with cups of tea and coffee in their hands, they were having a chat about how they could work together. Someone mentioned school uniforms, how expensive they are and how great it would be to reuse them for the good of the environment and family finances. Haxby and Wigginton is a deceptively wealthy area, as the cost-of-living crisis bites, more and more people are struggling. 

Fast forward a couple of months and Lorraine Jones, Family Ministry Co-Ordinator at Haxby and Wigginton Methodist Church, received a few emails asking about the uniform idea. After three or four more emails, she got the hint and started planning the School Uniform Bank with the help of a volunteer who had significant experience in gathering and bringing clothes to children in Moldova. 

reuniform-2Organising a school uniform bank is an ongoing learning curve, even after three years, “We are still learning and we are going to do it slightly differently next year. We have an open mind and enjoy constantly learning and improving our operation,” explains Lorraine. 

The first step was contacting local schools to check what their plans were for uniform exchange. Every school has its own way of doing things and that needs to be taken into consideration. “Once the school and its board are behind the initiative, they will promote it,” adds Lorraine. 

Several drop-offs have been arranged that are convenient for local families. “The first year, we had a gazebo outside the church and people just came along,” remembers Lorraine. It was, however, just a day and not everyone could make it. There are now drop offs in schools and shops. 

There are a team of five volunteers who come at different times to sort out the clothes. This year alone, they have received around 100 bags of clothes for the School Uniform Bank, enough to give a full uniform to about 300 children. 

Haxby and Wigginton have three primary schools and one senior school. “We also have people that come from other schools to pick up the grey trousers or the white shirts,” says Lorraine. On the pickup day, they offer refreshments to encourage parents to stay a bit longer and have a chat with each other, creating and strengthening the links between members of the community. 

About a third of the clothes normally remain. The volunteers sort it out and, as recycling and reusing are at the heart of the initiative, the leftover clothes go to Refugee Action York. 

It is going so well that they would like to expand their catchment area. “It is a model that can easily be replicated anywhere else,” adds Lorraine. Next year, they are planning to have the pickups just in the morning as that is when most people are coming. They are also hoping to involve more members of the community and other local churches as many parents were happy to stay a bit longer and help.