Christmas jumpers (and school uniform!)

Today’s blog is by Kirsty Clark, the Founder and Director of Bristol Uniform Exchange CIC

Bristol Uniform Exchange was created to help reduce the cost of school uniform for Bristol families, by offering items for free! Now, more than ever, we need to support each other and reusing and recycling items seemed like a good place to start. Uniform costs can really mount up, especially if you have more than one child, or children at multiple schools.

We began collecting donations, contact-free at the height of the pandemic, to build a stock items to redistribute. We wanted to be ready to support families when children were allowed to return to school. By providing these uniform items, we hope to support good attendance, engagement and participation across all areas of the curriculum. We have now collected over 6,000 uniform items and accessories which otherwise would have gone to landfill.

How does it work?

Our support is offered all year around. Through our Facebook group and events, families can access the items they need. You can request a specific item through our group, where peer to peer support is offered as well as access to our stock of donations. We also accept direct and discrete referrals and requests through Facebook and our website. Often people can find asking for help hard, so we wanted to have different routes to access us, to suit different needs. Our Facebook group currently has 972 members, who help create a safe, supportive and caring environment.

Families can also come along to our events with items they no longer need and swap them. Equally, you can come along and collect anything you require without making a swap.  We have a range of items including jumpers, polo shirts, skirts and trousers as well as coats and shoes.

We hosted our second uniform exchange day in the summer holidays, staggering entry times to allow space, asking volunteers and families to wear masks and to observe social distancing. All donated or swapped items were also quarantined. Our friends at Bristol Children’s Playhouse let us use their space in their preschool room in Greenbank. The event was a huge success with families swapping and collecting the items they needed. We kitted out 100 people in the few hours we opened.

Wish Lists

We have been fortunate enough to secure funding to support our project further and extend our work. We are very grateful to BoKlok who have donated to our project. Their support has enabled an immediate extension of our ‘wish list’ scheme. This scheme enables families to request items we have been unable to source through donations. We have worked with several uniform supplies, locally and nationally, to purchase items needed. This has often been for the pricey, branded garments such as blazers and PE kit items. We have been able to agree discounted rates for items and some supplies have even given items for free and in additional sizes.

Families have told us that their children have been excluded from taking part in PE due to incorrect kit. It is important to us that all children fully participate in their education and not miss out simply because of their clothes!

Christmas Jumper Day

Today is Christmas Jumper Day – a new tradition observed by school and pre-school settings across the county.

To support families further, we have once again ran our Christmas jumper swap campaign. Last year we proudly supported nearly 80 families to access a jumper through our Facebook group. This is potentially 80 children that did not miss out on a day at school, just because they didn’t have a festive jumper to wear! It is work like this, and the support of the online community we are building, that helps families in most need of support.

Our future plans

Next year we are hoping to host more events, in a range of different locations. It is important to us that location or transport is not a barrier to access. We hope that taking our events to different locations next year helps us reach even more families. We are also hoping to increase the number of volunteers who help us. This support is crucial in helping us reach as many families as possible.

We are proud to have directly supported over 600 families across Bristol since we began in April 2020. There have also been countless support offered directly by members of our group, which we are really grateful for. We hope to help even more families as we grow and are always looking for new ways we can help.


Visit our website, our Facebook group, our Twitter, or our Instagram.