SPRING school holidays are upon us, but when pupils return later this month, they’ll be thinking about two things: the approaching summer holidays and moving on up to the next year of school.

It’s an exciting rite of passage whether starting at Primary 1, going from the wee school to Primary 4, or moving on up to the big school as a first-year student.

With every new school year comes the cost of a new school uniform and the best part of £200 per pupil. It’s a big expense for families.

If your child attends a school in Glasgow, you may be eligible for a school clothing grant from Glasgow City Council of £120 (primary school) or £150 (secondary school) per child if you’re in receipt of certain benefits.

The application process opens in July and can be submitted online at glasgow.gov.uk/article/17885/Clothing-Grants-and-Free-School-Meals.

Many people feeling the financial squeeze won’t be eligible for clothing grants – for example if you’re in receipt of Universal Credit with more than £625 monthly take home pay you won’t be eligible on current rules.

With the cost-of-living crisis upon us, it’s worth looking at alternative options to help with reduced household budgets. Donna Henderson founded Glasgow’s Pre-Loved Uniforms (GPLU) to help parents cope with the financial pressure of the new school year.

The Govan based charity recycles pre-loved uniforms and passes them on for free to families throughout Glasgow, working with 29 schools across the city and providing a rail of uniforms for parents, pupils or teachers to take what they need. The lockdown peaks of Covid-19 made it tough for the charity as people had been unable to access the charity’s premises.

GPLU supports families through social workers, health visitors and family support workers from various organisations. The service is non-referral and open to everyone to help save money while helping the environment by reducing school uniforms going to landfill.

The charity originated from an event at Balornock Primary School for a community achievement award with Glasgow Kelvin College and interest from local families. After creating a Facebook page, Balornock Uniform Bank was formed. With more schools beyond G21 becoming involved the organisation became North Glasgow Uniform Bank, before relaunching as Glasgow’s Pre-Loved Uniforms in 2020.

As Donna explained to me: “Although some families are entitled to a school clothing grant kids grow all year round and they don’t have the money to go out and buy uniforms when money is really tight. Unfortunately, there are always people too quick to judge and say why give them a free uniform when they smoke, drink, take drugs or buy takeaways.

“For some they are unable to budget and if they have a couple of children then it can be £260 at the start of July to buy school uniforms but that may get spent on other bills. We’ve found since the summer of 2020 we’re supporting more families who are in work and just miss out on the school clothing grant.

“I remember one parent had to give up their job due to a lack of childcare when the schools were off during lockdown.

“They were struggling to pay their mortgage with a child starting P1 and an older child at school. We were able to kit the P1 out from top to bottom making life less stressful and they only needed to buy a few items for the elder child. Apparently, they didn’t qualify for the clothing grant.”

The ethos of GPLU is for all kids to go to school in a uniform that looks like their peers so they can fit in.

This can boost a child’s confidence and makes it easier to learn. Not everyone sees the importance of school uniforms, but it strikes me there is an essential need for charities like GPLU in Scotland.

As well as school uniforms, GPLU holds big winter jacket giveaways each year to ensure children can go to school warm and dry throughout the winter. This includes vests, tights, boots, wellies, hats, scarves and gloves, and since October, it has passed on almost 2000 items.

As Donna said: “For some this may not sound a lot, but we’re a small charity with a small group of volunteers. No-one gets a wage. It’s all voluntary and it can be a struggle to get funding.

“At the moment we only have enough money to get through the summer. We couldn’t do what we do without all of the families donating their unwanted school uniforms. We also get brand new items donated too.”

For anyone looking to donate to GPLU or request a school uniform you can e-mail glasgowspreloveduniforms@outlook.com, telephone 0756 572 6446 or contact the charity via Twitter @bankuniform. The charity would welcome more volunteers too.