Thousands of children in Luton go to school with no school uniform, no winter coat and shoes that are falling apart. Since the council stopped the school uniform grant in September 2014, more than 8,550 children are thought to be struggling to school without adequate uniform and shoes.
Discover Islam has partnered with local charity, the Level Trust, to deliver a full-time Uniform Exchange in partnership with local schools. The pilot project was planned for 7 months and opened by MP Kelvin Hopkins at a launch event in early May.
Level Trust director Jane Malcolm described the worrying situation in schools across Luton: “I’ve spoken to 35 schools so far and I’m hearing about children complaining of sore feet and when the teacher looks at their feet they see there are no soles on the shoes. Children who don’t have winter coats are having to be thawed out in the family room at the start of the day. It’s shocking that this is happening on our streets and in our schools.”
Jane said: “Poverty impacts children in many ways, not least in that it presents barriers to a child’s education. Imagine trying to learn while you are hungry, running around with friends in sole-less shoes and being cold on your journey to school. This all has an impact on a child’s ability to learn. Statistically, children growing up in poverty leave school with fewer qualifications.”
The newly opened Uniform Exchange allows families to get uniforms on presentation of a schools voucher or to swap uniforms their children have grown out of for uniforms that fit.
Sufian Sadiq, chairman of Discover Islam, said: “The Uniform Exchange is a great example of how we can strengthen our community by working together to help those in need.”
“This is a brilliant initiative and we are pleased to be part of it, I look forward to other organisations opening their doors to Level Trust financially and giving them a platform in the town.”
Special guest Kelvin Hopkins MP officially opened the project at the Discover Islam centre, Upper George Street.
He said: “I am delighted to be here for this opening, simple ideas are often the best, this could make a real difference to the children in Luton.”
With new uniforms and clothing provided by Tesco, BHS and Luton Town Football Club the opening was a great success, with many Headteachers, faith leaders and supporting organisations in attendance.