Dozens of Middlesbrough children will start school this week with smart new uniforms – thanks to kind-hearted NHS workers.
Staff from Secure Inpatient Services (SIS) at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys (TEWV) NHS Foundation Trust have spent hundreds of pounds on school wear for youngsters at Ayresome Primary.
Administration manager Sophie Antill initially came up with the idea of a possible uniform exchange while sorting out her son’s new uniform – and the initiative snowballed from there.
“Loads of colleagues have happy memories of shopping for uniform and, when I mentioned my exchange idea, someone suggested buying new uniforms for a local school,” she said.
“I never expected it to get this big – and it’s been emotional at times. I kept thinking about the people who don’t have what my son has and wanted to help as many as possible.”
Ayresome Primary was chosen as the link school for the project, as its postcode falls within one of the most deprived communities in Middlesbrough.
Staff from across SIS – including admin, ward staff, housekeepers and leaders – took responsibility for buying individual uniforms and a total of 31 youngsters received support.
“The response was amazing,” said Sophie. “I linked staff up with families, and each child was given what they specifically needed – and often more as well. It was heart-warming.
“Not only did people buy the usual sweatshirts and polos, but also a lot of extra stuff – like hair bobbles, bags and school materials. One family requested shoes – and got them.
“When you consider we only launched this a few weeks ago, just before the school summer holidays, it is amazing what we have achieved. It’s lovely to think we’ve helped so many.”
Sophie has spent the past six weeks hot-desking at work, after turning her own desk space in the admin office into a school uniform drop-off point.
But, although glad to finally get her seat back, she is now looking ahead to Christmas – when she is planning to hold a festive gift appeal for the pupils of Ayresome Primary.
“I want to thank everyone who donated. The compassion value of the Trust really, really shone through during this appeal. People were so happy to help out,” she said.
“As a child I used to love getting my new uniform, then going to school feeling all nice and new – and I wanted the children we were supporting to feel like that too.
“It’s such a nice thing. I just love the idea of all the children going to school in their new unforms and feeling a million dollars. It makes me smile to think of that.”
Charlotte Haylock, headteacher of Ayresome Primary School, welcomed the donation of uniforms and thanked everyone at TEWV who had taken part in the initiative.
She said: “We are delighted with the support that we have received from NHS staff. It really does make a valuable difference.
“With the cost of living impacting on so many, we aim to help our families in a variety of ways to ensure all children can have the same sense of belonging and pride at attending school in uniform. The support means such a lot.”
Ayresome is one of eight primary schools under the umbrella of Ad Astra Academy Trust.
The others are Barnard Grove, Brougham, West Park and West View in Hartlepool and Crooksbarn and Rosebrook in Stockton-on-Tees and Sunnyside in Middlesbrough.