Tired of school uniforms' spiraling costs, this Oxfordshire mother has taken matters into her own hands and set up a recycling scheme.

On average, essential uniform items in Oxfordshire cost more than £300, prompting parents' frustration and leading to many families turning to second-hand uniforms for a better deal.

However, Joanne Ray has gone above and beyond and what started as just a way to keep costs down for her own children's uniforms has now turned into an initiative to help all parents at Harwell School in Didcot

At the start of each summer, Mrs. Ray collects old uniforms through the help of the school and repairs and recycles them for parents to collect, free of charge.

Herald Series:

It all started three years ago when she was at the school one day and offered to help with some uniforms in lost property.

She said: “They didn't have the capacity to do anything with it, and it would be sent to recycling. So because of the cost of the uniform, and everything else, I said, ‘well, let me take it home with me and I will make sure we get it fixed up.’

"If anyone wants to drop off their uniform because the kids have grown out of it, they can drop it here, and in return, if you want something and we've got it in your size, we'll give it to you.

“It started off with a couple of bags and sweatshirts. I now have an office size cabinet with metal sliding doors, which are absolutely full of uniforms. So it has kind of escalated.”

She insists on calling them ‘pre-loved’ uniforms and not ‘second-hand’, as she feels that the latter adds a negative connotation.

Her work for students of the school has left an impact on many families. In fact, one parent couldn’t stop praising Mrs. Ray’s work enough.

Sophie-Jayne Dalton Tebby recalled the time her kids got into the school very last minute as two places opened up.

Herald Series:

She said: “She got me all their uniforms, bags and coats that night, just so that my two kids didn’t have to go in looking out of place at the school on their first day.

“She is a total Godsend who does this in her own time, whilst working for the NHS. She deserves so much credit for all the amazing work she does.”

However, it’s a community effort to get it all together, says Mrs. Ray, and it wouldn’t have worked without the support of other parents and the school.

She added that without the parents bringing in old uniforms and the school telling parents about her regularly through their newsletter, this venture would not be where it is today.

This year, the school are offering each new student joining them, a full set of uniform completely free of charge, something that was unthinkable previously.

Already having distributed clothing worth over £1,500 in the last one year, Mrs. Ray is hopeful that she can continue to help many more parents and kids with uniforms in time to come.