A Journey to Fairtrade School Uniform images

Milngavie PS Fairtrade Polo Shirt

A Journey to Fairtrade School Uniform

A Journey to Fairtrade School Uniform by Milngavie Primary School 

Our school has been on the Fairtrade journey since 2008. Like many journeys the steps at the time seem to be small and somewhat inconsequential, however when you look back you are amazed at how much you have achieved. This is certainly the case with Fairtrade cotton.

After becoming a Fairtrade school for the first time, we were looking for a new focus for our next Fairtrade application. Searching for a focus was in its infancy, when Angela Oakley, a campaign co-ordinator for Fairtrade cotton, asked me to be part of a committee called ‘The Scottish Fairtrade Forum Fairtrade Cotton School Uniform and Sportswear Campaign’. After our initial meeting it was clear that Angela’s idea to focus on schools as a way to get people to buy Fairtrade cotton was a sound idea, as cotton fibre forms the basis of many uniforms.

Our new focus became Fairtrade cotton. It had many benefits as an area for study, for our school it was the cross-curriculum learning opportunities it offered. As well as global citizenship and Fairtrade, it allowed us to branch off into geography, science, history, commerce and of course maths and language. Of equal importance was the large amount of information available on the internet to allow this broad ranging subject to be investigated. The project was led by the Primary 7 class and our aims were :

  • To learn about worldwide cotton production
  • To raise awareness of the injustices in the supply chain for cotton
  • To publicise the problems with cotton production
  • Through education to encourage the school PTA to start buying Fairtrade cotton uniform

Over a term pupils worked through different aspects of cotton production and finally in Spring 2011 two large wall displays were created. One became a permanent display within the school and one was given to Angela Oakley as a mobile educational resource. Both these displays generated much public interest and more importantly awareness within our school community about Fairtrade cotton. It also resulted in us being visited by Mrunal from southern India where she works on behalf of Fairtrade cotton farmers. Mrunal told the pupils about the Fairtrade cotton premium which has been used in the area to construct ladies toilets on the road sides, water purification plants to remove the high levels of fluoride from the water and schools.

After all this publicity our attention was then turned onto our PTA who purchase and supply our school uniform, although generally in favour with the purchase of Fairtrade uniform the slightly more expensive garment had financial implications, it was clear more persuasion was required.

At the end of August Andy Ashcroft came from Koolskool to give a school assembly about Fairtrade school uniforms. Members of the PTA attended this assembly to learn more about Fairtrade school uniforms. Further momentum was then added as the results of a survey carried out by the school Fairtrade group showed the feelings of our school community about Fairtrade cotton. We asked questions such as:

Question 1
I would prefer to buy a Fairtrade polo embroidered with the school logo.
Yes 76%      No 13%

Question 2
I would be prepared to pay slightly more for a Fairtrade polo rather than a cheaper non-Fairtrade polo.
Yes 70%      No 25%

The results of the survey became the turning point, the PTA could see the benefits of raising awareness of Fairtrade, and that it showed support for the pupils’ studies and values, consequently the PTA agreed to investigate purchasing Fairtrade polo shirts. Many options were considered but finally we started with polo shirts with the school logo from Cotton Roots, which are 100% Fairtrade cotton. The journey continues and we now hope to encourage the purchase of Fairtrade sweat shirts.