Back to school checklist and hacks

You probably won’t be popular for mentioning it, but the summer holidays are just about drawing to a close.  It won’t be long before the kids are back in the classroom, learning about Pythagoras’s theorem, the six wives of Henry VIII, ox-bow lakes and other such fascinating topics.  

Whether your kids are just starting primary school or getting ready to start their final year of GCSEs, they’ll need to be adequately prepared if they’re going to thrive. So, let’s run through a checklist of back-to-school hacks.


Young school children in red uniforms running in school playground

Obviously the first port of call for getting the kids ready for school is getting the right uniform. Almost all schools demand one, and growing children need a uniform that fits properly (and can take a lot of scrapes!).  This means:

  • Shirts (one for every day of the week!)

  • Shoes

  • Socks

  • Trousers or a skirt

They’ll also likely need a jumper and a waterproof coat, since it’s never too early for poor weather.

Sew a name-tag into everything they own to eliminate confusion. If you aren’t handy with a sewing machine (or you’d rather make life easy for yourself) then you can use a fabric pen to write their name just beneath the collar. Provided, of course, that the text isn’t visible from the outside.

If you really want to go above and beyond: Shirts should be properly ironed and shoes should be polished. Shoes should be formal and free from logos, but also comfortable.

PE Gear

Young school boys in white and red PE kits playing football on a pitch

Your children will need to be suitably clothed when they’re running around after footballs or shuttling between cones. That means shirts, shorts and socks.

Some schools might demand a certain sort of PE kit be worn; others will take a more relaxed approach. What’s crucial is that they have a pair of trainers or plimsolls - and sometimes schools require studded boots for outdoor sports (best check with the school on this, as they can be expensive). If the school offers swimming lessons, they might also need swimming gear.

Of course, they’ll also need a bag to carry all of this stuff in. It will need to be large enough to accommodate all of the equipment, but not so unwieldy that it can’t be stuffed into a locker.  

TOP TIP: Keep all the receipts for sportswear, in case they get into school and learn from their peers that their bags, shoes and shorts aren’t quite as fashionable as you once thought.

Choosing the right stationery

Young boy at school in a white shirt holding a red pencil sat next to a young girl with lots of stationery on the table

At a certain point in a child’s school career, they’ll be expected to provide their own stationery. If your child has reached this point, the best strategy is usually to go for an all-in-one kit. However, once they get to a certain age, stationery can become a bit of a 'statement'. So if your child is after something more trendy than an all-in-one kit, then make sure you pick up:

  • Pens

  • Pencils

  • A rubber

  • A ruler

  • Pencil sharpener

Some schools will demand that students bring along a fountain pen packed with blue ink cartridges. That being the case, pack a few spares. It’s also worth tossing in a cheaper spare pen or two, just in case there’s an unanticipated ink explosion.

High-school students might be required to bring along other equipment, such as:

  • Highlighters

  • Compass

  • Protractor

  • Set square

  • A scientific calculator (obviously the *ultimate* cool kids calculator)

If they’re old enough to be carrying around a smartphone, then they might use the calculator on that, but most schools are going to disapprove. The school should provide a list of the required gear, but if they haven’t, it’s worth phoning up and checking what’s required.  

Other essential pieces of equipment are pencil cases and coloured pencils. Get a pencil case that won’t embarrass your child; their tastes might have evolved enormously over a single summer, and what was fantastic last year might now be nauseating.

Be aware that some schools prohibit certain substances, like correction fluid.

Lunch boxes

Woman putting wrapped ham and lettuce sandwich into a red lunch box with an apple surrounded by salad

If your child is going to be bringing along a packed lunch, then they’ll need something to carry it in. Get something with a hard shell; squashed sandwiches aren’t appetising, especially when they’ve been sat next to an exploded banana for an entire morning.  Among our best tips for going back to school is to buy them a refillable water-bottle, since proper hydration is crucial to maintaining concentration!

Everything Else

young school girl in uniform reading a book by a tree with a red bag

To carry all of these things around, they’ll need a suitable backpack.  Get something that’s reserved and inoffensive, and you’ll reduce the likelihood that they’ll decide it’s hideous.  

Finally, ensure that they’re always equipped with a pack of tissues. They might not need it often, but they’ll be grateful of it when the need arises! Worse case - they'll be handy for their teary parents at the gates!