Back to School
Go to the top of the class with our Back to School special! Some of you will have tots attending school for the first time this September but getting them ship shape for the new school year needn’t be a drain on your valuable time this summer! Our Back to School Guide will help you get everything done with the minimum of fuss!
First stop is obviously the school's uniform and kit list. What the list won't tell you is how many to get of each item. It’s basically a case of cost versus effort: the more you buy, the less the washing machine will need to go on. Think about your budget versus how much laundry you can reasonably cope with. If you feel one weekly wash is enough, then four or five sets will be fine.
Of course, if they're the kind of child dirt is magnetically attracted to, go for more rather than less. If they're usually quite clean, some items might manage a second day – there's no need to put freshly-laundered uniform on each day for the sake of it.
And finally, don’t panic. School uniform is still sold after September (although you might have to shop online to get the full range), so if you have under-bought, you should be able to order more.
Basic uniform list
- Sweater or cardigan
- or sweatshirt: 3-5
- Shirts or polo shirts: 3-5
- Trousers or skirts: 3-4
- Socks: 5 pairs
- Shoes: 1 pair
- Raincoat or mac: 1
Two-in-one coats are great – usually a raincoat over a fleece – for year-round use
- Warm overcoat
For some schools, you might also need
- Tie: 2
(clip-on or elasticated is better for younger kids)
- Blazer: 1
- Fleece: 1
- Dinner tabard: 1
- Painting tabard: 1
- Woolly hat, summer hat: 1 of each
- Scarf: 1
- Gloves: 1 pair
This varies from school to school, but in general you’ll need:
- PE bag
- Check whether it needs to be regulation or not: 1
- Check whether you need an indoor/outdoor set: 1 pair
- Shorts: 1 pair
- Check your uniform guide for colours: 1
- Especially for girls if they’re wearing tights: 1 pair
- Swimming kit: 1 costume or pair of trunks
Check if there’s a regulation colour. If your child has long hair they might need a cap
- Other sports kit
For example, football boots, shin pads and so on
And don’t forget these:
- Book bag: 1
Usually regulation – or you’ll need to choose your own
- Lunch box or bag: 1
- Small water bottle for lunch: 1
- Daytime water bottle: 1
Although some schools provide these, and some don’t use them at all
Pencil case with pencils, pen (the school might tell you which type), coloured crayons, ruler, pencil sharpener, rubber (Stationery is usually not needed for reception class, but you might want to check)
- Music bag + instruments
- Rucksack: 1
Make sure it’s got plenty of room in it!
- Gloves: 1 pair
Name tapes and labels
Order plenty of name tapes and label everything (more on this later). A set of stickers with your child’s name on will be handy for any lunchboxes, water bottles, toys taken in for show-and-tell and the like – you could just run these off on the printer at home.
Where to shop
Most uniforms these days are a mix of generic items (which you can buy anywhere), with school-specific ones, like sweatshirts with the school crest. For these, you’ll need to visit a specialist outfitter or online shop (the school will tell you where to go).
For plain trousers and skirts, you can save money by picking up a few in larger supermarkets or on the high street. M&S and Next usually offer a good balance of reasonable prices and decent quality – with the added bonus of adjustable waistbands if your child’s a bit on the skinny side.
For school-specific items, it’s worth finding out if your school has a swap shop or second-hand uniform sale (or ask friends with older children if they have anything to hand on). Even if you’d prefer to buy mostly new uniform, it’s useful to have second-hand stuff as spares.
If your family income is low, you might be eligible for funding to pay for uniform. Contact www.citizensadvice.org.uk or your Local Education Authority for more information.
When to shop
Around a month before term starts is a good time to start buying. Although large stores sell uniform all year, you might find stocks run low at the end of August. You’ll have more choice if you start earlier, and you can always exchange them for the next size up if anyone decides to have a growth spurt. (Keep labels on and receipts to hand just in case).
Do hold off purchasing shoes until mid-August (that is, if you want them to last till Christmas). Don’t leave it too late though, as the queues for fittings can get ridiculous (you’ll want to get their school shoes fitted properly, seeing as they’ll be wearing them every day).
Don’t forget to allow a few days for your child to wear shoes in at home before term starts.
If you want to do things properly (hey, we’re not stopping you) you can order traditional embroidered sew-in name tapes ahead of time and get your needle and thread out, but there’s really no need to go to all that trouble.
Time-saving options include iron-on name tapes (although watch out as some fall off in the wash after a while), taggits - little button-like tags which clip the name tape in place, or the really simple option of writing their name on the label with a permanent marker.
If you’ve got younger children who might inherit these items later, stick with the surname (unless it’s Smith) - this will do the job and means no re-labelling in future.
Back to school diary
What to do when
First day at school?
Uniform tips for reception class
- Where possible, choose items which your child can easily put on and take off themselves (think Velcro, not laces).
- Tights are notoriously tricky for little girls to get on and the bane of many a teacher's life on PE day – avoid if you can.
- If you have colour options, darker shades rather than light will be better - stains will show up less.
- Where your school offers a choice, for example, if girls can wear trousers or skirts, go past at picking-up time to see what most children are wearing - so your child doesn’t feel like the odd one out.
- Check out new clothing technology - non-iron garments save on the laundry time and Teflon coatings are great for limiting stains.