The summer holidays might have only just begun, but the countdown is already on for back to school. All you and the kids might want to do is relax, but the smart parents know that they’ll be keeping to their budget and saving time, as well as being fully prepared, by stocking up on the school supplies as early as possible. Of course, there are benefits of waiting until the last moment, such as not having the worry of your child experiencing a sudden growth spurt over the summer months, and there may be the opportunity to get things on clearance as they return, but this is far outweighed by the fact that the shops are currently releasing all their best deals on uniform, shoes and stationary. Leave it till the last minute and you’ll find that the more savvy mums will have snapped up all the best deals, leaving few sizes in the things you need and forcing you to pick and choose from a smaller selection of stock. Not only will you be limited, but the kids won’t be happy at not being able to get the coolest school bag or latest on trend pair of school shoes to fit in with the others.
So our advice is to get moving now; start putting together lists of what each of your children needs and wants for returning to school. The school will most likely supply you with a list of required items and other recommended items, so ensure that you’ve got all of these, but also be prepared to shop for a few extras too to help them fit in amongst their peers or stand out from the crowd.
This is a key tip for shopping for Back to School stuff, especially if you’ve got a budget you’re trying to stick to. It’ll be no good buying awesome pencil cases and top of the range coats if what you really need is a whole new uniform that they grew out of last year. Prioritise the essentials, such as uniform, sturdy shoes and PE kit before moving onto the things they want rather than need.
Put together a list of everything that you need and would like to get in order to ensure that your child is ready to head back to school this September, this will give you a focused run down of the items that you need to get before they return to school for the start of their new year.
We know that sometimes it can be stressful shopping in a rush and to combat that we have created a printer friendly checklist that covers all of the items that we mention here in our back to school guide, giving you an easy to follow buying guide that will ensure that you don’t forget those vital items while shopping.
Although we have filled in all the items that we cover here on the guide, you can pick and choose which items you need and tick them off as you get them and the best part of all is that you can print the checklist for free from the link below:
Once you’ve set a budget, shop around a bit beforehand, whether this means a day in town scoping out the options or browsing the internet for the best deals. Most places will be offering fantastic prices on their school uniforms and deals on stationary at this time of year, and you’ll find other mums talking about these online as well as sites advertising them. Don’t forget to check whether there are any specific vouchers or discounts going on for the things you need as this can knock down prices even further.
As we’ve already said, making sure you’re prepared in advance is key. There will be far more options available in stock and price-wise if you start your Back to School shopping early, so you’re much more likely to find what you need at a price that’s right for you. Four to six weeks before term begins again is usually the best time.
Making sure the kids have the right pieces of school uniform and the optimum amount can be tricky. If they’re just starting out at Primary School, you’re in for a harder job as you’ll need to buy everything from scratch; for older children who have already spent time at school, your job is slightly easier because you can check through what they already have and only buy things that they’ve outgrown. It’s very important that you do take this step though, as you don’t want to end up with too many of one thing and not enough of another. Bearing in mind that for the uniform, these pieces of clothing will be worn day in, day out, and keeping in mind how often you’ll be able to wash them, we think that sticking to the above is the optimum amount of clothing you’ll need for uniform for your kids.
They’ll need no more than one winter coat which they can throw on for walking to and from school and during outdoor break times, as long as you ensure that it’s fairly sturdy and well-made. 2 sweatshirts for both boys and girls, and 4 shirts or polo shirts, depending on school policy and preference, so you’ll only need to do a weekly wash to keep them in rotation. 2 skirts or pinafores for girls, again depending on what they like best or if the school has a policy on which to wear, and 2 pairs of trousers and a pair of shorts for boys, so that if they get one pair dirty, they’ve always got another to spare while you’re cleaning up after them. A sensible 5 pack of socks will see them through the week, and a single pair of sturdy school shoes that will hold up well will be good for everyday wear.
PE kit is a little easier as it’s not going to be worn every day of the week, so you’ve got a little leeway in the washing as it doesn’t need to be done immediately. 1 pair of outdoor trainers or plimsolls that will hold up in muddy weather or the more active pursuits; 2 T shirts, just in case; 1 pair of shorts, as these can usually be worn more times than T shirts without needing a wash; 2 pairs of socks, so you won’t constantly be washing the same pair; and a sports bag to keep everything together and easier to get around.
In general, parents are looking for their kids’ back to school stuff in three tiers: shopping on a budget, going for the mid-range items, or scoping out the top of the range clothing. There are obviously advantages to each of these budgets, but it’ll ultimately be your decision with which direction to go. You’ll need to decide what’s more important to you, the price or the quality. As the clothes will be worn day in, day out, they need to be able to withstand wear and tear as well as frequent washes. If you’ve gone for better quality, they’re likely to last longer; but on the flipside, you can buy multiples of the same items if you go for a cheaper price, bearing in mind that kids are not likely to be making a big effort to keep their clothes in tip top condition anyway.
If you’re working to a small budget, price will be your priority over quality, although you will of course be bearing in mind that the uniform needs to hold up to daily wear. In general, the supermarkets do a fantastic range of school uniform items, usually available both in store and online. At Tesco you’re able to purchase a full uniform set, including a sweatshirt, 2 polo shorts, and trousers or a skirt from just £5.75; George at ASDA follows not far before offering the same items starting at £7.50. The winner pricewise though seems to be the still emerging Aldi who will sell you a full uniform for only £4, and according to reviews, the quality doesn’t seem too bad. Unfortunately though, the Aldi uniforms are only available up to age 11 and will only be sold in store for a short time until they’re sold out. Do beware though, as not all supermarkets offer good savings on uniforms – Sainsburys’ uniform is far more expensive at nearly double the price of the other supermarkets.
For parents looking to make sure their child blends, with a uniform that’s not the cheapest of the cheap, but won’t break the bank, there are a number of high street and department stores that offer a mid-range of uniforms with still affordable pricing and slightly better quality. The range at Debenhams will get you a full uniform from £13.60 and Marks & Spencer follows closely behind with their range from £14.
If you want to make sure your child is wearing only the best, top of the range clothing for school and you believe that you’re only get to get the best quality by paying more, there are options out there for you. Branch out to one of the more upmarket department stores such as John Lewis where a uniform starts from £16, or head to Next for prices from £17.
School shoes are another matter altogether and will generally need to be bought at a separate store to the rest of the uniform. Again, you’ll need to think about whether your priority is getting the shoes cheaply or handing over a bit more money for the shoes to last longer, as we all know how quickly the kids can get through pairs of shoes, especially when their break time consists of football games and running around. While supermarkets such as ASDA and Tesco do offer shoes appropriate for school, there are also budget and outlet shoe stores such as Wynsors, Brantano and Shoezone that will get you a pair of basic school shoes at a great price.
If you’re planning to go middle of the road and are hoping that the slightly better quality but still affordable shoes will make them last longer, M&S and TK Maxx offer several styles of school shoes.
The first place that pops into most parents’ head for school shoes though is Clarks; you know that the quality you’ll be getting from them is some of the best, and the fitting services they offer are excellent, but the shoes are now pretty expensive. If you think paying more will get you better quality, head there or to Boden. Kids’ school shoes though, as we know well, are usually a way of standing out amongst their peers, and every year there’s a new “cool” brand that everybody wants to be part of the trend. Though they’re more expensive, school shoes from Timberland, Kickers, or even Vans and Converse, depending on whether the school allows them, are bound to go down well with kids.
As they grow older and start to form relationships with their peers, it becomes more and more important for kids to both fit in and make a statement. Not only do they want to be seen as on trend, but they want to stand out too. With a fairly strict school uniform policy, it can be difficult for them to do so, but here are a few easy ideas for how to make sure your children aren’t feeling left out of any trends.
Most kids who are concerned about making a statement aren’t going to be happy with a school bag plucked off the shelves of ASDA or Tesco during the weekly shop. Children are fickle creatures though, and as we all know, trends come and go quickly. Get an idea of what they’re into at the moment, whether it’s a pretty pink Barbie backpack for a little girl, or a fashionable satchel style bag from Superdry for an older boy, and help them pick one out that’s within your budget but to their taste.
As we already mentioned, when kids are limited in expressing themselves via their school uniform, there are only a few ways they can go, and shoes are a top priority for the more creative kids. Find out where the others mums are going to buy school shoes, so that they don’t feel left out if their shoes aren’t from the same place as the rest of their friendship group or from a “cool” brand.
As with shoes, bags and lunch boxes, schools don’t normally have a regulation coat as part of the uniform. For outside break times, walks to school and classes taking place outside, you’ll need to make sure your child has a good, warm, waterproof coat. Whether you buy one lighter waterproof jacket and one winter coat for snow is up to you, but make sure that you’re allowing your children to have their own input, even if you make the final decision.
Emma, from Emma’s Little World, mother of 2: “Buy school shoes from an outlet shoe shop as they are a lot cheaper. Also in the shoe shop ask whether they have any of last year's stock in store as they are usually a bit cheaper too.”
Nikki, from Stressy Mummy, mother of 4: “My biggest tip is to get organised early and if you are worried about sizes, go slightly bigger in case they grow over the holidays. I leave shoes until the end of August but always arrive at the shoe shop when it opens to avoid queues.”
Rebecca, from Mum of 3 Boys, mother of 4: “I try and pick bits up when I see them on offer. I tend to leave school shoes to the last couple of weeks of the summer holiday in case their feet grow. Then I go and get them measured and go away to see what offers I can find. I find you can get offers online, and with three sons to kit out for school it helps with cost.”