The Ultimate Back to School Checklist for the new school year

The summer break will soon be drawing to a close with thoughts turning to the upcoming school year. We do tend to book our holidays towards the end of the summer holidays so have to start the back to school prep in advance. Until becoming a mum to three, I never realised how much preparation was needed to make the transition into the new year at school smooth and pain free.

The list below contains a few of the tasks that we find useful in making the start of a new school year as smooth as possible:

Title page for the ultimate back to school checklist with a young girl in a school uniform in front of a bush

Back to School Shopping

  1. Back to school supplies shopping
    • Stationery (Like most houses, we have hundreds of pens and enough stationery supplies to open a shop ourselves but surely its the right of passage to go stationery shopping before the start of the school year?)
    • School Shoes
    • New Coat – If you are brave enough, you could hold off a couple of weeks after school starts for this one to make the most of the sales that will undoubtedly start at the beginning of a new school year. In the UK, we often have an ‘Indian Summer’ where the weather perks up considerably as the kids go back to school.
    • New School Bag – We found from doing our school shoe shop, that many shops have offers on if you buy school shoes and bag from them together. Worth exploring.
    • New Underwear
    • Lunchbox
    • Bobbles/Bows
    • Jen at Mum in the Madhouse shares tips on How to Save on Back to School Shopping.
  2. Buy an Academic Diary/Calendar and fill in significant dates – Old school here but you can’t beat a paper diary!
  3. New keys cut – does your latchkey kid know the alarm code?
  4. Padlock for lockers – Ones with a code rather than a key are invaluable. You can guarantee keys will be lost within the first weeks of school.
  5. New Tupperware for food tech – The joy of knowing that your Tupperware has a lid!

Back to School Admin

  1. Sign up to Parent Pay/ School email – Even if your child isn’t starting a new school, you will no doubt have been logged out during the summer break so good idea to reset those passwords and get ready for the influx of Back-to-School emails at the start of term. You may even want to go as far as putting some money into the account for lunches or toast at breaktime.
  2. Follow the school social media channels – Easy and quick way to keep up with what is happening in school.
  3. Has any of your contact information changed during the summer months that you need to inform the school of?
  4. Renew/Buy Bus Passes.
Dad buttoning up a child's school cardigan besides a black car - Both smiling

Getting Organised

  1. Take library books back – We rarely have much time once the beginning of the year starts.
  2. Sort out summer wardrobe – Charity/Vinted anything that won’t fit by next year.
  3. Anyone’s birthday in the first week of school – We are notorious for missing birthdays during the first few days of September so need to plan ahead with cards and presents.
  4. Clear your noticeboard.
  5. Make a study space – clear the dining room table. 
  6. Book in any tutors – Maths and Science tutors get booked up very quickly. If you think you may need their services during the academic year, then best to book in as early as you can.
  7. Arrange pickup timetables – Does anyone have a late night/after school session so will have to make alternative arrangements for getting home? Can these be shared with any other families?
  8. Organise the wardrobe so easy to select uniform.
  9. Does everyone have their own chargers? Do they work? We lose a laptop charger every summer.
  10. Label everything – However you decide to label the uniform it still takes up valuable time. Even if you use a Sharpie, don’t forget to label PE kits, coats and shoes.

Getting back into the swing of school life

  1. Practice run of school journey – Is it a bus journey to your child’s school? Do they know how to get the bus to stop? Where the nearest bus stop is? What to do if the bus does not turn up or drives right past them? My daughter lives less than 10 minutes walk from her school but we had to do a dummy run to see how long it took and where the safest places were to cross on the way.
  2. Get back into the habit of reading. We start every summer holiday full of good intentions to read a little every day. There’s not a holiday when I haven’t packed loads of books for the kids but they barely get looked at (I’ll still keep trying though!). I don’t push it too hard, reading should be a joy not a job but I do insist that during the last week of the holidays, some reading happens. I find it helps to clear the mind and get back into the habit of reading and ingesting information again, making the start of the next school year that little bit easier.
Navy blue school pinafore hung on a white chest of drawers with black handles

Preparing for the school day

  1. Start to get up earlier – My kids have always been good at lying in during the school holidays. It makes the new routines at the start of the year tricky though so we have to introduce early mornings gradually. Nobody wants to be late on the first day of class!
  2. Learn to tie shoelaces – The perfect way of killing time if you are lucky enough to be on a plane journey throughout the summer and have little bit of time to kill.
  3. Practice tying a tie – A task that we have had to do before each of our girls starts high school.
  4. Breakfasts planned – Especially if your child is starting a new school, a fun way to make those mornings easier.
  5. Plan what needs to happen every morning. It will make that dreaded morning routine easier if everyone knows what needs to be done. My girls have always loved a checklist that includes things like ‘ Brush Teeth’ ‘Put shoes on’. If it helps, I’ll give it a go!
  6. Break in those school shoes – or buy plasters – Anyone who has ever bought Dr Martens will recognise the pain!
  7. Pack a reading book – At both primary school and high school, my girls have always had teachers that include some free reading time into the new schedule. If a child has their own choice of book with them, it will be much easier than having to choose one quickly from the school library.
  8. Pick a new tune to wake up to – Tara used to love this when she was younger. She’d plan her tunes for each weekday and set the Alexa to wake her up.
  9. After school snacks – After a summer of having easy access to the snack cupbaord, those long afternoons in school are a killer. So important to have the snacks ready when the girls get home from school and college. 
  10. Does your child know their new teacher’s name? Can they pronounce it?
  11. If it is a new school, does your child know which entrance to use in the school building? Have they arranged to meet up with any friends to walk in with on first day of school?

Helen is a family and lifestyle blogger, writing about her experiences of bringing up 3 girls. For more information about the Costello Family and the services they can offer visit the Work With Us page

Planning for the year ahead

  1. Set your goals for the coming year/term – This one has always been a huge one for us in terms of making the beginning of the school year a positive experience and getting into the right frame of mind. We talk not only about trying to get good grades but also about the start of each school year being an exciting time, with the potential to make new friends and encounter new experiences. Motherhood Diaries has written about What encourages a child to do well in school. Emotionally Healthy Children also looks at How to Prepare Children Emotionally for Back to School.
  2. Talk about the best bits of the summer holiday – scrapbook? I’ll be honest, we’ve always planned on making scrapbooks of our summer but life gets in the way and it doesn’t happen. If you are that organised, good on you!
  3. Discuss what clubs, extracurricular activities and residential trips to join in with for the year ahead – All part of planning for the year ahead and helping your child to achieve their goals.
Little girl wearing a school uniform carrying a school bag in front of a bush

Saying goodbye to the summer

  1. Last lunch out – We have an end of summer tradition, where we go out with Nanna and any available cousins as near to the last day of the holidays as possible. Makes us feel so lovely and gives hope for a successful school year ahead.
  2. Back to school haircut – Has that pink dye that was all the rage in July come out? We may have a hairdresser in the household but we too, are still always last minute with this one!
  3. Finish any craft projects or half completed jigsaws. I promise you, if you haven’t finished them by the start of September, you won’t come back to them once school starts again.

And so, that’s the end another summer break. I hope you managed to find some sun and fun and feel all prepared and eager for the school year ahead.

Wishing you the best of luck for a successful and happy year, especially to all those families with little ones starting a new school or preparing for significant exams during the coming year.

Other school related posts that you may find useful:

How to win a school appeal

After a school appeal – What next?

How to save money on prom

Things to do in year 12 to put you ahead of the rest


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