There's so much to get organised for the first day of the school year – whether it's your child's first or their umpteenth. And we've learnt that, no matter how many times you've prepped your child for a new term ahead, it really helps to have a checklist of school stuff you need or you'll inevitably find you've forgotten socks or swimming goggles or even – hides guilty face – school shoes.


So, with the help of other parents in our Top Testers Club, we've compiled a brilliant, stress-saving list of all the things you'll need for the start of term, plus a few super-useful school uniform tips...

Here's our ultimate back-to-school shopping checklist

First, some top tips

  • If your child's school has a uniform, it will have a list of exactly what's required. If you haven't been sent it, you should be able to find it school's website
  • Some uniform items may have the school logo on or will only be available from the school/official school supplier but where you can buy uniform yourself from the high street/supermarket, do look at the results of our School uniforms tried and tested by families – for wear, wash, fit and quality before you do any shopping
  • Try to get your child's feet properly measured by a shoe fitter before you buy shoes – even if you decide actually to buy the shoes elsewhere
  • Don't assume that last year's uniform will still fit – even if it was still quite loose at the end of the summer term. Children have a habit of shooting up a size over the holidays! Have a trying-on session before the autumn term starts – in good time for you to get some new stuff if it's needed.
  • Know (or remember) that most schools have a secondhand uniform stall of some sort, where you can almost certainly grab some items of uniform, particularly in the smaller sizes, at a bargain price. So definitely don't overbuy.
  • If you're on certain benefits, you may be able to apply to your local council for a grant to help you pay for school uniform, although you often need to get your application in by early summer. In England, Wales and Scotland, you'll need to apply direct through your local council's website; in Northern Ireland, you can apply through the Education Authority.

School uniform: what to need

So, it's one thing to have your school's uniform list; it's another to know how many of each item of uniform you're actually going to need. The answer will depend a lot on how many loads of washing you do a week (you can get away with fewer items if you plan to wash more) and on how often your child is likely to drop lunch down their front.

Our list here is based on a once-a-week wash and an occasional lunch drop. Don't forget to check the results of our School uniforms tried and tested by families – for wear, wash, fit and quality before you buy.

  • 4 to 5 shirts or polo shirts
  • For boys; 2 pairs trousers. Plus, 1 to 2 pairs shorts (which you can buy later in the year)
  • For girls: 2 pairs skirts or pinafores or trousers. Plus 2 to 3 summer dresses (which you can buy later in the year)
  • 1 to 2 jumpers/sweatshirts (if your school has one with a logo, you could try buying 1 official one and 1 cheaper one in the right colour but without the logo to use as a spare)
  • 4 to 5 pairs socks or tights
  • School shoes
  • Lightweight foldable waterproof
  • Hair bands or bobbles (if needed)
  • Coat (you can buy this later in the year)
  • Woolly hat and gloves (you can buy these later in the year)
  • Summer hat (snap up a sale one, in an adjustable size, in September/October)

If required by your school

More like this
  • 2 ties (1 will always go missing)
  • 1 blazer
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 dinner/art tabard

PE kit: what you need

  • Plimsolls or trainers
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 T-shirt
  • 1 pair socks (especially if your child wears tights with their uniform)
  • Gym bag (if your school doesn't have a regulation one, get a fabric one with a drawstring so you can squish it inside your child's school backpack)

If required by your school

Other back-to-school supplies to stock up on

Different schools will have different rules about what else your child can or needs to bring to school with them, so check carefully before you buy loads of extra bits and pieces. And remember: the shops are still open after term begins, so you can always buy that pencil case later if it does turn out your child needs one.

  • Name labels and/or stickers – to put on EVERYTHING
  • Backpack or school book bag
  • Lunchbox or bag (if your child is having packed lunches)
  • Water bottle. Your child will need one in the classroom, so, if they have a packed lunch, buy them a 2nd smaller one for that.
  • Pencil case. Check before you buy; rarely needed in early years of primary school
  • Stationery. In the first years of primary school, you child may not need much stationery at school (it's usually supplied) but you will probably need a stash of paper, pens, rulers, sharpeners and pencils at home for homework tasks.

If required by your school

  • Music bag
  • Musical instrument

Pics: Getty Images


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Helen Brown
Helen BrownHead of Content Delivery

Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.