Your Back to School Checklist

August 24, 2021

Heading back to school after the holidays can often involve stress, tears and tantrums – and that’s just the parents! Avoid the last-minute scramble for missing PE kits by getting ahead with a handy back to school checklist.

From lunchboxes to stationary – here’s everything you need to tick off your list before the first day of school.

Parent tying schoolboys shoelace on the first day back to school

Things to do before school starts

As September looms, all the admin and back to school shopping can feel overwhelming for parents. To minimise stress, we’ve broken your to-do list down into manageable tasks…

Make a back to school shopping list

The dreaded back to school shopping trip! To make this task easier, take a quick inventory of what you already have, find out what fits or if anything is broken, then make a list of what you need. See our school essentials checklist below for a full list of items. 

Your child’s school should also send a list of school supplies they need for the new term. 

School shoe fitting

If you have primary age children, it’s not uncommon for them to grow out of their shoes and clothing over the summer holidays. Having comfortable, well-fitting shoes is important for their growing feet so taking a trip to get fitted is well worth it. If they’re reluctant, try to make a day of it and do something fun while you’re out of the house. 

Label everything!

Any parent knows how easily newly bought items can disappear in the bottomless lost-property pile. To avoid missing pencil cases or PE socks – label everything with a named label tag or magic marker.

Fill in essential paperwork and forms 

Whether it’s emergency contact details or permission slips for school trips early in the year – try and get all of your form-filling out of the way before term starts.

If you’re really organised, you could set up a folder (real or virtual) with all the paperwork for each child. 

Remind yourself of school times

This is particularly important if your child is starting at a new school. Remind yourself of school start and finishing times, as well as the day and timings of any after school clubs. This way you can start to plan other family activities around the school day and avoid accidental lateness!

Sort out travel

If your child needs to get the bus to school, or if they are walking a new route with a friend, it can help to do a test run, especially if they are nervous about it. 

Get into a school-friendly routine

Perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do leading up to the start of school is to ease you and your family back into a school-friendly routine a week or two before term. If you’ve been going to bed later over the summer or eating meals at odd times, the sudden change could feel overwhelming. By gradually getting your routine more in line with the school day, the transition will be much more seamless. 

Stock the fridge

Make sure you have lunchbox staples and healthy after school snacks in the fridge to avoid any hunger-induced sugar binges!

Night before prep

The night before the first day of school, help them pack their school bag, lunch box and get their clothes ready for the following day. Having a family dinner and doing something nice like playing a game can help them to relax and take their mind off any anxieties they have about the new start.

Keep learning going

One way to help your child get back to school with confidence is to encourage continuous learning throughout the summer. Maths and English tuition that’s tailored to their needs can help to fill in any gaps, boost their confidence and stretch their mind. At Explore, this can be done online or in a centre, depending on what works best for your family. 

Getting ready for back to school: checklist

Before the new school term, make sure your child has everything they need, from their uniform to pens, pencils and accessories. 

Back to School Tip: Don’t buy new uniforms too far in advance as they might grow out of them before school even starts! 


Here’s our handy back to school checklist…

School uniform

  • Shirts or polo shirts x up to 5
  • Jumpers or cardigans x 2
  • Trousers or skirts x2
  • Shoes
  • Socks x 5
  • Coat and or waterproof
  • Hat or cap if needed
  • Scarf and gloves

PE kit

  • Kit bag
  • Trainers or plimsolls
  • T-shirt
  • Shorts
  • Socks
  • Swimwear and towel
  • Water bottle
  • Football boots and shin pads if needed

School bag

  • Backpack
  • Lunch box
  • Water bottle
  • Snack box


  • Hand sanitiser
  • Tissues
  • Hand wipes
  • Spare hair bands

Pencil case and stationery

Key Stage 1

Get prepared for KS1 SATs with the following;

  • Exercise book
  • Colouring pens and pencils
  • Rubber
  • Plain paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencil set
  • Ruler
  • Pencil case
  • Glue stick


Key Stage 2

Get prepared for KS2 SATs and the 11 Plus exams with the following;

  • Exercise book
  • Colouring pens and pencils
  • Plain paper
  • Spare notebook or diary (unless the school provides these)
  • Scissors
  • Handwriting pen
  • Rubber
  • Calculator
  • Pencil case
  • Glue stick
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Basic maths set
  • Pencil set
  • Ruler
  • Rollerball pens


Key Stage 3

Get set for secondary school with the following;

  • Exercise book
  • Colouring pens and pencils
  • Rubber
  • Plain paper and notebook
  • Scissors
  • Pencil set
  • Ruler
  • Pencil case
  • Glue stick
  • Handwriting pen
  • Paper clips
  • Dictionary & Thesaurus
  • Diary or planner
  • Scientific calculator
  • Highlighters
  • Ring-binder
  • Stapler & staples
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Basic maths set
  • Fountain pen
  • Rollerball pens
  • Post-it notes
  • USB stick
  • Tipp-ex
  • Whiteboard pens


We hope this checklist helps you prepare for the start of school with minimal fuss so you can enjoy the last of the summer holidays as a family and get excited about the learning and growing ahead. 

If you’re looking for some support for your child, book a free tuition trial to find out if Explore Learning is the right fit for your family.


Discover more interesting posts from our blog

The great outdoors for great learning

November 02, 2016

“If you want to get children of any age interested in the world around them, you have to get them outside!” Mike Ridealgh was a Geography teacher at...

Read this post

We're Mumsnet Rated!

January 29, 2019

Mumsnet testers tried Explore Learning’s service for free across our nationwide centres and shared their feedback in an anonymous online survey. The result? We have...

Read this post