Each school has their own requirements for what your child will and won’t need to bring.  Finding this out before your child starts school can save you a lot of money and also take away a lot of stress.

Stationery

Yes, all the rows of beautiful pencil cases and matching stationery sets can seem hugely appealing, but for most primary schools your child simply won’t need anything.

The school will provide pens and pencils, which is all they’ll use in lessons and they’ll actually send the new pencil sets and cases home, so it won’t create ‘I want one like that’ demands from other children.

This can change when they hit years 5-6, when they may need to bring in more equipment to school and they’ll start to work with pen rather than pencil.  Again, your school should have a policy around this so make sure you ask exactly what they need and don’t be afraid to buy in bulk.  We know how quick children are to lose things, so have spares for the inevitable, ‘I can’t find my…’ conversation – without having to mount a shopping trip.

When they move to senior school they will need folders, pencils, pens, calculators and compasses among other things.  Your child’s induction pack should give you a list of everything they’ll need.  Again, buy in bulk, keep spare sets and have a check list so you know you’ve got everything.  Labelling can also be a good way of ensuring your child’s items don’t get lost.  Just remember to check your labels pass the ‘cool’ test.

Bags

Ah, the school bag dilemma!  It’s one any parent will tell you is a problem.

The bag must meet the ‘cool’ test, but it also has to meet the ‘parent’ test.  Will it hold everything they need, will it keep things dry, will it hurt their back?  Also, will it break the bank.  With top brands charging over £40 for a backpack that emits a fruity scent or is furry it can be one of the most expensive school outlays.

Keep in mind that some schools don’t require children to bring a backpack or satchel, preferring their pupils to use school-branded book bags.  This is a great choice as it means all pupils are the same and there’s no keeping up with the Jones’s.  It also keeps their school work safe, takes the A4 reading and log books and slips neatly in their drawer at school.  Many schools classes are now so big they simply can’t store large backpacks on the pegs, so it’s also a great space saver.

If your child is at senior school and they need a proper bag, keep an eye on the sales, check out places like TK Maxx which offer great brands at discount prices and also look for offers on schoolwear.  Brands like Very often offer discounts on multiple school purchases and carry a lot of the core brands.

Water bottles

Almost all school children will need to bring in a water bottle to school.  While it can be tempting to buy their favourite character bottle with the super straw and fancy lid, practicality has to win out here.

After day one of trying to wash up the bottle and fit the straw back into the lid to make the cap close you’ll see why.  It’s also wise to find a bottle that’s BPA free, remember drinks won’t be kept in the fridge, so you’ll want to make sure they have a quality bottle that keeps the water pure.  You can also look at bottles that include a frozen stick to help to keep their drink cool through the day.

For many children drinking water can be a sticking point, especially if they’re only used to juice at home.  Most schools have a water only policy, so it’s important to try and get your child used to drinking water before they start school. That way it doesn’t come as too much of a shock when they start and they can’t have their favourite juice – and, of course, it’s much better for them with zero sugar!

Uniforms

Above all, this is one area you shouldn’t be afraid to ask, what do they really need? Most primary schools will want your child to have their branded cardigans or jumpers, but the rest of the kit can be picked up at supermarkets or departments stores at half the price of the school branded items.  Polos especially can be a quarter of the price of those with the school logo.

For senior schools, ask for a list and speak to reception to see what they really need and if they need everything all at once.  Schools often have second-hand uniform sales, which can ease the financial burden.

Seek advice from parents of older children at the school. If there are items you’re not sure about, ask other parents if their child has this or actually uses it. This can be especially true in the PE department.

Hopefully these tips will help save a pretty penny but also help you to feel a bit more in control of the situation.