Back to school checklist – the 10(ish) things you really need for September

by | For Parents, Parent Guides

This is a list I’ve been accumulating for several years. It’s my attempt to list everything to put in place in the early part of September to make life manageable. I’ve shared it with friends in the past, but this year I’m sharing it widely – let me know what I’ve missed!

Oh, and no matter how prepared you are… always remember it’s ok to find ‘back to school’ overwhelming. DO NOT make big life decisions in September. In October things will calm down.


Name stickers

These really do stick and stay. Pencil cases, hats, water bottles, books – sticker them all. I have versions with all kids names, plus a generic one with our surname. I have my mob number on all of them – this has saved me £100s in lost items.


Magnetic white boards

This is basic, but for me having this was transformative. Stick in on the fridge and when you feel panicked about your list write it all down on the whiteboard for all to see (even if your kids can’t read yet).

I also have the calendar version which I love. Every month I start afresh. And lots of pretty coloured whiteboard pens.


Mute your WhatsApp groups

School WhatsApp groups can be your best friend – we all love those brilliant parents who remember to remind everyone when it’s PE day in the first few weeks… However, they can also be OUT OF CONTROL. Silence them all and deal with them when you have time (for me, the journey home from work). Don’t be tempted to select any option other than “always” from the mute menu.


Another note on WhatsApp groups

Having 3 kids essentially means that I might need to remember the names of up to 90 kids and 180 parents & carers that my kids share a class with (not to mention siblings’ names). Obviously this is impossible and I’ve lost count of the nights I’ve gone to sleep feeling mortified that I’ve called a parent or child the wrong name in the playground.

I was once in a class WhatsApp group when everyone sent a family pic to introduce themselves and their kid(s) at the start of term. I thought it was a bit cringe, but I found myself referring to these pictures all the time when I’d forgotten someone’s name or my child was asking me to set up a playdate.

When I add a parent from school to my phone contacts I try to follow a format: Name – their child’s name, the initial of my child their child is friends with, then partners name. E.g. Katie – Tilly, R, Simon.

To be honest I’ve made a mess of this, and probably a better solution is using the notes function in contacts.


Box files

They bring SO MUCH STUFF home – especially in reception. My kids each have one of these as a repository for all their crafts. Only the best stuff gets a place.

Be quick and be brutal, it’s taken me 2 years to finally throw away my daughter’s giant octopus box model which took up most of her bedroom and was disgustingly dusty with paint flaking everywhere.

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Back-up uniform

My kids are particularly messy and I can never keep up with the washing so whilst I have a couple of sets of uniform with the school branding, I also have back up packs of generic uniform which no teacher has ever complained about. I’ve found M&S uniform to be robust and stays looking ok for a while (I don’t do ironing).



I love schools, but predictable childcare they are not. Inset days, strike days, early finishes, staggered starts. You need a back-up and Bubble provides it.

*Pro tip* – you can see which sitters other parents at your school rate by going to the “friends” section and selecting “my classmates”. A really helpful feature to find local popular sitters.


Monzo / Paypal / easy digital payment app

Raffle tickets, quiz tickets, teacher presents. Make sure you have an easy way to make payments. I’ve started using Monzo to keep all the kid’s expenses in one account – it is quite neat as you can share a payment link very easily. I also give our Monzo card to babysitters so they can buy hot chocs or ice creams when they are out with the kids. I NEVER have cash.


Foot measuring gadget

It’s a cliche but they need new shoes all the time (also, all the types of shoes! Trainers, football boots, school shoes, wellies). Going school shoe shopping is not fun, I usually buy a few pairs and send back the ones that don’t fit. This gadget gets used way more than I thought it would.

Don’t forget to name sticker shoes.


Nit repellent & worm tablets

I’m not sure if this anti-nit spray stuff works, but I sometimes remember to use it as they leave the house and it makes me feel slightly better. Also, worms are gross but easy to fix. I buy the Boots own brand but even still they are expensive. Always have them in the cupboard.


Final few thoughts:

  • Make friends with the super-organised mums who have kids higher up the school
  • Immediately add all term dates to your diary – do it now
  • Never forget to give the school office some xmas chocs – they run the school
  • Smile and say hello to everyone at pick-up, sometimes it feels like everyone knows everyone else, but it’s rarely the case.


Happy start of term everyone! Good luck.