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How to prepare for back to school

Girl in school uniform, smiling, sitting on top of a bench eating lunch

The six weeks of the summer holidays always seem to go by so fast. Before you know it, it’ll be time to pack the kids off to school once more - or perhaps for the first time! Whether your child is just starting primary school or you’ve handled back to school panic before, it can be easy to find yourself in a hurry during the last week of the holidays. Trying to remember everything that needs to be done before the first day of school is hard. Fortunately, we’ve outlined some of the most important things to remember below.

How to get ready for back to school

When it comes to preparing for the return to school, most things are best done in the last week or so of the summer holidays before the term starts up again. There are several reasons for this, one of which is that with some tasks, doing them early often means you’ll have to redo them again sooner.

For example, it’s a good idea to clean out your child’s school bag at the start of the holidays to avoid finding a rotten apple in there in August... However, it’s not mandatory to repack it there and then in preparation for September. Keeping everything together is smart, but don't forget to check the bag closer to term-time so you can find anything that’s missing.

So, what are the most important tasks to do in the last week before your child goes back to school?

Check the fit of their uniform and shoes

One of the most important things to do in the lead up to term-time beginning again is to check that your child still fits their uniform and school shoes. Although it can pass in the blink of an eye, six weeks is a long time in terms of a child’s growth - and it’s possible for shoes that fit perfectly at the start of the holidays to be too small come September. Make sure your children are wearing clothes and shoes that fit well - and don’t forget their PE kit! It’s important that plimsolls fir properly, just like school shoes.

It can be tempting to do this earlier in the holidays so that you have plenty of time for the items to be delivered and - if necessary - things to be returned, but this isn’t the best plan. Children grow fast, and if you get school shoes and clothes too early, you’ll likely have to replace them sooner. By buying closer to the start of term, your children will get more wear out of the items before they grow out of them.

One thing you can do earlier, though, applies if your child has to wear a tie to school. Learning to tie a tie takes time. Some schools use clip-on ties for this very reason, but if your child needs to be able to tie their own, it’s a great idea to get in lots of practice with this before they need to do it on the first day of school. Remember, it’s not the end of the world if they can’t quite manage it by the time school starts. Practice makes perfect!

Get into a good morning and evening routine

After long summer days where the sun stays up far longer than in winter, it’s easy to get into the habit of staying up late and waking up later. This might be OK during the holidays, but it can make it harder to get up for school on time if you don’t allow you and your children time to readjust your sleeping schedules. Over the last week of the holidays, adjust your waking and sleeping times to suit your term-time schedule.

This can also be a good time to think about the rest of your morning and evening routines. Mornings can easily get hectic with everyone trying to use the bathroom at once to get ready for school, work or whatever else you have planned, so it might be helpful to create a schedule or rota so that things run more smoothly.

Similarly, you might want to take this opportunity to reconsider evening routines. Things like reading before bedtime, turning off screens, and evening bathing can all be beneficial towards getting better sleep and facing the new day with more energy. If you intend to start these habits, it’s best not to leave it to the first day of school, as this is a time when your children have enough on their plate as it is without adding new habits in to the mix.

Make sure their school bag is clean and ready to go

The start of the last week of the summer holidays is also a great time to dig out your child’s school satchel or backpack and anything they’ll need to bring with them - lunch box, pencil case, water bottle, textbooks, and whatever other essentials you might have lost track of over the holidays. It can be tempting to leave this until the night before term starts, but this might not be ideal in some situations. For example, if something has become damaged or worn out over the summer, you’ll need time to source a replacement before they head back to school.

If you haven’t already, this is also a good time to make sure your child doesn’t need anything extra for the new term. When your child reaches secondary school, they may need extra equipment such as a pair of compasses and a protractor, or art supplies. Try to be as proactive as possible about finding out this information, otherwise you could end up in a mad rush the weekend before school starts.

Have a chat about the new school year

Finally, the most important thing to do before the next school year starts is to discuss it with your child. Talk about what’s changing and what’s staying the same, and try to address any anxieties your child may have about this step up in their lives. Remember, the new school year can be just as daunting for them as a new job can be for adults, so show your child that you care and you understand their worries. And if there’s anything they’re especially struggling with, remember you can always get in touch with the school or their teacher to let them know.