Compared to last year, this school year has gotten off to a rather good start. In fact, it felt more like the start of school years past than one getting underway amid a pandemic that continues to rage despite vaccinations and all the other precautions taken.

Most disquieting was the recent news that mere weeks into the autumn session, more than 100,000 students have had to absent themselves from in-person classes because their lateral flow test revealed a possible infection. Even more disturbing, just under two-thirds of that number actually tested positive for the coronavirus.

Headteachers are sounding the alarm and formulating contingency plans but, so far, there's no word on going back to distance learning.

That means that the school year is well and truly underway. Procrastinators have to put their putting off aside and head to the shops for school supplies, uniforms and P.E. kits.

What should those shopping lists contain? Superprof gives some general guidelines.

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Starting Primary School

If your child already has a few years of school under their belt, this year will start (almost) like any other, including with the usual fights to get to bed on time, getting up early in the morning and, once again, donning their uniform.

Or maybe not. Word has it that school students are so excited to return to class - a reasonable substitute for a return to normalcy that they're not fighting too much over the usual sticking points. Won't you tell us how you/your primary school students feel about starting school again?

Uniforms, backpacks and water bottles are all necessary for school
Button-down shirts with ties, water bottles, backpacks and excitement are all essential ingredients for a successful start to the school year. Photo credit: Photosightfaces on Visualhunt

Unlike students who've long gotten used to the routines of school, those who just finished Foundation and are headed for Year 1 may be crackling with excitement. They may see themselves off to bed long before the appointed time, wake you up in the morning instead of you having to rouse them... and just try keeping them out of their uniforms!

There could also be some anxiety, be ready for that.

Still, whether a seasoned student or one just embarking on their academic career, every student has one thing in common: they need the stuff to take to school.

For primary school students, the greater emphasis is on school and Phys. Ed. uniforms because, usually, schools provide school stationery and writing implements.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy a few pens, pencils, rubbers and notepads. Your child will need them to do homework with and, besides that, nothing says that kids won't be asked to bring a few stationery items to school, especially coloured pencils and lined notepads.

Back to those uniforms, now.

We have a quaint tradition of buying primary school uniforms a size or two bigger than the child needs so they can grow into them. This may be the only time in their academic career when students can get away with wearing ill-fitting clothes without being mocked!

Still, it would be best to not go overboard on the oversizing, especially where shoes are concerned. We don't want kids tripping all over the schoolyard because of overly big shoes, do we?

This quirky habit of oversizing helps the family budget, too. Imagine having to buy new uniforms after every growth spurt!

in fact, the school uniform mandate has provoked a lot of discussion over time, with some contending that, if nearly all schools require uniforms, why shouldn't the schools make them available?

Let's not debate such ideas here (but you're welcome to leave your thoughts in the comments, thanks). Instead, let us point out that there is help for families enduring financial hardship who need to buy new school uniforms.

Discover where you can find help, along with which school supplies to buy so your primary school student starts off on the right foot this year.

The Start of Secondary School

There's no debate over whether secondary school students are familiar with school routines. The only question would be whether your student is starting Key Stage 3 or approaching GCSEs.

If the student in question is in the latter category, they probably already have all the uniform and P.E. kit they need. Unless they've outgrown anything - particularly their shoes, you may only have to replace those items that show excessive wear.

Or, if you recently moved house, you may have to buy a new blazer and/or cardigans so that the garments display the right school crest.  

If you've just wrapped up your primary school education, your uniform and school supplies shopping list will be rather long. It will include:

  • a blazer with the new school's emblem or crest is sewn on
  • a weatherproof coat
  • cardigans or jumpers with the new crest
  • white button-down shirts
  • ties
  • trousers/skirts
  • socks/tights
  • suitable shoes

Your gym kit will include the same gear you wore in primary school, and then: swimwear, goggles and a towel, trainers as well as gym shoes and a larger complement of shorts and tee-shirts, possibly with the school's crest printed on.

Your school stationery shopping list will be longer, too. Find out all you need to buy before starting secondary school...

Today's school cafeterias serve more fresh food than processed or fried
In today's school cafeterias, you're more likely to find fresh fruit and veg than crisps and chips. Photo credit: USDAgov on VisualHunt.com

Healthy Lunches for School

Last school year - with its on-again, off-again in-person lessons - left us all rather unmoored. It didn't take long for students to lose focus, get bored and tune out of online lessons. And, as humans typically do when stressed, anxious or bored, we headed to the kitchen for snacks.

Now, nearly two years into the pandemic, lockdowns' devastating results are in. Not only has our collective mental health suffered but our waistlines have gotten bigger.

It's not like we went into this pandemic engaged in a healthy relationship with food, though. For some reason, food - particularly food that is bad for us is our go-to solution for everything from rewards for a job well done to a panacea for a sudden let-down.

Long before COVID and all across the UK, obesity statistics were alarming. Child obesity caused the most concern. Every aspect of our leadership, including the Department for Education, the NHS and other governing bodies came together to formulate, among other plans for a healthier Britain, nutritious school food programmes.

Whereas before, one could reasonably expect to find chips on school lunch serving lines, these days, fried foods are served no more than twice a week. Bye-bye, fried chicken, breaded pork cutlets and battered fish, as well.

Instead, you'll find a lot more fresh veggies, more fruit and more lean meats. School dietary guidelines specify that school lunches must include at least one serving from the four major food groups: grains, dairy, meat and fruit/veg.

To support healthy eating concepts, school vending machines, tuck shops and other concessions outlets will not supply students with fizzy drinks or juices with added sugars, chocolates or sweets, during school hours and up to 6 pm.

Students who pack their lunches will be subject to the same dietary guidelines.

Things like fruit cups, especially the kind with thick syrup, chocolatey biscuits and crisps are not allowed. Sending your child to school with such fare in their lunchboxes won't (necessarily) see their food confiscated but it will certainly result in having a sternly worded letter sent home.

The easier alternative to packing lunches would be paying for school lunches but, for many reasons - medical necessity, religious mandate or personal preference, families feel that school lunches could not meet any special dietary needs.

You might be surprised at the lengths schools go to accommodate such requests. Find out more about school lunches and how your students might be better off eating cafeteria food...

Older school buildings are harder to ventilate properly
It might be difficult to increase ventilation in older school buildings so administrations take other measures to keep kids COVID-safe. Photo credit: Croydon Clicker on VisualHunt.com

Starting School Under the COVID Cloud

By now, we're all old hats at living with the coronavirus. That doesn't make it any more lethal or frightening; it just means that we have more knowledge and tools at our disposal to minimise infection risks.

Of course, that's aside from the staggering number of infections since the start of school.

Still, we have vaccines. Soon, younger children will be vaccinated against COVID, too. And we have our other mitigation measures: hand sanitiser and frequent hand washing, masks and social distancing. All of that makes you wonder why schools have jettisoned the extreme measures from last year.

There are no longer any mask mandates in schools, save for secondary schools in Scotland. That's because we now know that younger children are less at risk of contracting the virus and the psychological harm of masking outweighs the risk of infection. Hence, no masks for younger students.

The same with staggered school starts and learning bubbles. These cautionary measures amplify - and may even increase virus anxiety, which is more detrimental than the possibility of becoming infected.

That doesn't mean that schools don't care whether children get sick, obviously. Secondary school students' twice-weekly lateral flow tests and added ventilation in classrooms (where possible), emphasising proper hygiene practices for the youngest students - washing hands and coving mouths when coughing, teachers' hyper-vigilance of students' overall well-being...

In short, it only seems like schools have forgotten about the pandemic and/or are sacrificing student safety. You should know how far they're going to keep kids safe this year...

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Sophia

A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.