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Best back to school stationery for 2021

Shopping for stationery is one of life’s pleasures, whatever your age. We take a look at the best back to school stationery for 2021.

By Laura Martin | Last updated Sep 2, 2021

girl writing in notebook

The holidays may be in full swing but the back-to-school period is already just around the corner. So if you or your children want to soften the blow, how about investing in some awesome new stationery?


From pens and pencils to highlighters and ring binders, there’s something for pupils and teachers alike in our list, all of which have been selected for their quality and durability, and come highly recommended by hundreds of happy Mumsnet parents. 

Here’s our pick of the best back to school stationery for 2021.

1. Paper Mate InkJoy Black Ballpoint Pens

papermate inkjoy gel pens

Price: £2 for a pack of five | Buy now from Amazon

“InkJoy without a shadow of a doubt. The pen of choice for DS1's exams too - you can definitely write faster!” Puffalicious

“Another vote for InkJoy - the name is a very good description!” Scrappydappydoo

“InkJoy. Not just for the ink flow, which is great, but the triangular barrel is bigger and more comfortable to hold. Definitely the best.” Tabbystar

We were as surprised as anyone to discover the strong feelings Mumsnetters hold on the best ballpoint pens to buy for a smooth, easy writing action, but the results are in and there’s one clear winner.

The InkJoy range from Paper Mate gives you reliable, free-flowing pens with a clean finish. They're the go-to for Mumsnetters and their children, and are ideal for the exam room when students need a dependable pen that will help them write as quickly as possible.

2. Paper Mate InkJoy Assorted Colour Gel Pens

papermate inkjoy gel pens

Price: £16.79 for a pack of 14 | Buy now from Amazon

“They are a joy to write with.” Beyondthepage

“I've tried the gel (LOVERLEEEE!)” Happycow

“I absolutely love them too - over a year now since I discovered them one Sunday afternoon.” Cheesecake53

There’s only one pen loved more by Mumsnetters than an InkJoy ballpoint pen and that’s an InkJoy gel pen. The smooth gel ink flows freely for a totally fluid experience which gets thoughts on paper in a split second, then dries three times faster than its competitors.

The ergonomic grip keeps hands comfortable when writing for long periods of time, or at pace, which is perfect for scenarios where you’re working under pressure. This pack of pens also features 14 different colours - great for note-taking and highlighting.

3. Helix Oxford Eraser Twin Pack

helix erasers

Price: £1.50 for a pack of two | Buy now from Amazon

We all remember the pain of a terrible rubber from our school days, watching with horror as it tears holes in the page and leaves a smudged mess behind.

Well there’s no chance of these beauties from stationery giant, Helix, letting you down. They come in a two pack so children can have one in their pencil case and one at home, and have large sleeves to keep them clean.

4. Moleskine 18-Month Weekly Planner

moleskin diary

Price: £14.94 | Buy now from Amazon

“I'm a sucker for a Moleskine diary and notebook which I always carry around.” Ilovewillow

“I'm another fan of the Moleskine planners with a week on one side and notes on the other. You can get them in a reasonable range of colours and have something embossed on the front.” Londonmummy66

Organisation is key when it comes to managing busy lives, and our Mumsnetters are full of great tips for staying on top of the day-to-day business of study, work or family life.

This 18-month weekly planner from Moleskine is a big favourite, and well worth the investment if you or your children feel you need to get more organised during the hectic school year.

The layout gives you an appointment planner on the left side and a blank note page on the right -  perfect for fleshing out diary dates with additional details, including extracurricular activities, so that nothing gets forgotten.

5. Staedtler Textsurfer Classic Assorted Highlighters

Staedtler highlighters in pack

Price: £6 for a pack of eight | Buy now from Amazon

Decent highlighter pens are a must, particularly for secondary school pupils who need to keep their work organised for the dreaded exam revision period.

Staedtler Textsurfer highlighter pens are the best you can buy when it comes to performance. Crucially, they won’t smudge your ink, even if it’s handwritten. Plus, they have an extra large capacity for extended use and are refillable, giving them great eco-friendly credentials too.

6. Lamy 021 Safari Candy Fountain Pen

lamy fountain pen

Price: £18.95 | Buy now from Amazon

“They are brilliant pens. Smooth to write with and satisfyingly chunky in the hand.” Urbanesprawl

“I love Lamy as an ‘everyday’ fountain pen.” FairfaxAikman

Believe it or not, there are plenty of pen purists out there who still love to use a traditional fountain pen, and some schools still encourage their use as a way to produce top-notch handwriting.

Among Mumsnet parents, this pen from Lamy is a big hit thanks to its smooth action, comfortable, ergonomic grip and large ink capacity. A blue cartridge is supplied, but Lamy does a great range of colours if your children fancy something a bit more fun.

7. Staedtler 24 Noris Colouring Pencils

Staedtler colouring pencils

Price: £4 for a pack of 24 | Buy now from Amazon

"Staedtler are the best inexpensive pencils I've tried - excellent quality." noseresearch

A decent set of colouring pencils is a must-have for school, and these bestselling colours from Staedtler make the perfect pack for pupils of all ages.

Their unique design gives them increased resistance to breakages, and the ergonomic shape and non-slip coating makes them comfortable to use for extended periods of time.

8. Helix Oxford Clash Filled Pencil Case Exam Set

helix pencil case and supplies

Price: £5.42 | Buy now from Amazon

“I have no idea where they all disappear to, but the morning of the maths exam is not the time to realise that you have no protractors in the house.” Faircastle 

“It's a good idea to have a complete set of stationery at home, so that their school set can just stay in the pencil case/bag and they don't run the risk of leaving all their pens at home.” Redskyatnight

When it comes to maths stationery, Helix knows exactly what your kids need, and it’s all to be found in this excellent filled pencil case.

A clear pencil case is still a must-have for exams, and this one is jam-packed with all the essentials your children will need, including a geometry set, pencils, pens, an eraser and a sharpener. 

9. Tinc Mini Stationery Set

tinc mini stationery set

Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon

Essential school stationery isn’t just pens and pencils. When you’re on the go at school and trying to keep notes tidy, mixing handwritten pages with printed documents, there’s a bunch of extras that’ll make life easier.

This dinky little set comprises tiny scissors, a hole punch, stapler, staple remover, sharpener and tape dispenser, all in a compact case so students can keep their work neat and organised at all times.

10. Exacompta Pack of 10 A4 Ring Binders

excompta ring binders

Price: £19.99 for a pack of 10 | Buy now from Amazon

Ring binders are still the easiest way to keep bits of paper in one place, and are perfect for organising handwritten notes alongside printed sheets.

This set of 10 ring binders in assorted colours is perfect for helping children keep on top of what’s what. We also recommend having a flat hole punch handy so they can easily file papers away as soon as they receive them.

11. Smiggle Woah Pop Out Kids School Pencil Case

smiggle pencil case

Price: £11 | Buy now from Amazon

"The hard body pencils cases are good and the backpacks." Atalune

"There's heaps of the Smiggle pencil cases around at our school. I really want one of the pop-out pencil cases because it reminds me so much of the ones I coveted back when I was in primary school." MidniteScribbler

"It's stationery heaven I tell ye!" TheoriginalLEM

Ah, the 'S' word! We know it’s not the cheapest, and if your kids have been pestering you for Smiggle stationery then chances are you’re wary of actually entering any Smiggle shop, seeing how it’s standard to come out with pockets about £50 lighter.

Fortunately for you, there’s tonnes of Smiggle stationery to be found online at great prices. We love this retro Woah Pop Out pencil case, with a mini calculator, pencil sharpener and compartments aplenty for pens and pencils.

What stationery do you need for school?

Most primary schools usually provide all the stationery children will need, but once they move to secondary school they’ll need to have their own. For a child starting in year seven, we recommend they have: 

  • A good-sized pencil case
  • A decent set of plain pencils
  • Colouring pencils
  • Some reliable ballpoint pens (black and blue)
  • A decent fountain pen
  • A highlighter or two 
  • A good eraser and sharpener 
  • A 30cm ruler  
  • A basic geometry set with protractor, set square and pair of compasses

What stationery do I need for Year 11?

The above list will cover your child for their GCSEs although they may need some specific stationery for some subjects, for example art, music or media studies which require certain pencils or materials that will be prescribed by the school. 

A scientific calculator will be required for mathematics, and we recommend the Casio FX-83GTX Scientific Calculator as the best one for UK exams.

How we chose our recommendations

Because we know that there’s nothing like a real recommendation from a real parent, we first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out which school stationery discerning Mumsnet users had bought for their children. 

We then did some research across the wider web, looking at which stationery had won accolades or been featured in ‘best buy’ lists across websites and print media, and what customer reviews said about them. Having collated all that information, we then chose the top stationery for several interest categories.


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