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The holidays may be in full swing but the back-to-school period is already just around the corner. So it’s time to start thinking about what your child will need for the next school year and ticking things off your back-to-school checklist.
From pens and pencils to backpacks and water bottles, there’s something for both primary and secondary pupils and teachers alike in our list. As with all our recommended products, we’ve selected them for their quality and durability, and they come highly recommended by hundreds of happy Mumsnet parents.
During our research, we make sure to cross-check our tried-and-tested recommendations with online retailers and expert sources to make sure our list of products are worth spending your money on.
Here’s our pick of the best back to school supplies for 2022.
What are the best back to school supplies?
- Best overall back to school supplies: Staedtler 24 Noris Colouring Pencils
- Best budget back to school supplies: Helix Oxford Eraser Twin Pack
- Best back to school backpack: Eastpak Padded Pak’r Backpack
- Best back to school pencil case: Helix Oxford Exam Filled Pencil Case Exam Set
- Best back to school name label stickers: Stikins Personalised Garment Stickers
1. Best overall back to school supplies: Staedtler 24 Noris Colouring Pencils
Price: £5 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 best selling colours from Staedtler make the perfect pack for pupils of all ages.
Keep a set at home for younger pupils to use when they’re doing their homework, while secondary students can take them to school so they always have a good set of coloured pencils to hand.
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 - so your child should get plenty of use throughout the school year. With 24 different colours - though some users found they are a bit light and need quite a lot of pressure - there’s plenty of variety and all for a really decent price.
- 24 different colours
- Increased resistance to breakages
- Ergonomic shape and non slip coating
- Good value
- Some users found the colour of the pencils are very light so you have to press hard
2. Best budget back to school supplies: Helix Oxford Eraser Twin Pack
Price: £1.50 for a pack of two | Buy now from Amazon
“Buy a few rubbers (I like the cheap Helix ones) to see what suits you and don't forget your ruler and sharpener.” TheRealMrsJelly
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.
- Twin pack
- Large sleeves to protect and keep the rubbers clean
- Good quality rubbers
- Good value
- Nothing obvious to note
3. Best back to school backpack: Eastpak Padded Pak’r Backpack
Price: From £28 | Buy now from Amazon
“When I was at school it was Eastpak all the way 😄 not sure if they’re still a thing but they were very hard wearing.” Purplestorm83
“I was thinking Vans or Eastpak are always a safe bet and quite sensible.” DialsMavis
A good backpack that can withstand being packed full of school essentials and thrown on the floor is a must for every student when they set off for school in September.
Eastpak is a brand that Mumsnetters rate as one of the best school bags. Sturdy and reliable, they come in a variety of colours and patterns to keep the more style conscious of children happy. The bag has a large main compartment with zip closures and a handy front pocket for all those little bits and pieces they need to take to school every day.
The straps are adjustable and padded so the backpack is comfortable to carry - even when loaded up with PE kit and various school books! However, there’s no water bottle holder, which may be a deal breaker for some people.
Eastpak fans claim the bags can last a long time and are surprisingly roomy, so hopefully this back-to-school essential will be an investment that will last for years to come.
- Sturdy bag that should last years
- Comes in a variety of colours and patterns
- Decent size
- Padded straps for comfort
- No water bottle holder
4. Best back to school pencil case:Helix Oxford Clash Filled Pencil Case Exam Set
Price: £4.50| 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.
Rather than having to buy a pencil case and the stationery separately, this clear pencil case saves you all the hassle. A must-have for exams, it is jam-packed with all the essentials your children will need, including a geometry set, pencils, pens, an eraser and a sharpener.
Helix is a respected brand that has been around for years and we think this set is really good value for money.
- Clear pencil case for exams
- Comes with all the school essentials
- Good value
- Ruler may be too small for other school work
5. Best back to school name label stickers: STIKINS Personalised Garment Stickers
Price: £12 for 90 stickers | Buy now from Amazon
“I use Stikins-they just don't come off and sooooo quick!” SuperSange
One of the biggest - and probably most annoying - back-to-school tasks is labelling all the uniform. Do you spend ages sewing in the labels or ironing them in? Lots of our Mumsnet users recommend stickers as the best name labels and there’s plenty around to choose from.
STIKINS names labels come recommended by our forum users and are highly rated on Amazon. Unlike some of the other stickers on the market, which you can buy in pretty colours and with cute pictures, they’re pretty basic to look at - just white stickers with the name printed - however they’re good at what they do.
You get 90 stickers, which is more than enough for labelling all the different bits of uniform, and they can be used on other items too, including footwear, bags, bottles and lunch boxes - and are dishwasher/microwave-safe.
Most importantly, they’ve passed the wash test procedure, which means they’ve been washed 40 times at 40 degrees! Don’t worry if you’ve left it to the last minute to order yours, the stickers are always sent out the same or next working day!
- 90 stickers
- Always sent out same or next working day
- Passed wash tests
- Fuss-free labelling
- Can be used on clothes and other items
- Some users did find the labels came off after a few washes
6. Best back to school lunchbox : Sistema Bento Box To Go
Price: £6.50 | Buy it now from Amazon
“Sistema Bento style box. It's cheap, easy to clean, and means no need for single use wrappers.” LongDissidence
If you need to find a good lunch box for packed lunches that offer plenty of space for different food and snacks, the Sistema Bento Box To Go is good value for money, easy to clean and will keep all your child’s food separate.
Made from phthalate and BPA-free plastic, it has movable compartments for storing different lunch items and snacks. The lid has clips to keep the box secure with a seal to keep food fresh. There’s also a little pot for storing yoghurt or fruit, with a seal-tight lid to prevent it from spilling out onto other foods - although it’s worth noting some users did find it leaked.
It’s super easy to clean too - you can pop it in the top rack of the dishwasher - and you can also heat up food in a microwave, just make sure to remove the lid. It may not look all that fancy compared to other colourful and patterned alternatives on the market, but this is a sturdy school lunchbox that should get plenty of use.
- Made from phthalate and BPA-free plastic
- Easy to clean
- Lots of compartments for different food and snacks
- Lid clips on
- Seal keeps food fresh
- Microwave and dishwasher-friendly
- Not as nice to look at as others on the market
- Some users found the little pot leaked
7. Best back to school water bottle: Contigo Gizmo Flip Autospout
Price: From £15.50 | Buy it now from Amazon
“Contigo as a previous poster said. I bought 2 about 3/4 years ago and they are still going strong after alternating everyday use. They don’t leak and there’s no straw and you can drink one handed.” recommended by LettyLoman
Finding a good water bottle that doesn’t crack easily or leak all over the bag can feel like mission impossible at times! Step forward, Contigo, a brand that comes highly recommended by our Mumsnet users.
The cute and colourful designs - including dinosaurs, dancers and flowers - will cater for children wanting a bottle that looks fun. The bottles have been designed to prevent any spillage, with a soft silicone mouthpiece that folds out when you press the button and a leak-proof valve, even when the bottle is open or closed.
The ergonomic design makes the bottle easy to drink from with a diagonal straw so you can get the last drops of water at the bottom of the bottle. It’s pricey but it’s made from robust BPA-free plastic, is lightweight and easy to wash, so both kids and parents will love it!
- Dishwasher safe
- Fun colours and pictures
- Ergonomic design
- Soft silicone mouthpiece for easy drinking
- No-spillage valve
- Some users did find the bottles start leaking after a while
8. Best back to school pens: Paper Mate InkJoy Black Ballpoint Pens
Price: £3 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.
Where other pens may leave blobs of ink or bleed onto the paper, 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.
This pack includes five pens so they should keep your child going well into the school year - although some reviewers claim the pens ran out of ink quickly.
- Five pack of pens
- Free-flowing ink pens
- Nice to write with
- Good value
- Good for exams
- Some users found the ink ran out quickly
9. Best back to school weekly planner: Moleskine 18-Month Weekly Planner
Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon
“I'm a sucker for a Moleskine diary and notebook which I always carry around.” tried and tested by 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.” rated by 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. The space for weekends is smaller, which may not be great for anyone with busy Saturdays and Sunday activities to keep track of.
We like that there’s also 295 coloured stickers for personalising your planner and making it easy to identify different activities.
- Weekly Planner
- Page for making notes
- Sturdy, classic planner
- 295 coloured stickers
- Lasts for 18 months
- Space for weekends is smaller so not much space for tracking plans
10. Best back to school highlighters: Staedtler Textsurfer Classic Assorted Highlighters
Price: £8 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.
While there are other highlighters on the market, Staedtler Textsurfer highlighter pens are the best you can buy when it comes to performance. Crucially, they’re quick drying and 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 - although it’s worth noting some people found the pens dried up quickly
This set has eight neon coloured pens so there’s plenty of choice for keeping school work organised, but the pens are also available in bigger and smaller sets, as well as pastel and vintage colours.
- Quick drying and smudge proof
- Available in a neon, pastel and vintage colours
- Set of eight pens
- Great for exam revision
- Pens can sometimes dry up quickly
11. Best back to school stationery set: Tinc Mini Stationery Set
Price: £4.50 | 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.
The perfect size for popping into their school bag or keeping at home for homework, and you can buy it in a choice of pink or blue to suit your child’s taste - and all for less than £5! They are small though so some reviewers do claim they are not the most sturdiest pieces of stationery.
- Compact stationery set
- Contains all the stationery essentials
- Comes in two colours
- Good price
- Not the most robust pieces of stationery
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.
Who has the best back to school supplies?
You can get all your school shopping essentials from a range of online and high street retailers. Lots of our recommendations come from Amazon, where you should be able to find lots of your back-to-school stationery, backpacks, lunchboxes and water bottles. The likes of WH Smith and Ryman, and even big supermarkets, will be able to cater for all your stationery needs too.
What is the most needed school supply?
This will depend on the age of your child. For a primary school child - where the school will provide most of the supplies - a good backpack and water bottle may be the thing most children need for the start of the new term. Whereas an older child going to secondary school will need to ensure they have the basics like pens and pencils for taking notes.
What should be in a back to school kit?
If you want to make sure your child has everything they need when they head back into school at the start of September, the list we have provided above is a great place to start.
Our list of recommended products also includes a good water bottle, a sturdy backpack that will hold everything they need - and not fall apart within the first month! - and a decent lunchbox, if they plan to take a packed lunch. You may also want to add things like a notepad, loose paper and a calculator.
What are the best back to school supplies?
You can’t go wrong with a pack of good colouring pencils! The Staedtler 24 Noris Colouring Pencils have been designed to make them comfortable to use and provide higher resistance against breakages, so your child should get plenty of use out of them throughout the school year.
How we chose our recommendations
Recommendations from real parents
In our search for the best products to recommend to you, we always start by asking our Mumsnet users which one they love the most. Our forums have over 7 million users each month so we know that each product they suggest has been able to withstand the needs of a family, whilst also catering for a range of different needs, budgets and lifestyles.
So that we are able to recommend a list of tried-and-tested products that will cater for a range of different situations, our trusted and experienced parenting journalists research each category thoroughly. This means also checking with the experts in the product’s field to make sure that each one stands up to scrutiny.
To do this we use a variety of sources, including consulting independent review sites, such as Which?, to ensure we are bringing you the best products on the market right now.
We know how often we have relied on online reviews to help us pick a product, so we make sure to scour the internet to see which ones are well-rated when they are put to the test at home by the consumer. We consult reviews on websites such as John Lewis, Amazon and Argos, to make sure the products are worth your hard-earned cash.
This means considering both positive and negative feedback to help us work out which products perform well across the board.
Celebrated best products
We also look out for any products that have received industry awards, cross-referencing this with the rest of our research to help us recommend a variety of back to school supplies that will ensure your family is set for the start of a new school year.
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