Over the next month, the UK will see millions of children starting school for the first time or heading back for the next stage of their education. Parents and teachers alike are hoping for a disruption-free term now that the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, meaning that children will be in school all day every day, learning and thriving.
The ‘back to school’ period can be stressful enough without a pandemic to contend with, but a particularly prominent worry this year is that there will be an upsurge in common bugs. As children have had such limited social interaction and time in school has been so disrupted during the pandemic, immunity levels are low meaning that they are more susceptible to illness as the new term begins – which potentially means more time off school. In fact, a recent survey conducted by PoxClin Cool Mousse found that 62% of parents are worried about a rise in common illnesses this autumn, while a further 65% said they are worried about their children having to miss more school due to back-to-school bugs and seasonal illnesses. Added to the usual stresses of sorting out new uniforms, stationery and lunchboxes, as well as preparing your child for a new year at school, many parents may feel very overwhelmed.
So, we’ve compiled a handy checklist of essential back to school tasks to ease your stress and help you look forward to the term ahead:
- Make sure your medicine cabinet is fully stocked
With COVID having dominated the headlines for the past 18 months, it’s easy to forget that other illnesses such as flu, chickenpox, norovirus and the common cold have not entirely gone away. When children are suddenly all gathered together in an enclosed environment like school after a long time apart, infections can spread rapidly so it’s best to be prepared. PoxClin’s survey found that although 94% of us have a medicine cabinet at home, only 49% keep it fully stocked at all times, with many placing items such as toilet roll or milk higher up the list of everyday essentials.
Most common illnesses can be treated quickly and easily with over-the-counter treatments and do not require a trip to the GP. Any distressing or uncomfortable symptoms for your child can also be dramatically reduced if parents have treatments immediately ready at home – especially for illnesses such as chickenpox which can happen unexpectedly but spread rapidly. For example, PoxClin Cool Mousse instantly relieves symptoms of chickenpox such as skin irritation, itching, sensitivity and burning while also preventing scarring and infection in an easy-to-use mousse. Furthermore, coughs and colds can be treated with children’s paracetamol or ibuprofen. Combined with lots of rest, fluids and herbal remedies like a warm honey and lemon drink, your child can recover fully without missing a large chunk of school.
- Understand the uniform requirements
School uniforms often have more elements to them than you think, and there’s nothing worse than sending your child off for their first day back at school with incorrect or missing items. As well as your basic requirements for the uniform there is also a whole PE kit to contend with, not to mention seasonal items like winter jumpers and additional kit such as aprons for art or cooking. Make sure to go uniform shopping with plenty of time to spare before the start of term to give your child time to try on items and order in different sizes if necessary. Before you even reach this stage, check with your school to see if there are any rules or regulations regarding school shoes, trousers and skirts to avoid buying the wrong thing. Lastly, it’s important to remember that children are prone to losing things or getting things dirty during playtime or PE so sewn-in name labels and spares of each item are a must!
- Prioritise the paperwork
It’s not uncommon for schools to send out important documents for parents to sign before the start of term. These might be relating to upcoming trips, school policies, curriculum, timetables or enrolment, all of which are noteworthy. If you find yourself missing any significant information with the start of term drawing close, don’t hesitate to comb through your emails or contact the school. It is important for parents to know the rules and regulations of the school for themselves, but it also provides a useful opportunity to talk with your child about what will be expected of them at school, so you can prepare them to behave respectfully, make friends and learn before term has even begun.
- Master the classroom with all the right equipment
Our children are taught such a diverse range of subjects from such a young age that they need to come fully prepared with a well-stocked pencil case. While your child has fun picking out their favourite design, it’s down to the parents to check its contents. As well as your basic pens, pencils, ruler and rubber, you may need additional items like felt tips, highlighters, Sellotape, a glue stick, a calculator and more. All this learning leads to big appetites at lunchtime, so it’s also important to pick out a practical lunchbox that can store healthy, nutritious food effectively, as well as a sturdy water bottle. You want your child to feel confident walking into school for the first time this term, so allow them some freedom when choosing their new schoolbag. Just make sure that its functional, comfortable and big enough to store everything your child needs for a great day at school.
- Start a conversation about school
Whether your child is starting school for the first time or heading back to join the next year group, beginning a new term can be daunting for any child. Particularly after the disruption of the past year and a half, many children will be out of the habit of spending time away from home, sticking to a routine and mixing with bigger groups of people their age. Therefore, having conversations about school in the run-up to the start of term is so important to prepare and reassure your child. Always stay positive when talking about school and encourage your child to share any worries they might have so you can find a solution together. Make sure they know the name of their teacher, what class and classroom they’re in, and who’s in their class to ease their nerves. Make sure to have their schoolbag and lunchbox packed and their uniform laid out the night before to make the morning as relaxed as possible, so your child can arrive at school happy and excited to learn.
 An online survey was conducted by Atomik Research among over 1,000 parents of under 18yo in the UK. The research fieldwork took place on 3-4 August 2021. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.