THE BLOG

A Parent's Guide to Back to School Without Breaking the Bank

29/08/2013 11:30 BST | Updated 28/10/2013 09:12 GMT

Few of are surprised by the fact that the cost of the contents of children's school bags has increased. We're all accustomed to seeing kids on their way to school carrying smart phones, high-tech headphones and even tablets.

Our research shows that for many children the cost of today's school uniform, school bag and its contents amounts to £550.80**. This compares to an average cost of £252.40** in the 1980s and £231.20** in the 1960s, in today's money.

But this doesn't mean that going back to school should leave parents out of pocket. In fact, the good news for parents is that in comparison to the 1960s and 1980s, the costs of school bag staples, including stationery and lunchboxes, have actually come down in price.

Having said that, we can't ignore the fact that children today are part of a digital generation and have grown up in a world surrounded by technology and the internet. They are using mobile phones, tablets, eReaders and computers at home on a daily basis and the same technologies are starting to make their way into the classroom.

For some parents, this can be a rather daunting prospect. Customers often ask us for advice on what they should be buying their children, either to keep at home to support their homework assignments or to take into school for use in lessons. It's really important that as a first step parents ask the school what they're doing in terms of introducing the use of tablets, apps and the internet into lessons to help determine the best products for their family. As we look forward to a new school term, ask what changes the school has planned for the year ahead and how you can best support your child's needs through your technology choices.

Here are my top tips to help parents survive the annual rush in preparing their child to go back to school.

1) Buy Early

Back to School is a busy time so to avoid disappointment, make sure you purchase things like new technology, school uniform and key stationery items as early as possible. Many parents fear summer holiday growth spurts, and leave the shopping to the last couple of days but you can ask for advice in the school wear department on going up a size.

2) Check in with the School

Before buying new technology, it's important to double check with the school which devices they are allowed in the classroom and the preferred operating system being used by the school, such as Android, Apple, Windows etc. There is no point buying your child an iPad for educational reasons if the school uses Windows. Some schools also operate a no mobile policy in the classroom.

3) Label Everything

Things are easily left on the bus, lost on playing fields, or mistakenly taken from coat pegs. Cash's name tapes offer a choice of fonts and finishes, and can be discreetly sewn into clothing, bags and pencil cases. You can also purchase tags for electrical products.

4) Bulk Buy

This idea might seem like a big task, as it's an expensive business and it's often the last thing your children want to do, but bulk buying uniform items all together means that you may only need to wash once a week.

5) Don't Forget the Basics

Whilst times have changed in some aspects of school life, children today couldn't get by without some of the basics. For the first day of the new term, you'll need to make sure your child has all the right stationery (again check with the school for the full list), lunchbox and sports bag.

6) Do your Homework

Children often ask for the latest new technology craze or gadget so it's important to decide which kit is better suited for recreational use at home or as a study aid. When buying a laptop for school, you need to gain expert advice on areas like memory and hard drive size.

7) Get a Guarantee

Kitting out your child for the new term can be costly so it's worth investing in a guarantee that covers any expensive gadgets. Also remember that accidents can happen during school hours, so it's important to ensure you are protected against any damage to personal items that don't belong to the school so do check your home insurance covers these new purchases.

8) Get Protected

Even with the newest piece of technology, it pays to be vigilant and protect your devices with the most up-to-date anti-virus software.

Your child may seem like a tech-guru, but chances are they are not so savvy when it comes to accessing certain content online, privacy, protection from viruses and spyware and access to spending money online buying apps or making in-game purchases. This is why it's so important for parents to get impartial advice when investing in new technologies.

9) Why Not Pay Online

Many schools are now providing a service that allows parents to pay for their child's school excursions/visits and school meals online, via new payment systems. By paying online parents will no longer have to engage in the often precarious practice of sending their kids to school with cash in hand.

10) Home Assistance

Technology doesn't only have to assist a child while they're learning in the classroom; it can also be useful in helping parents manage the after school routine. Reminders can be set on devices for homework deadlines or security software installed to switch off access to the Internet when it isn't being used for educational research!