The 2020 Back to School Shopping list


Grab those pencil cases and books and make sure the Summer homework is done, because back-to-school season is just around the corner. Are you panicking yet?

Whether you’re preparing your children for their very first day of school or it’s just another year; before any return to school, college, university or any type of education, it's always best to make a list of the essential supplies. You might even need new stationery for the office too, whether you’re commuting or settling into a home office situation!

Whether you're starting from scratch or sorting through supplies from previous years, we’ve put together a guide for all the essentials, broken down by age group, from kindergarten & preschool all the way up through primary & elementary school, high school & middle school and university & college.

Retailers, both big and small, across the UK really know their stuff when it comes to stationery and school equipment. Start your back-to-school shop today and get your items from all over the world, using forward2Me’s international parcel forwarding service. You can shop with confidence online and have your packages forwarded direct to your address.

Back to School Supply list

We’ve put together the ultimate back to school supply list for each age group. Follow our guide to the best items to buy for your kids to return to school, from pencil cases to water bottles and lunch boxes to school bags. We’ve sourced some of the best items from around the UK too, so you don’t have to do too much digging once you’ve got your list drawn up!

Preschool & Kindergarten 

Whether your little ones are starting their first year at school, or are returning for another year at kindergarten, this can be a very exciting time. There’s a number of essential items for any preschool or kindergartener to have with them:

  • School bag - this is essential for a child at any age and you’ll need one to hold everything your kid takes with them.
  • Pencils & Crayons - a must for a child at any age, they’ll need something for colouring in, doodling and early attempts at writing!
  • Pencil cases - a must have for storing all the creative bits and pieces your kid may need at preschool or kindergarten.
  • Pencil sharpeners, rubbers & erasers - you’ll need more than just pencils for your kids to take with them! A few other pencil case fillers are a must
  • Lunch boxes - you’ll need something for the food your toddler will need throughout the day!
  • Water bottles - having a reusable water bottle is important in this day and age, and it’s great practice to give your toddler one to take to preschool or kindergarten.
    • Water bottles with straws from Smiggle
    • Reusable water bottles from Matalan

Primary School & Elementary School

Once your kid is a little older, the equipment they’ll need for a school year will only increase. They’ll need even more pencil case fillers and slightly different items to house them. Not only will their needs change, but there’s a good chance their tastes will too!

  • School bags - a school bag in primary or elementary school may be more of a statement than before, so choose carefully!
  • Pencil cases - as you’ll be adding more stuff you may need a bigger pencil case, and some children may want something that makes them feel a little more grown up than what they had in preschool or kindergarten.
  • Pencil case fillers - at this point you’ll want to add all sorts of extras like markers, pens and glue sticks!
  • Calculators - a simple calculator will be an essential part of your child’s early school life. They won’t need anything advanced until they’re a little older!
  • Planners and other paper pads - once your kids hit primary school or elementary there’s a good chance they’ll need a number of different types of paper pad, these include planners, note books, sketch books and graph paper pads.
  • Lunch boxes - while your children may have access to school meals, there’s a good chance they’ll be bringing their lunch with them, and a good lunch box is essential for those that do.
  • Water bottles - a drinks bottle is important to allow your child to stay hydrated throughout the day.
    • Fun water bottles from Frugi
    • Children’s water bottles from Amazon UK

High School & Middle School

Come High School or Middle School and your child’s needs will shift slightly. Not only will there be a greater need for potentially specialised equipment, but they may have a stronger opinion on the gear they’re kitted out with.

  • Pens & pencils - it’s time to upgrade to a fountain pen and biros and move away from handwriting pens. Pencils may need to be more focused for different types of art too.
    • Pens from Ryman, including fountain pens and ballpoint pens
    • Drawing pencils from Hobbycraft
  • Pencil cases - something that’s both robust and stylish enough to go on desk in class, it’s probably worth them picking it themselves!
  • Pencil case fillers - at this point there’s a number of extra in addition to pencil sharpeners and rulers. You’ll likely need a correction pen, protractor and maybe a compass too, plus it’s time to upgrade to a graphic calculator.
    • Corrector pens at Amazon UK
    • Pencil case essentials from WH Smiths, including erasers, pencil sharpeners, rulers and more
    • Highlighters and markers from Amazon UK
    • Maths sets from Ryman, including protractors, compasses and more
    • Scientific calculators from Staples
  • Paper pads - many schools provide planners for students at this age but some may still want their own, plus there’s always a demand for note pads, sketch pads and graph paper.
  • Water bottles - a robust and reusable water bottle is essential
  • Lunch boxes - while they may opt for a cooked school meal, many will still want or need to take their own lunch with them.
  • School bags - a school bag for someone at secondary school, high school or middle school will need to be able to fit all of their books and pads but be stylish and cool at the same time.

University & College

Once you reach college or university the needs change once again. You’ll find that your stationery needs are more focused on the subjects you’ve moved forward with. A lot of the stationery you’ll need now is to assist with self study and note making or planning. This includes ring binders, plastic folders and post-its!

  • Pens & pencils - for making notes, plans and generally everything in between. A student of this age will likely opt for speed over elegance so it’s more likely to be biros than fountain pens.
  • Art supplies, like specialised pencils - depending on the subjects you’ve chosen to take further you may need more specialised stationery. This includes things like pencils or pens.
  • Pencil case fillers - the stationery essentials for any student, these include items like erasers, pencil sharpeners and rulers, but also maths sets and hole punches.
  • Pads, planners and binders - the life of a student in further education requires a lot of note taking and organising. Things like notepads, ring binders, plastic folders and post-it notes are incredibly helpful.
    • Personalised planners and organisers from Papier
    • Note pads and graph paper pads from WH Smiths
    • Ring binder from Ryman
    • Plastic file pockets from WH Smiths
    • Post-it notes from Ryman
  • Laptop bag - while a student will likely still have a backpack or some other form of bag, having a way to safely carry a laptop or Macbook will be important. Some backpacks come with a sleeve, but in some cases you may prefer to have a dedicated bag.

The Best Back to School Stationery Suppliers

Now you’ve compiled your list, you’ll want to find the very best stationery suppliers from the UK to buy your back to school items. Whether you need a set of new pens or a complete refresh of your supplies, the below websites have an almost limitless selection of essentials. Whether you go with the big brands or look for a smaller, more creative supplier, make sure to get browsing early.

Choose Amazon UK for availability and choice

We couldn’t do a product guide without suggesting the giant that is Amazon UK. With thousands of products at low prices, the choice is overwhelming! Choose from collections of products, that are great for students of all ages and look out for awesome lightning deals for more savings.

Check the Amazon UK stationery section.

Paper Things for an independent supplier

If you are looking for some added charm in your school supply shopping, head over to the collection offered by Paper Things. They may be small but they still offer a great selection of items for prices that make sense for the bank of mum & dad. In addition to the essential stationery items, they also offer educational books and craft supplies, ideal for work and play.

Check the Paper Things site for back to school deals.

WHSmiths for decades of experience

Most school children in the UK will have visited a WHSmiths store at some point during their studies. They are the classic back to school shop in the UK with a great range across all the school essentials, plus they also stock tech and office essentials, making it perfect for the whole family.

They’ll often have back to school deals on, so check the WH Smiths site for more information.

Moleskine for high quality pads and pens

The team at Moleskine are some of the UK’s most respected stationery manufacturers. Their collection of notebooks, planners, bags and more are all made with care and simply ooze quality.

The average prices are a little more than the other suppliers featured, but that shouldn’t make you look elsewhere. Most of their products also come with an option to add a personalised message too!

See more on the Moleskine site.

Grab the best stationery available from Ryman

Ryman is similar to WH Smiths, but with a stronger focus on stationery. As dedicated stationery stockists you’ll find the very best in office supplies available. Including pens, pencils, paper and office electronics. They even have other office essentials like furniture.

They often have a dedicated back to school section.

Check out the official Ryman UK site.

For something personal try Papier

Offering something a little different, the team at Papier can supply you with all kinds of personalised stationery. This includes planners, organisers, diaries, notebooks and writing paper. They’re perfect for people looking for something that’s unique to them.

They offer cards and other printed stationery as well.

Check out the Papier stationery section.

The Best Back to School Educational book suppliers

When the hard work of the school day is done, there are often a few homework or revision tasks to get on with. Come college and university it’s likely you’ll have extra reading and coursework too, and being equipped with the best textbooks will be a real advantage, especially if the library has limited supplies. At forward2Me, we’re not fans of homework, but we’ve picked out the textbook suppliers you can rely on for extra study help.

CGP for the ultimate revision guides

The people at CGP really know how to make an educational textbook. The full range runs from reception years, all the way upto A Level subjects. What's more, every book is written by subject experts and filled with their trademark puns and jokes, to keep revision from being too boring!

Check out the books that children all over the UK use for revision and learning on the CGP site.

The Book People for a comprehensive collection

It wouldn’t be a proper list of book suppliers without The Book People. As you would expect from the name, these guys know their stuff about educational and activity textbooks, as well as fiction & non fiction literature.

Check out the full collection on The Book People

Try Waterstones for their expertise

The much loved British bookseller is great for finding virtually any book. They have an extensive selection of fiction and non-fiction books. They have an almost encyclopedic collection of textbooks and will undoubtedly have the book you’re after and if not, they’ll see if they can get it in for you.

Check out the extensive collection of non-fiction books on Waterstones. They even have a small selection of stationery too.

WH Smiths for an array of educational books

WH Smiths may not have the most extensive book collection, outside of bestsellers, but they do excel in educational books. Their education selection is comprehensive and has handily been broken down by level of education. Whether you’re after books to aid home learning or simply revision, you’ll find something perfect for your needs.

Check out the full collection of educational books at WH Smiths.

Amazon UK for availability and quick delivery

Originally a book seller themselves, Amazon hasn't shied away from adding to their vast collection of literature. Thousands of sellers are likely to sell any book (or e-book) that you need! On top of this, Amazon offers their Prime service for exclusive items and faster delivery, which now comes with 10% off for Prime student members.

Check out Amazon UK’s educational textbook section.

The Best Back to School Fashion & Footwear suppliers

Once you’ve gotten your stationery sorted, you’ll need to move onto the other items on your back to school list. From bags and shoes to coats and technology, our featured retailers are the best places for the needs of any pupil or student, whatever their age.

Best for School Bags

Finding the best school bags is essential. It can be tough to toe the line between functional and fashionable once your kids get a little older. There are a number of great outlets in the UK that offer an excellent array of school bags, whatever style or age group you’re looking to buy for.

Zalando for the best deals

For the pick of the bunch of school bags, your first stop should be Zalando. Their range of bags are all big enough for everything a student needs. They feature some of the brands of the moment, as well as brands focussed on practicality over style. With low starting prices, there’s a school bag for every pocket.

Check out the latest Zalando deals for school bags on their site.

Smiggle for school bags for kids

Smiggle offers an array of fun stationery and accessories. You’ll find a great selection of fun bags perfect for your child to take to school, whether they want a shoulder bag, backpack or drawstring bag. Their bags are aimed at slightly younger children, and come in an array of colours and styles.

Check out school bags on the Smiggle site, including a number of unicorn bags!

Best for Footwear

Finding the right footwear for school is essential. Finding the right school shoes can be a tricky business. Not only do they need to fit now, but ideally they’ll fit next year too, and that’s not always something that can be guaranteed. As such, finding good quality footwear that’s also affordable is key. There are a number of great UK shoe shops that offer school shoes at good prices.

For experts in school shoes, try Clarks

Shoemakers since 1825, the Clarks brand, have gone hand in hand with school shoes for generations. Children across the country have bought and worn school shoes from Clarks for years and will do for years to come. They’ve got a great selection, whatever age you’re buying for, and can help you find trainers too.

Check out the school shoes available from Clarks.

Check out Kickers, for the quintessential school shoe

Kickers have been a respected manufacturer of school shoes for years. They offer functional but smart shoes that go with every school uniform around. There’s a style for every child’s needs, and they’ve got ranges of shoes for adults too.

View the Kickers school shoe range on their site.

Shop at Schuh for variety

If you’re after a bigger variety of shoes, then Schuh is the place to look. Offering a mixture of smart school shoes, like Kickers, they also add in slightly left-field choices like Dr Martens of Converse. There’s a great selection of school shoes on offer.

Check Schuh’s range of school shoes.

Best for Sportswear

Sportswear is an important part of a child’s years at school. They’ll need trainers and other sports clothes for PE and gym, but also a number of these shops can help outfit a child with clothes and school bags too.

Sports Direct for a one stop shop

School days and sports go hand in hand across the world and the chances are that you’ll need to get some new sports gear as well as the usual study essentials.

Here in the UK, Sports Direct is the home to all the kit for most mainstream sports taught in schools, usually at great prices. You’ll even be able to find backpacks and other items, often at a discount. Plus, you’ll get an excuse to own an extra-large novelty mug too!

Check out Sports Direct for kids sportswear and bags.

Find something cool from Nike

Out of all the footwear retailers available, we love the offering from Nike. Although some schools are limited to plain black shoes, Nike are the top choice for sports shoes for those breaktime or sports lesson activities. As well as shoes, Nike have their own range of jackets, coats and bags for the fashion-conscious student amongst you.

Check out the Nike back to school range.

Try Adidas for comfortable quality shoes

Adidas, along with Nike, are known for their excellent quality trainers and footwear. While their trainers may not be right for day to day school use, they’re a great option for PE and gym lessons. They’ve got a great selection of other apparel too.

View the Adidas kids collection.

Other Buying Guides

Once you’ve got your back to school essentials sorted, why not treat yourself to something else? We can help you forward all kinds of items from the UK and other countries, to places all around the world. If you want to get your hands on the best Amazon Prime Day UK deals or the best Apple products, we can help with that. We’re also experts at forwarding collectibles, like the best Funko Pop! Vinyl figures and the most sought after Disney merchandise. We’ve even put together a guide on the best baby formula in the UK. Whatever you’re after, forward2Me is here to help you get your hands on it.

Shop on UK websites and ship worldwide with forward2me

Every August, we see a huge range of back to school items flood our warehouses, with more brands than ever offering some great products. Get started with your order by either creating an account or signing in to find your unique (and totally free) UK shipping address.

Find out how package forwarding works and then order with the knowledge that forward2me will get all of your back to school essentials to your door.