The 7 best back to school tips for Aussie parents.

As much as many of us wished 2020 away, saying goodbye to it does present another challenge – we’re merely weeks away from the start of the new school year.

a close up of a boy and a girl smiling for the camera: Uniforms, teachers and technology: The 7 best back to school tips for Aussie parents.

© Getty Images
Uniforms, teachers and technology: The 7 best back to school tips for Aussie parents.

I’m the mum of a teenager, and I know that this pre-term time can be an emotional, sentimental experience, regardless of whether your kid is beginning kindy, or highschool. 

My pro tip is distracting yourself with back to school preparation. It can help you feel some sense of control over the circle of life – oh, and it’s pretty much your job as a parent, too.

But don’t worry, it’s all good stuff – for both of you. Thanks to the interwebs, back to school prep is not as overwhelming or time-consuming as it used to be. And with some of the following tips, you can make fast work of it, allowing you to spend more time with your precious cherub (or pubescent teenager).

School uniforms.

These days, you can buy school uniforms online on the school website, external distributors and even Facebook buy-sell-swap groups (just search your school’s name). Some places even offer online fittings, which saves on making appointments or getting your kids to get their kit off in dressing rooms.

Over the years, I’ve learned some schools are not as strict about uniforms as others, which means if you’re buying ‘navy woollen shorts’, for example, you don’t have to purchase the school-recommended brand, so have the flexibility to buy elsewhere if you want. Good places are discount chain stores – like Best & Less – which are often also available online.

Whichever you choose, just ensure you get the right pieces for the right seasons and sports. Because no child likes to rock up in the wrong gear, and you will pretty much never be forgiven. (My sister is still traumatised from when mum, new to Australia, sent her to school in sandals and socks, with the winter beret on her head.) 

Watch: Things parents never say on school holidays. Post continues after video.

My other tip is to make a deal with another school family – I had one where our sons were in alternate years and of varying heights, so we would swap sizes with each other twice a year. 

School lunchboxes.

Lunchboxes are so more advanced these days than they were in my time (25 to 30 years ago). Back then, lunch was sent off in a brown paper bag, or, in my case, a Tupperware container that had been infused with lamb curry the previous week. 

But today you can find a variety of lunchboxes which can cool and keep heat – meaning you can fuel your child of ‘challenging palate’ (aka fussy eater) with a wider range of foods. 

That means less food wastage, and hopefully a more satisfied child at the end of the day. And as anyone who’s ever done a school pick up knows, a kid not on the brink of ‘starvation’ at 3pm is something to celebrate.

It’s also worth the investment to find a lunchbox which is easy for your child to open and close (trust me, this is a go-to excuse for recess and lunch not being eaten, so eliminate that fib immediately), and for you to clean any fiddly bits. It will make it easier on both of you during the term.

Technology at school.

Most parents accept these days that technology is part of school life, as lessons and vital information are often accessed via a school’s online portal.

Gallery: How much does it cost to homeschool your child? (Espresso)

a person sitting at a table using a laptop computer: A recent survey from Varsity Tutors found that 47% of parents have considered homeschooling their children in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you plan to pull your child from school, even if it’s just for the duration of the pandemic, you should know that it comes with a variety of costs.

But there are other ways that technology can make school life much easier for the whole family, from homework to communication – as long as you find the right service provider.

For example, Optus have a range of solutions to get your family set up and ready for the new year as the kids go back to school.

Kids in primary years are often not required to bring laptops to school, but are usually expected to have access to a tablet. Optus has school-suitable tablets, which can be paid off over time, interest-free with OptusPay. That means there’s no disadvantage if you don’t want to buy your tablet outright, and pay all of the cost upfront. 

They also pride themselves on offering the best 5G value in market with their 5G Phone Price Match Guarantee (no, not just the most expensive smartphone – Optus has child-friendly options), which can be paid in instalments with OptusPay when you buy with an Optus plan. The fast, secure and reliable network will make communication with your kids  – “You’re late to pick me up from tennis even though I told you the wrong time” – a breeze. 

Other things to look into when it comes to tech is the Optus Family Mobile Plan (where you can all be connected on different devices and share a massive 250Gb of data across 4 SIMs). The Optus Family Mobile Plan includes a subscription to McAfee® Safe Family App at no additional cost (usually $8.99/mth) to allow parents to manage their kids’ device usage & develop positive online habits. Optus also offers a First Phone Experience for parents setting their kids’ up with their first phone, providing a First Phone Licence and a First Phone Agreement to help empower kids to use their phone responsibly. 

As always, terms and conditions apply. Check the Optus website for full offer and coverage details.

School stationery.

If you’re anything like me, you find new stationary …exciting. 

So. Much. Potential. Image: Getty.

Sure, you probably have the recommended list on the school’s website, but that’s just a suggestion, isn’t it? There’s nothing to stop you from buying your child the prettiest, scented, sleekest tools for their classwork, is there?

Except your budget, of course.

School list stationery may seem expensive, but the teachers have usually invested time in developing stationery lists that are cost effective and good value for money – so sticking to them is rather useful. I find going “off-list” is too hard (emotionally) and I end up spending more than I need to.

The one thing I will point out though is that the school list is usually for the full year, so it can be of further cost minimisation to buy per semester instead, and spread out the pain to your bank account over the year.

The other option is to use leftover stationery from last year…and really, after a few weeks of heavy usage, it all looks the same!

Meet the new teacher.

My son has anaphylaxis to a number of foods, so I always found it useful to go through his allergy plan with a new teacher. It’s reassuring for them, too, and saves time with concerns during the year.

I’ve also found, especially in the junior years, introducing yourself to your child’s new teacher can help let them know you are open to communication about your child, or can be called upon for helping in the classroom and volunteering for excursions.

Or not. 

But a quick face-to-face greeting is a great way to start off on the right foot.

Give your kids the ‘back to school talk’.

This talk is the most important step in back to school prep, in my opinion.

The ‘back to school talk’ is something I give my child every year as he begins with a new class. There are often kids from other schools entering his grade, and it’s important as a parent to remind him of the behaviour I expect of him, which includes kindness, inclusion, and integrity.

There’s also the need to highlight responsibility – being responsible for your time, your commitments, and your belongings. 

It’s a necessary talk no matter your child’s age, to set the tone for a successful school year.