Back to school tips

Our top tips for starting back at school after the school holidays.

Getting ready for the first day

  • If your child is new to the school, visit the school grounds over the holidays to help them get familiar with their new surroundings.
  • Walking, scooting or cycling to school is a great start to the day. Practice the safest route to school over the holidays – don’t forget a helmet if they’re on wheels.
  • It’s easy to let bedtimes slip during the school holidays. Get your child back into their regular bedtime routine a few days before school starts so they’re rested and ready.
  • If your child is anxious about their first day, make time to talk to them about their worries. Ask them how they feel and really listen to what they say, rather than telling them not to worry.
  • Help your child get their clothes, sun hat, shoes, lunch and backpack ready the night before school starts to reduce stress in the morning.
  • Make sure you’ve labelled your child’s lunchbox, drink bottle, sun hat and clothing.

Enrolling and starting your child at primary school

How to support anxious children – The Parenting Place website

Road safety advice for families – NZTA website

Backpack

  • Backpacks should no wider than your child’s chest, and as light as possible.
  • Straps should be shortened until the bottom of the bag is just above the child’s waist.
  • Wide, padded, adjustable shoulder straps help absorb the load – “S” shaped shoulder straps are best.
  • Chest and/or waist straps help distribute the weight of their bag further.
  • Encourage your child to use lockers at school to store stuff they’re not using – only carry what they need in their bag each day.
  • Pack the heaviest items at the base of the bag, closest to your child’s back.
  • Remind your child to use both shoulder straps – don’t wear the bag over one shoulder.

Lunchbox food

  • A healthy lunch will give your child energy to last the day, keep them happy, and help them concentrate.
  • Kids are often in a rush to finish lunch so they can play, so they’re more likely to eat a lunch that is quick and easy to eat.
  • A healthy lunchbox should include a mix of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and protein (such as nuts, seeds, eggs, meat and fish).
  • High-sugar or high-fat treats for lunch (biscuits, chippies, juice etc) can make it hard for your child to concentrate later in the day.
  • If you can get your child to help pack their lunchbox, they’re more likely to eat it.
  • Keeping hydrated is important for concentration too – water is always best.
  • Half-fill the drink bottle with water, put it in the freezer overnight and then top up with water from the tap in the morning – this will keep the water nice and cold all day.

Find out more about healthy lunchboxes – Fuelled4life website

More lunchbox suggestions – Kiwi Families website

Transport

  • Walking, scooting or cycling to school is a great start to the day.
  • Practice the safest route to school over the holidays – don’t forget a helmet if they’re on wheels.
  • If you live a long way from the closest school and there is no public transport, your child may be able to get a school bus.

Road safety advice for families – NZTA website

About school transport assistance

Stationery

  • Unless the school provides stationery, the school will have a list of stationery you need to buy for your child for the year.
  • Make sure you name their stationery items.
  • You don’t have to use book covering from the shop. Look online for ideas such as wrapping the books in plain paper and getting your child to decorate, or using pictures from magazines – this can be cheaper and a lot more fun.
  • Most stationery shops have deals on in the month before school starts, so it pays to shop around.

Uniform

  • Have the uniform ready to go the night before school starts to make the morning easier for you and your child.
  • If you’re struggling to cover the cost:
    • Ask your school if they have free or discounted second-hand uniforms.
    • Ask the school if they will let you spread payments for the uniform throughout the year.
    • Check out shops like The Warehouse and Postie Plus for non-branded uniform items (check with your school if these are okay).
    • Check out UniformMe or TradeMe.

Digital Devices

  • Some schools ask students to bring their own digital device.
  • Check prices at your school and/or local suppliers to find the best deal.
  • Ask about finance options to help spread the cost out over time.
  • Your school may have devices for students to borrow, or they may have a partnership with an organisation that can help.

Buying and using devices for school – NetSafe 

Sleep

  • Sleep is so important for a healthy, happy child.
  • Health experts recommend 9-11 hours sleep per night for school-age children, and 8-10 hours per night for teenagers.
  • It’s easy to let bedtimes slip during the school holidays. Get your child back into their regular bedtime routine a few days before school starts so they’re rested and ready.
  • For a better night’s sleep, no screen time one hour before bed – the light from the device sends a signal which makes it hard to fall asleep (even when the light is turned all the way down).

Find out more about how much sleep kids need and why it’s important – Ministry of Health                

Attendance

  • Your child must go to school every day under the Education Act 1989 (unless there is a good reason they can’t, like sickness, a health appointment, or a funeral or tangi).
  • Find out the school’s process for absences, so you know what to do and what happens when your child doesn’t attend school.
  • Regular attendance at school makes all the difference: a year 11 student, who only attends school half the time, has just a one-in-five chance of getting NCEA level 1. But a student who attends every day has about a 90 percent chance of achieving that qualification.
  • If your child is wagging school, talk to their teacher or the school principal before it becomes a serious problem. 

Making sure your child attends school

What to do if your child is ‘wagging’

Budgeting for school

  • Setting up a small automatic payment to the school every payday can make it much easier to pay any fees that come up during the year (check with your school first to make sure this is okay).
  • Schools can ask you to pay for activities or events that are not part of the school curriculum (including exam fees), but school donations (or voluntary contributions) are optional – you can pay all, some, or none of the suggested donation.
  • If you do make a donation to your school, you can get a third of the amount back through the Inland Revenue.
  • If you're having trouble paying fees for activities or events that are not part of the school curriculum, contact the school principal — you might be able to get help.

What families/whānau need to know about school donations and payments [PDF, 684KB]

Claiming a tax refund for donations – Inland Revenue

Getting help for the cost of school uniforms and stationery (including devices) – Work and Income

A list of things you may need to pay for – Citizens Advice Bureau

Where to go for free budgeting advice – Citizens Advice Bureau

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