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ULTIMATE Back-to-School Checklist 2023

“the start is half the battle”
"Tús maith leath na hoibre"
["the start is half the battle"... because I knew you wouldn't translate it😂]
tj headshot
CEO of Breakthrough Maths

Table of Contents


Whether you like it or not, the back-to-school season is almost upon us. It’s undeniably one of the most chaotic times of the year for all students and families. To ease the stress a bit, we present you with the ULTIMATE back-to-school checklist for September 2023. We’ve also got a handy SCHOOL CALENDAR for you, to keep track of all the important dates.


School uniforms are enforced at almost every school in the country. They serve a purpose, but they are also incredibly expensive, and with all the other expenses that accrue in the back-to-school period, it can be a huge burden on many families to part with upwards of €50 for a jacket that doesn’t even have a hood.

That said, there are ways and means of reducing costs when it comes to school uniforms:

  • Buy shirts, polos, trousers, socks, tights, and shoes at budget-friendly outlets like Penneys, Tesco, or Dunnes – no child needs a Hugo Boss shirt or shoes of Italian leather! 
  • Ring the school to find out if any ex-students donated their uniform, and if not, try your luck at nearby charity shops
  • Online marketplaces and websites like schooldays.ie, boards.ie, Facebook Marketplace, DoneDeal, and Depop can also be a good shout for sourcing second-hand uniforms

We also suggest that students who may have graduated or moved schools donate their old uniforms rather than dump them. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but it can make a huge difference for people in the run-up to back to school! 


Most primary and secondary schools will release a book list ahead of the back-to-school shopping season. 

Depending on the school, this list could be extensive or limited to a couple of textbooks with the rest available to rent from the school. Either way, we suggest printing out your child(ren)’s booklist(s) so that you can start making a dent in it before the rush in late August and make sure your child has everything they need this back-to-school season.

Here are some of the most popular websites for buying school books:

These websites are reliable. They all do home delivery, and some even wrap the books and label them for you. Buying new also means you will get access to ebooks if the textbook in question has one. 

However, new school books are not cheap, and oftentimes, they’re only relevant to students for two or three years at most. If you can source school books secondhand, you could save upwards of half the cost.

We recommend checking with the school, your local second-hand bookshops and charity shops, as well as websites like those mentioned for uniforms. 

And again, rather than lighting the bonfire with your old textbooks, donate them! 

Exam Papers & Log Tables (Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert)

Exam papers can’t be bought secondhand, because they’re updated every year and for most subjects, you do need to write directly on the script.

Plus, when it comes to exam prep, you don’t want to cut any corners.

For subjects like Higher Level Leaving Cert Maths, we would even recommend investing in two sets of exam papers. The more practice you can get, the better!

Log tables are very inexpensive – they’re about €4 in most bookshops, and familiarising yourself with them is invaluable. Plus, it should do you for your entire secondary school career!

Schoolbags & Stationery

Schoolbags are a point of contention in many Irish households. Kids want whatever is new and trendy (and often, totally impractical), and parents want to cut costs and hold off on the new bag until the straps of the current one give altogether.

But, for the more studious secondary school students, a bag with good back support and space is very important. Some students may even benefit from the addition of an inexpensive tote bag to carry their lunchbox and pencil case, or tracksuit for PE days.

As far as stationery goes, it depends heavily on what’s on the booklist and what the school is willing to provide, as well as subject choice. Here is a detailed list of what stationery your child is most likely to need for going back to school:

Primary Secondary
– Pencils (No.2 or HB)
– Eraser/Rubber
– Pencil sharpener
– Ballpoint pens (for older children)
– Crayons
– Copybooks (lined and squared)
– Display folders, envelope folders, or scrapbook
– Pens, pencils, etc.
– Highlighters
– Maths set (school may provide)
– Calculator (school may specify type)
– Lever arch folders (you can get these second-hand!)
– Dividers and poly pockets
– Refill notepads
– Softback and hardback copies (for homework and notes)
– Index cards and sticky notes (helpful for study)
Most primary schools will provide a glue stick and scissors for younger children, and many secondary schools will have supplies like an Art pack and Home Ec apron. If not, they’ll be on the booklist, and it will be up to you to buy according to specifications. 

Lunchboxes & Water Bottles 

For many students, the school canteen or local shop is a quick and easy place to grab a bite to eat between classes.

But, for most families, a packed lunch is the most cost-effective way of making sure your child is nourished (and hydrated!)

We’re no nutritionists, but at Breakthrough Maths, all of our staff and tutors agree that having balanced and nutritious meals, and lots and lots of water, really enhances academic performance and keeps energy levels in check.

A sturdy lunchbox, with separate compartments for different foods, is always a good shout, but the most important thing is a big, refillable water bottle. Never underestimate the importance of drinking 2 litres a day!

Technology,  Subscriptions, & Apps

Technology has become much more integrated into education ever since the pandemic. During Lockdown, laptops and tablets replaced notebooks and copies, and Zoom classes took the place of in-person instruction, and even though we have somewhat returned to normal, it is clear that the future of learning is technology.

Having a laptop, tablet, or smartphone at home gives your child access to endless resources that can dramatically improve their learning and results. 

Take Breakthrough Maths as an example – we conduct live maths grinds online with 600+ point tutors, and see an average grade increase of 16% in our students.

We also post weekly YouTube videos where our top-notch tutors break down the toughest exam questions for every topic on the syllabus:

  • Tuesday: Junior Cycle Higher and Ordinary Level
  • Wednesday: Leaving Cert Ordinary Level
  • Thursday: Leaving Cert Higher Level

We will also be posting study tips on our TikTok and YouTube shorts every week – subscribe and stay tuned!

Psst! If you haven’t already, register your interest for September and take a FREE Trial to see what it’s all about!

But we’re not the only ones – there are literally MILLIONS of online educational resources out there for every subject and learning style you can think of!

That said, it is important to keep a close eye on the web activities of younger children. We recommend having a look into parental controls and cybersecurity features to keep your children safe, as well as productivity apps and website and social media blockers to make sure the kids aren’t on Instagram when they’re supposed to be doing homework.

Study Space & After School Routine

The importance of creating a set study space is often underestimated by parents, especially those who are sending a child to secondary school for the first time.

But even for primary schoolchildren, creating the habit early on sets them up for a more successful academic career in later years.

A set study space can greatly contribute to a student’s academic success and overall learning experience. It leads to improved organization, focus, and productivity, as well as the establishment of clear boundaries between study and leisure time.

And by set study space, we don’t mean a busy kitchen, the couch in front of the TV, or the bed. Your child’s study space needs to be somewhere relatively quiet, away from distraction, with everything they need to get their homework and study done as efficiently as possible.

  • If your child doesn’t have a desk in their bedroom, this can be as simple as a fold-out table in a quiet room in the house and a box to keep folders, notes, and other materials in.
  • Alternatively, if you have a particularly busy household, you can sign your child up for homework club or after-school study, which is offered in most secondary schools, so that they can get their work done in peace and quiet in a controlled environment. This can also be useful to students who have a hard time avoiding distractions. They can get everything done much more efficiently within the walls of the school building, and as soon as they leave, the day is theirs!
  • For older students, some may find libraries, cafés, and college campuses good places to do their work. So long as there are limited distractions and adequate desk space, many places can function as a set study space!

However, consistency is just as important as the space itself. Having a dedicated study space helps build a psychological connection between that space and the act of studying. When students consistently study in the same space, their brain associates it with focus and productivity, making it easier to get into the study mindset.

Furthermore, creating an after-school routine, combined with the set study space, means your child is more likely to get their work out of the way as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Try encouraging your children to start their schoolwork 30 minutes after arriving home, as this will give them a chance to grab a snack, change their clothes, and recharge for a bit before hitting the books, while still forcing them to get it out of the way early in the evening!

Calendar, Planner & Timetable

Having a planner or calendar is essential to keeping on top of everything when it comes to back-to-school time. 

Some people prefer to chuck everything into Google Calendar, but there’s no harm in having a wall calendar somewhere central in your home so that everyone is up to speed on the craic.

We have created a PDF Version of the 2023-2024 School Year Calendar, complete with all of the important dates for the upcoming academic year, as well as reminders about events like school tours, communions, etc. that vary from school to school!

Download it, print it out, and stick it up on your fridge before the kids go back-to-school to avoid any clashes with your well-deserved hair appointments!

We also recommend getting a copy of your child’s class schedule or timetable, as well as making one for their after-school activities. Check out a sample below:

After school planner

It’s a simple and effective way of maintaining the school-life balance AND making sure no child gets left behind!


The back-to-school season is a new experience every single year, so it would be impossible for us to put absolutely everything you need into one blog post. That said, if you do follow our list, you can be sure you’ve set your child up for a very successful year.

Stay tuned for more helpful tips throughout the school year!

T.J – CEO of Breakthrough Maths.

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