Back To School

Shopping for school stationery is one of the great joys of a new academic year. We will take a look at our back to school stationery shopping list to make sure you have all the essentials when your first lesson begins – not forgetting the best school pens, of course.

Why is it important to organise stationery?

It’s always important to have the right tools of the trade in any discipline, and school is no exception. Good pencils and rubbers for draft work, along with good school ink pens for final drafts, mean you always have the stationery supplies you need and can focus on doing your work with good, clear handwriting.

What stationery do I need for secondary school?

Here’s our stationery list for school – you might need extra back to school stationery for certain subjects, but this is a good general purpose starting point when shopping for school stationery.


A trusty pencil case keeps all your school stationery in one place, but make sure it’s a good size so you’re not rummaging around in class, and so everything actually fits.

For example, if you want a 30cm ruler to fit, you’ll need an extra long pencil case. Alternatively, get a smaller or folding ruler and you can get away with a pencil case around 20cm long.


Ballpoint pens are handy for writing quick notes, with fast-drying ink. Blue pens are common for school work, but it’s worth having a black ballpoint pen as a backup or alternative option too.

You can get ballpoint pens in all kinds of colours so, if your school allows it, you might like to have red, green and other colours on hand to add variety to your work and aid your memory of certain notes.


A good school fountain pen can help your essays and assessed work to stand out, by allowing you to put some penmanship into your writing.

School fountain pens often use cartridge ink, which is convenient to carry as spares and is not difficult to change, even in the middle of a class.


Highlighters come in a variety of colours including neon yellow, pink, green and blue, and are used to mark blocks of text in a bright colour so that they stand out.

The Staedtler Textsurfer Classic Highlighter has a wedge cut nib for faster highlighting and can be ordered in eight different colours so you can colour-code your emphasis.

Useful for remembering significant sections in your own school notes and in textbooks – just don’t use them in a textbook you need to return, unless you have permission from the school!


HB pencils are medium hardness and the traditional ‘school pencil’ strength. For art subjects, B-grade pencils are softer for shading, while H-grade pencils are harder for detail work and technical drawing.

Remember, ‘H’ stands for ‘Hard’ and ‘B’ stands for ‘Black’, because the softer lead gives a darker colour in use – once you know this, it can help you to choose your pencils.

There are also F pencils. ‘F’ stands for ‘Firm’ and is a slightly harder lead similar to HB. These are less common but some users may find F pencils more comfortable to use.

The Staedtler Noris graphite pencil is the iconic yellow and black HB pencil we all associate with school days, and can also be ordered in B, 2B, H and 2H grades.


It’s easy to get distracted by shopping for school pens, but don’t forget the other items and accessories you need in your pencil case.

A rubber and pencil sharpener can keep your pencil drafts on point, while a ruler ensures your lines stay on the straight and narrow – consider a folding ruler for smaller pencil cases.

Propelling pencils are a popular option too, as they don’t need sharpening and can usually store spare lead in the barrel of the body.

Do I need additional supplies for different subjects?

Certain subjects might need different stationery supplies, for example:


Maths stationery sets usually include additional tools like a protractor to measure curved angles, set squares for 30-degree and 45-degree triangles, and a pair of compasses to draw circles.

Your pair of compasses – often just called ‘a compass’ by many people – needs to fit your pencil, so consider having a spare standard HB pencil if you draw a lot of circles.


You’re more likely to find your handwriting assessed in English than in other lessons, as it’s generally held that handwriting is an important part of story-writing and written language.

Because of this, you might want to spend a little extra on a really good quality fountain pen to use in English, rather than reaching for a disposable ballpoint when you have a long essay to compose.


Science and technology subjects involve more technical drawing, so have some harder H-grade pencils if you want finer lines, or an F pencil which offers the best of both worlds – a medium grade similar to HB, but without wearing down so quickly.

For experiment diagrams, you might also want to buy a scientific stencil, which includes all the common symbols and equipment outlines at the right size, and can save a lot of time and effort.