When I was a kid I used to love the last week of the summer holidays before school begun. Fully refreshed from a summer in France, I’d sharpen my pencils, colour co-ordinate my highlighters and polish my new school shoes like the little geek that I was. The autumn term stretched out ahead of me with all the promise of a brand new exercise book, its pages pristine and fresh.
Of course, the reality was often a bit of a let-down. It didn’t take long for homework, rainy walks to school and lost pencil sharpeners to dampen my eager spirits. Still, that last week of the school holidays was always one to savour.
Now I’m a mum of two – with one child about to enter her third year in primary school – I sort of feel the same. At this point in the holidays we’re very much on wind-down, but I have no doubt that come the end of August I’ll be feeling just as excited as my six year old about the thought of her going back to school.
This summer M&S is celebrating helping families get ready for back to school for over a century. It’s funny to think how the whole back to school thing has changed over the years. While some things are firmly the same (the excitement of new school shoes, the satisfaction of a blank exercise book) other things have changed beyond all recognition.
This is me a few weeks into the new school term as a Year 4 pupil. I’m nine years old in this picture and my sister’s five. What you can’t see is the Take That necklace I’m sporting. Still – note the trendy 90s turtleneck!
There are some key differences between my own back to school days and my daughter’s. The most obvious one is uniform – or my lack of it. When I went to school in Bristol in the 90s uniform wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t until I got to secondary school that I had to don a pair of black trousers and a rather fetching royal blue jumper. When I tell my six year old this she can’t believe it. “Poor you Mummy, you didn’t get to wear uniform?!” Funnily enough she loves wearing uniform – even the annoying tie – and tells me it makes her feel “smart and grown-up”.
Luckily for her, the M&S school uniform offering manages to strike that delicate balance between comfort and durability. The shirts, for example, are made with a special finish to make stains disappear more easily, while the trousers feature adjustable hems that can be altered without a needle and thread. I also love the crease-free shirts and the fact I don’t need to iron them (I have far better things to do on a Sunday evening than stand in front of an ironing board).
Another big difference between my daughter’s school days and my own is the shoes. I could wear any shoes I liked partly because I didn’t have a uniform to conform to but also because, unlike my daughter, I didn’t need insoles to support little hypermobile feet.
It’s refreshing to finally find a pair of girl’s school shoes that nail the balance between appealing to my six year old girl who loves a bit of pretty (i.e. patent leather) and sturdy enough to withstand plenty of running around and puddle jumping. They have a lovely chunky grip-tastic sole and nice supportive high backs which mean her insoles easily fit inside. High five to M&S for this design.
When I was little I had a huge thing about wearing skirts and dresses. In fact, it was such a “thing” that the only trousers I would happily wear were a pair of pink corduroy dungarees. My mum still likes to remind of this fact today. Frog is similar. She’s much happier in skirts and pinafores, which makes the M&S range so great. There are plenty of different designs to choose from and, luckily for us, many of the skirts feature adjustable waistbands to fit her skinny frame.
As you can see from these photos, Frog was incredibly reluctant to model her new uniform…
While I was happy to let her carry on with her Instagram poses, I also wanted to check the uniform could withstand the paces she was bound to put it through at school. Whether it’s the 90s or today, nothing much changes when it comes to the playground, I reckon.
I grew up in Bristol and very much led the city-slicker lifestyle. This is another difference between my back to school days and my daughter’s. She’s growing up in a rural setting, in a village in Devon. So it’s nice to see the M&S uniform’s hardy enough to put up with country life too.
Ultimately though, nothing much has changed since 1992 and 2016: when asked early on in the summer holidays if she’s looking forward to going back to school this is the face I got:
No amount of amazing school uniform is going to make the classroom seem appealing before September, I guess.
Thanks to M&S for working with me on this post. For more information about how I work with brands check out my Work With Me page.