PTA Constitutions, Committees - help with accountability requirements

(11 Posts)
member Sun 23-Mar-14 16:58:45

Our primary school has had a PTA for a number of years which had the same Chairperson from 2002 until their last child left the school in July 2013.

During the latter years of his tenure, committee members left & weren't replaced; after the chair left, the sole member of the committee left was the Treasurer.

I attended the few meetings that were held in the 18 months before the chair left (events were mainly organised via email with little in the way of new ideas & basically designed to require minimal input) & tried to raise the subject of what we were going to do when the Chair left. The only thing that came from that was re-naming to "Friends of " rather than PTA.

At the start of the school year, the Headteacher put Christmas Bazaar on the calendar dates but nothing was done till 3 weeks beforehand when the head asked any interested parents to come to a meeting to organise the Bazaar. A group of people attended & organised a successful bazaar.

We have had meetings since which are publicised via the school newsletter & a FB page (which I set up after that initial November meeting with qualified permission from the HT). In addition to the Bazaar, we have run school discos, a quiz night with food & have an easter egg hunt planned very soon.

The trouble is,we do not have any officers except for the aforementioned treasurer which worries me. The majority of the school community probably couldn't give a toss & will always see the PTA (in whatever guise) as cliquey money - grabbers despite meetings being open to all!

I have a copy of the 2002 constitution from the previous chair. It needs updating, not least because our name has changed. It states that there should be 4 officers & that these can be co-opted by the committee until the AGM. As I've said, we don't have a committee just a group of meeting regulars confused. I can't recall an AGM in the last couple of years. I've emailed the treasurer today & asked her if we have an external auditor - we don't.

So, we have a group who are enthusiastic to raise money/organise events. Some are more willing to generate ideas & bring those ideas to fruition ; some have made it clear they just want to follow directions (e.g) help on a stall. But it's not the same as setting up from scratch.

Do committee officers have to be Chair/secretary/treasurer or does anybody have a committee where the roles are called things like event co-ordinator, procurement officer ,admin officer?

Should the starting point for sorting out this whole policies & procedures thing be a re-drafting of the Constitution or voting for officer roles or setting a date for an AGM?

Sorry it's so long - don't want to be accused of drip feeding but would appreciate opinions from those who have experience on PTA committees.

Sunnymeg Sun 23-Mar-14 18:04:22

I would start by checking who the PTA has as their insurers. Hopefully they have one! I know a couple of the insurers provide copious information about how to run a PTA. However they also expect their recommendations to be followed and may seek evidence that they are if a claim has to be made.

The PTA I was a member of was a 'Friends Association' and as such anyone with a legitimate interest in the school could come along to meetings. This worked both ways as you could get a lot of helpers coming to a meeting, but you could get people voting for stupid ideas which then had to be followed through. We had a steering committee with Chair, Treasurer and Secretary and their respective deputies, who ensured that legal formalities were dealt with.

As a minimum. I would be looking to find out if proper minutes have been made and are available from meetings held in previous years and also whether the accounts have been assessed on a yearly basis and if so by whom and ensure that the assessor wasn't related to the treasurer or alternatively they were done by their best mate!. If the yearly income of the PTA is over £5000 there is a legal responsibility to become a registered charity. You may also wish to check the signing instructions for the Bank/Building Society account.

If you find any problems with the above then I would write to the Head and the Governors, to make them aware and then have a long hard think as to whether you want to be involved and consider how much of your time it may take to sort out. In my experience the Head is quite happy to receive support from the PTA, but won't want to get involved in the nitty gritty of sorting things out.

By the way, we had as a rule that committee members had to stand down when their last child at the school reached Year 6. This meant the parent was normally still around if any problems cropped up after the end of their tenure.

Best of luck wine

Sunnymeg Sun 23-Mar-14 18:14:09

PS It is good practise to have any money raised counted by two independent people on the school premises before the money is banked. It was a clause of our insurance policy that this was done, we were with PTA UK and we had to keep signed papers to prove that this had been done. wine wine wine thanks

member Sun 23-Mar-14 19:56:08

Thanks Sunnymeg I hope that we are insured by PTA - UK; I enquired as to whether we have membership which we do apparently, in the treasurer's name. I am not sure if this means we have insurance with them though! Good idea of that being the start point to inform any Constitution writing/practice.

The treasurer hasn't brought any of this stuff up but is ok for me to do so; I am slightly worried she'll end up thinking I'm criticising her!

Good idea to have the Chair standing down when last child starts year 6!

TeenAndTween Sun 23-Mar-14 19:56:51

You should really probably be members of PTA-UK they will provide your insurance. Cost this year is I think £107.

PTA-UK provides a proforma constitution where you basically fill in the blanks.

You should have an AGM yearly (at least every 15 months).

Minimum named roles are really a Chair/Secretary and a Treasurer.

It is a nightmare changing signatures on accounts after current people have left so really important to try to get them off accounts before their children all leave.

In your situation I would aim for the following:
- announce an AGM
- try to get someone willing to hold the key roles, and others to participate
- make it clear that committee will only do what they can, people won't be forced to do more than they want, and if no one wants to organise things then they just won't happen.
- adopt standard PTA-UK constitution
- get signatures on accounts sorted out
- for each event try to ensure at least 1 person is willing to take the lead

It doesn't need to be bureaucratic. Minutes don't need to be long. To keep rest of parents on-side keep them vaguely informed eg via newsletters, boards up at school etc.

member Sun 23-Mar-14 20:05:50

Cheers Teen&Tween; was struggling with it being a massive task for me, feel like everybody is caught up in the "kudos" of organising successful events (& a couple as being seen to have played a prominent role) & really not wanting to get bogged down in bureaucracy!

You don't need PTA-UK insurance for events and I'm not convinced it's necessary for any other reason. It's a bit of a rip-off imo and the info on constitutions etc is available freely elsewhere.

member Sun 23-Mar-14 20:26:57

Do you mean that the school's public liability insurance would cover the PTA if someone got food poisoning or received an injury if they were pillow fighting on a slippery pole at a PTA - run event for e.g. Beer?

TeenAndTween Sun 23-Mar-14 20:30:37

Beer you may be right.

But unless you insist all parents stay at discos, I wouldn't want to be personally liable to a parent suing me because their 10 year old decided to e.g. eat a glow stick.
And I definitely wouldn't want to be personally liable for accidents on bouncy castles etc. at summer fairs.

As far as I understand, if you don't have insurance a litigious parent can go direct for the committee.

MrAnchovy Sun 23-Mar-14 23:15:05

You don't need PTA-UK insurance for events and I'm not convinced it's necessary for any other reason.

WRONG

As far as I understand, if you don't have insurance a litigious parent can go direct for the committee.

CORRECT!

Unless the PTA has appropriate insurance, every committee member* potentially puts their family home and everything they own on the line for everything that the PTA does.

There have been changes in charity law which means the constitution (if you can find it) is probably out of date, adopt the PTA-UK one at the AGM (it's not perfect but it'll do).

If the PTA income is over £5,000 you need to register with the Charity Commission.

It is a condition of the PTA-UK insurance that the accounts are reported on by an Independent Examiner, read more about independent examination here. Note that in general independent examination is only required if income is over £25,000 but if you don't have a proper independent examination the insurance may not pay out in case of fraud. Note also that independent examination is not the same thing as an audit, you do not need an audit unless income is over £250,000 grin

.

* it's actually every trustee and everyone that acts as a trustee (a "shadow trustee"), but unless the constitution and delegation of responsibilities are very clear every committee member is potentially a shadow trustee.

MillyMollyMama Mon 24-Mar-14 07:38:37

PTA UK is definitely the best source of information. If the PTA has to be a registered charity, then you must submit all the information required to the Charities Comission annually. It can be helpful to try and get a committee member from each class but failing that anyone interested in being on the committee would be welcome.

As far as I am aware, the jobs of the three officers of the committee are obvious so I would not add procurement, admin (that is the Secretary anyway) or anything else. It needs to be kept simple as you are starting from a low point!

I was involved in regularising the Friends at my DDs infant school a few years ago. The Head was not one to be involved and, frankly she had enough work to do running the school, but we had a slot at parents' evenings to talk to new parents and the parents became interested because we published a list of purchasing goals, and previous successes, agreed with the school. Doing a standard PTA constitution is pretty easy but getting the other roles filled could be more difficult and will need a certain amount of persuasion. Appointments would need to be ratified at an AGM. Make PTA UK your first port of call though.

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