PTA - your thoughts on ours please!

(22 Posts)

I've been on the pta for my daughters primary for just over a year. It's a very small but friendly bunch for a school of 200. It feels like it's getting a bit stuck though, no one new has come along. We started a closed facebook group, to try and get more people involved, somewhere to voice ideas and try to reach more of the parents.
So, it actually worked, and we had some new people along. Only problem was that the main person in the group wasn't there, and the next person along can be a bit stuck in the "well, this is how it's always been" way of thinking. The new parents made some quite valid points, which myself and another mum agree with.
So before next weeks meeting, can I ask your opinion on some points that were raised?
The summer and Christmas fairs are held on a friday after school - this is because the teachers aren't keen to come in at the weekend to help. We are short on helpers -We think being a weekend more parents would be free to help as not everyone can after school.
Christmas fair is a packed nightmare - suggested that being on a sunday would spread the people about better. Do you have yours after school or at the weekend?
The head teacher has the final say on what we do, from when/what is held, to what the money we raise is spent on. At present he wants to spend it on a maths system (numicon). It was suggested, and some of us quite agree, that something more fun for the children, like new equipment for the playground, would be a better spend.Who decides what the money raised is spent on at your school?
Alot of the time we have been told we can't do something because of health and safety- no bouncy castle, smashing crockery stand - is this the case where you are?
I want to help with freshening it up, getting a few more people involved, so the parents feel we are doing something for them, rather than just some mystery group that keeps asking for cakes and filled jam jars! But I need to not tread on too many toes either!
TIA

Leeds2 Wed 06-Mar-13 16:56:17

At my DD's primary, the Christmas and Summer fairs were always held on Saturday, I think so that the events could be held over a longer period of time. Some teachers came to help, some didn't, but it certainly wasn't compulsory for them to attend!
The Head always had to give her seal of approval to an event (the only one I can recall her vetoing was a car boot sale), and the date on which it was held (in case it clashed with a school event). The money, however, was held in a PTA bank account, and it was up to the parents what it was spent on. Members of staff would make requests for things for their classrooms, or the Head would request money for bigger, whole school items. The purchase of these things were discussed at the meetings, and accepted or rejected according to the vote of those at the meeting. Our committee were adamant that they would not buy things which they felt the school should provide, but wanted instead to provide the "extras." So, a lot was spent on climbing equipment for the playground, I also remember a digital camera and kit for the football team being approved. I remember a request for textbooks was rejected, but purchase of new books for the library approved.
I don't remember ever having a smashing crockery stand, but there was definitely a bouncy castle. My DD is at senior school now, and they have a bouncy castle at their summer event too1

Looiloo79 Wed 06-Mar-13 17:10:37

Sounds similar to the PTA I was secretary on. School fairs were held on Fridays after school and were always manic. Too many people I one space at one time - especially Xmas fair as cold weather outside. Summer fairs were always very good and were for both adults and children.

Agree about the funds - they should be for things that school doesn't provide ie football kits, playground activities, year 6 leaver presents. As a parent donating money I was always happy to know the children were getting additional extras rather than books that school should provide.

Always keep recruiting new parents as ours dwindled down that it couldn't be run for a short while. We found that too many teachers were on the committee making the decisions and not enough parents.

mimbleandlittlemy Wed 06-Mar-13 17:12:40

Our Christmas/Summer fairs are always on Saturdays and teachers attend if they don't have anything better to do.

As far as spending money is concerned the Head gives the PTA a list of what they want and it is voted for at the AGM but the PTA always gives money to each teacher to buy little bits and pieces for their classroom, contributes to the coach cost for a trip per class each year and buys the school a large amount of books. After that it's down to the parents' preferred projects out of the head's bet ones.

We do have a bouncy castle but we hire it in with the attendants so it is always correctly manned by the company and we then split the profits on it with them if that helps.

You see, that's something I and another mum think- it should be for extras. I know it also helps with subbing school trips and other things. Understand the head needs to check events don't clash, apparently he is the chairman of the pta too. We talk and agree on stuff, but it doesn't have a formal vote as such., it's a case of he wants to spend the money on _ _ _ ,and that's what it's spent on.He never comes to meetings.

We varied the rimes - the teachers didn't like the weekend events, but at least a lot more parents were able to help because their partners were there to child mind.

I think the head has a bit too much of a role. We would ask our school for a wish list - it would be things that would enrich the school and not be anything the school would need as a matter of course - new playground equipment, Christmas panto, sponsor some outside org to do a workshop.

I think the key is also to engage the class reps - they should be involved and be the key to getting feedback and ideas.

Surely, you are also a member of the PA-UK org and have insurance covered there?

TBH the head sounds like a complete control freak

PTA org

I believe you are correct there, it'sjustafleshwound. I've not been there long and don't know the full ins and outs of how things work. Think it's time things were explained better rather than be just told yes or no. It's a good well run school, but yes, he needs to let go a little!

Exactly my thoughts re the weekend too.

redskyatnight Wed 06-Mar-13 18:25:33

I think the timing of events depends on the type of parents you have. We have few parents will to help (at any time) so we are highly dependent on staff to help out.
Both Christmas and summer fairs take place on Fridays. The summer fair takes place after sports day so we get a good turn out. Christmas fair has a poor turnout and we will probably not do next year. Any events organised for Saturdays get a small handful of people.

As regards what the school wants, we get a wishlist from school but decide from that list. We generally opt for something "enriching" and also something visible e.g. recently we've paid for playground equipment, also pay for visitors to come into school (e.g. drama groups, story teller).

Startail Wed 06-Mar-13 20:28:31

Summer fair weekend Christmas fair after school. You want darkness and fairy lights. Santa's grotto wouldn't work with the sun streaming in.

Teacher turn out is pretty grotty regardless as they commute and have DCs of their own.

Less than 50% of our pupils live in the village, so weekend turn out is a bit patchy, I can't see anything like the turn out for a day time xmas fair.

Pester power is your major weapon. Mummy Mummy I have to go, I'm dancing round a maypole, helping on the class stall, you must see the tree in our class i helped decorate it, buy back my stupid filled jar.

I agree about the maths thing rather than fun. Just before I joined we ended up funding a computer lease. This might have been an extra when it was first discussed, but three years later it definitely felt like mainstream teaching budget.

I was much happier with funding climbing frames and drama workshops.

Good luck OP and you may one day escape, however I'm still doing on publicity jobs and my two are both at senior school wink

SavoyCabbage Wed 06-Mar-13 20:48:55

We don't have a Christmas fair but the summer one is a massive one. It is organised and run by the parents but the teachers all come. I dont suppose they all stay for the whole day. It makes a lot of money though.

All the parents are pretty much expected to do a two hour shift on a stall. A paper plate is sent home two days before the fete so you can make a cake and send it in.

The older and younger classes are buddied up and they run a stall together without adult help. So guess the name of the bear,my hat type of thing. There will be a couple of year fives and a couple of year ones running that for an hour together.

Somebody rings businesses and gets raffle prizes. Then the names of the businesses are printed on the back of the weekly newsletter every week.

startail my eldest is year one and the youngest starts in 2015 - I have years to go being the default face painter!
Ok, so this is my thoughts on some points to raise.
I think we need to have a chat on how we decide what to spend the money on - not just the maths but some put towards new play equipment too. This is something visual that parents can see the money is spent on.
We hold the summer fair outdoors, christmas one inside. The christmas one is a nightmare for space - maybe this should be a weekend one.
We need the children more involved - this is something we talked about last year.
An item wish for each class, decided by the children.
Find out more regarding insurance/ bouncy castle - ask why we can't have one if insurance in place.
Thanks everyone for your ideas, it's been really helpful.

Cake sales - money goes directly to the year group to be spent on resources the year actually needs
Is there really a need for a summer and winter fair? If Christmas is a bind sometimes something smaller does just as well as the large fair

Good point. Our cake sales usually have a good response, the school council have only recently done one, so we are selling hot cros buns and tea with an easter egg raffle instead. we do two discos (summer and winter) too. I feel there's scope for more ideas, someone suggested a family fun day one sunday. I've been googling playground equipment - think we could do with some new playground markings and some musical outdoor bits. Might be able to apply for some funding too.

cassgate Thu 07-Mar-13 09:43:25

Our PTA is just getting off the ground again due to a number of years of no interest from parents. The Head and teachers have kept it going during those years but we now have a small group of parents who are interested in moving it forward.

We do the usual xmas and summer fetes. We did a survey at the last parents evening asking when parents and children would like fetes to take place either fridays after school or weekends. The consensus was that the xmas fete being indoors should run on a friday after school (captive audience) and the summer fete being outdoors would be better at the weekend saturday in particular. We also surveyed the parents on other fund raising ideas that they might like - pamper evenings, race nights etc but these were not very popular so we are not bothering instead concentrating on the two big fetes and some smaller things throughout the year. One thing that did go down well with the children was a penny war. Each class is given a glass jar and are asked to bring in loose change to fill up the jar. The competition runs for a month and at the end the class with the most money in its jar wins a prize. We are a 1 intake primary school but raised over £300 from this.

We have just agreed a spend of £7000 on new playground equipment. That is for a big trail with climbing equipment and astro turf. We are a small school and it took 5 years to raise that money. The head has now asked if we could fund raise to buy ipads for the school at a cost of £9000. Personally, I would prefer the money to go on smaller less expensive items as at least that way the parents can see what the funds are being spent on without it taking years. We have agreed that funds should be set aside to subsidise school trips. Last year a school trip was cancelled due to lack of contributions and a lot of parents were upset about it.

Sarah

The jar idea sounds good, cassgate. I've been looking up other school ptas online - I think it can be easy to get stuck doing the same old thing and become blinkered to new ideas. I started to look up play equipment, we have a climbing trail thing. Looked at some new playground markings ( I don't think they have any at present) and some of those musical big chime things and drums. It might be an idea to survey the parents, I think.

HumphreyCobbler Thu 07-Mar-13 10:08:29

Numicon is brilliant though. And really expensive. What is the school budget doesn't stretch this far? It may have a really expensive teaching staff (as happened in my old school) so there is not enough money for essentials.

I think a wishlist from the school that the PTFA choose from is a good idea. But as a parent I would prioritise enough computers/maths equipment/extra books over playground stuff. Hopefully there would be enough money for all these things but this is not always the case.

That's something we need to find out, I know they have enought numicon for the juniors, but need some for the infants. The playground markings are around £300- 400 each, hopefully we could do a few of these alongside the numicon.

kw13 Thu 07-Mar-13 12:02:19

Just wanted to add a plea for fetes/events to be held at weekends - these events aren't only for current parents/children. They are a great way to interact with your local community + encourage new prospective parents to come along and see what your school is like and how fab it is.

RedPencils Thu 07-Mar-13 12:04:50

The summer and Christmas fairs - ours at at the weekend, and both are all day events. We just wouldn't get the numbers we need to make enough £££ after school. Teachers don't usually get involved, but we also manage to rope in enough parents, grapndparents etc tohelp.

What we buy - PTA money is kept seperate from school money. Head and other teachers request money and we have final say. We rarely say no. We buy extras which will benefit all the pupils, playground equipment, Yr6 leavers party etc. When something is funded, we try to make a big splash in newsletters and on noticeboards, so that parents know what we are spending money on. We feel that we shouldn't have to buy essential school equipment although we have recently spent lots on the school library.

Health and Safety - Bouncy Castle hire should come with its own public liability insurance?

Getting other people involved - no idea, we have had 1 new person join in the past two years. This year we are going to try and target new parents at reception open day.

Have a look at things like Eco Kids, phone recycling, easyfundraising - good ways of raising money without having to keeping asking for money from the parents.

emlu67 Thu 07-Mar-13 21:16:52

Christmas and Easter fairs - ours are both after school and absolutely manic. Offered to run a stall once and never again - put on the tombola five minutes before it started (had been there an hour beforehand but nobody wanted to give me anything to do) and once on the allocated stall happened to notice no tombola items had tickets on them! This is quite typical of our PTA and the sort of thing that puts people off helping.

We have to pick up the children's bags and coats as well before we attend so have to carry them around too, it is far too hot and crowded. Parents should love it but hate it, it would be much better on a weekend.

The Y6 children run a similar event in the summer on a weekend and it does very well and is open to all. A great chance for prospective parents to come and have a look around too.

Also - watch the money. Parents do like to have an idea of what PTA funds are being spent on. A number of parents at our school went on an expensive Christmas night out one year to raise funds but many of the cheques were never cashed. Nine months later someone found them by which time they were out of date and they had to ask everyone for the money again. The venue had been paid for well in advance, how does the fact they have not had most of the money in to pay for it get overlooked? I would join but really this scares me.

OP You sound like a breath of fresh air - good luck and recruit as many parents as you can!

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