Primary doesn't have a PTA- is this bad?

(25 Posts)
KaleingBy Tue 15-Nov-16 14:18:58

I am a reception parent so only just getting the measure of the school.
We have parent governors but there's no ongoing Parent-teacher group.
Seems like the school puts the word out via newsletter if they have an idea e.g. charity bake sale next month and any parent volunteers apply to the school to make it happen, or not.
Is this lack of PTA a lucky escape, or what might the DC at the school or the school (staff, infrastructure) itself be missing out on? It's a state school by the way, if that matters.

Maquiladora Tue 15-Nov-16 14:22:52

Count your blessings smile
The Head probably manages their budget properly and just gives a shout out when extras are needed.

TheBitterBoy Tue 15-Nov-16 14:31:30

It depends - if the school is well funded enough that they don't need a PTA, all well and good, but our PTA pays for the little extras, so cake sales money goes to fund 'wet playtime' classroom toys for bad weather, we have a couple of lovely outdoor areas funded by PTA, football kit for our teams, and so on. Also all the activities you would usually expect at a primary school such as a Summer and Christmas fair are usually run by the PTA.

Clankboing Tue 15-Nov-16 14:39:08

One school that I used to work at gave up on PTAs. Only one parent (the chair) would turn up and all of the teachers. It was more like a Teachers Association. We still did fayres - just by ourselves.

golfbuggy Tue 15-Nov-16 14:42:22

It probably means the parents at your school don't want to be involved in fundraising. Why not start one?

At DD's school the lack of a PTA would mean no school discoes, no Christmas or summer fair, no Christmas tombola or Easter competition ...
And more importantly that the range of resources available for the DC would be much diminished (unless the school fills the gap by just asking for direct donations).

Hoppinggreen Tue 15-Nov-16 14:43:07

Ours doesn't, it's never been a problem as far as I know

notanetter Tue 15-Nov-16 14:47:04

A PTA isn't just (or even mainly) about fundraising. It's about communication; engagement; parent voice - building strong links between school and home.

Parent governors aren't on the governing body to 'represent' parents. They are there, like all the other governors, to hold the school leadership team to account. It's a completely separate area of responsibility.

No PTA wouldn't be an automatic dealbreaker for me; but it would make me ask questions about the level of parental engagement with the school generally.

OlennasWimple Tue 15-Nov-16 14:47:42

Hmmm, it depends. If it's in a naice area where in most families both parents work and do lots of activities that mean that no-one really has time to be on a committee but will happily write a cheque every now and again and will help run specific things like the summer fair, no problem. I'd be concerned, however, that it was an indication that parents weren't engaged in their children's education and that many of the children there wouldn't be supported - or equipped - to learn.

One question to ask is how the school consults with parents - in some schools the PTA is just a fundraising / activities organising arm, in others it's also the main liaison body for raising issues, ideas and concerns without always having to email the head and have a bilateral conversation.

PerspicaciaTick Tue 15-Nov-16 14:52:18

I would suspect that there has been a PTA in the past, but it collapsed due to lack of volunteers.

Parent Governors are a completely different role - nothing to do with funding raising.

chocomochi Tue 15-Nov-16 14:53:11

I know the schools who are underfunded need a PTA to help fundraise, but I would count your blessings too. Keeping a group going, getting parent volunteers, organising events, bake sales etc takes up a lot of time and effort.

GrinchyMcGrincherson Tue 15-Nov-16 15:00:37

Our PTA adds a lot to the school. 3 discos a year, a hugely popular Christmas market, a pantomime company coming into school twice a year and a chocolate bingo easter event. These are done every year.

They raise about £15k a year, sometimes more. It's a lot of money to be able to spend on extras. We have smart TVs in classrooms, a suite of iPads, lots of outdoor toys for the playgrounds and a few other things.

It's not essential but in my experience it can really help with the extras. The plus side of not having one is that they aren't going to be asked for money.

golfbuggy Tue 15-Nov-16 15:08:15

notanetter actually most PTAs are primarily about fundraising.

Your school may combine the "parent liaison" role but that's not the norm.

KaleingBy Tue 15-Nov-16 18:01:41

Thanks everyone, really appreciate your thoughts on this. As a bit of an antisocial and time-and cash-pressed person I feel relieved to feel no major obligation to get involved in extra stuff at the school.
Some of my friends with DC at other schools (with a more affluent intake) get stressed with the constant PTA pressure for their time and money.

I think the Head at our school is super on top of the budget. The school is in an economically deprived part of our city and has made good use of its pupil premium funding from what I can tell. They link into all the local schemes and opportunities and all the LA stuff so that is all great. So the School already provides more than you could expect a volunteer parent to find out about and put the school up for IYSWIM.

However since funding arrangements are changing for PP etc and with all the LA cuts.. I was wondering if and when our school would need to start turning to parents to fundraise. Time will tell I guess.

But I wonder if lack of PTA might say something about what engagement parents and our school can have with each other.

The school has no structured or formal ways for parents- especially openly and in groups/together- to raise issues. There is always lobbying a parent governor to raise something specific.. but that feels a bit different. There aren't any class parent reps for example. Is that a PTA run thing?

I was thinking a PTA might provide that kind of forum for parents to compare notes with other parents and be able to raise issues with school in a way that is expected on both sides and routinely looks for parents views but doesn't make the school feel on the defensive.

Sorry to ramble. Thanks if you read this far!

golfbuggy Tue 15-Nov-16 18:30:25

As I said upthread, it's not the norm for PTAs to provide a forum to gauge parents' views. The school may have a parents' forum, or send home questionnaires or have a "comments box" or ...

Lack of PTA may suggest lack of parent engagement or maybe just lack of someone to take it on. DD's school PTA only has about 8 members (500 children in school) but the events are well supported. The school also has a Parents' Forum, which also only has about 8 members (though I think that's largely because they meet in the middle of the day which rules out both working parents and those with small children and no on-tap babysitters!).

PerspicaciaTick Tue 15-Nov-16 18:58:52

Normally governors should be approached after you've followed the school's complaints process. Parent governors aren't there to be a voice for parents, they are part of the team providing strategic direction for the school, not daily managing.

KaleingBy Tue 15-Nov-16 19:06:00

Thanks golf no parent forum at this school, that sounds exactly like what I was thinking might be good.

Perspicacia and NotaNetter - thanks- I'd misunderstood the parent governor role too.. I thought they were there to represent other parents. confused

BeanAnTi Tue 15-Nov-16 19:40:06

In a historically deprived area, there can be a variety of reasons why a school doesn't have a PTA.

- lack of money from the general community (all these bake sales add up)
- distrust of education
- lack of parents with the education and confidence to take it on
- lack of English among the EAL community

There are far more important things than a PTA.

KaleingBy Tue 15-Nov-16 20:35:08

Thanks Bean - would say all of those factors could be relevant.

I don't like the feeling that for lack of volunteers (? have to assume that's the problem in this case..) our schools' parents dont get a chance to dialogue together and also with the school in a group/as reps of a group.

mrz Wed 16-Nov-16 06:42:15

*"*^*I don't like the feeling that for lack of volunteers (? have to assume that's the problem in this case..) our schools' parents dont get a chance to dialogue together and also with the school in a group/as reps of a group.*^*"*

Believe me the PTA rarely represents the majority of parents. Some can be very cliquey so new parents feel uncomfortable/unwelcome and many working parents just can't make a regular commitment to meetings. It doesn't mean they won't support the school.

notanetter Wed 16-Nov-16 10:33:03

Your school may combine the "parent liaison" role but that's not the norm.

Not yet, maybe, golf...

...but it's a work in progress

bojorojo Wed 16-Nov-16 12:50:52

Where I am a Governor, we have an active Parents' Association and every parent is a member. It has a number of functions which include raising money, putting on events to help parents and children socialise and support the school by providing parent helpers when required. It is a very positive group but, as in many schools, does depend on people giving up a lot of time to organise events. Every time I go to an event, I do think the parents are very positive and cheerful about what they are doing. The children look forward to the events and I certainly think they would miss out if the Association was not in place. Some schools may well struggle to find enough parents who can do this. However, where my children attended school, the Association provided coffee and biscuits (for a fee) at Class Assemblies and at the Christmas/Summer Play, Sports Day etc which involved just a few parents and could be done at any school, if parents are willling. It would be a start.

None of the Associations I have been involved with have a teacher/parent relationship, other than sorting out logistics, room availability and suggestions for spending any money raised to complement spending priorities that the school has identified. The schools make it very clear, that individual parents are able to speak to teachers about any matter and this is the avenue to be used. The officers of the Association have no role in advocating for parents at all. This separates support for the school from complaints or discussions about individual children.

The school where I am a Governor has a similar approach but does have a Parent Forum. Parents are invited to attend and there is an Agenda which is produced by the Head and the parents have equal rights to place an item on the Agenda. For example, at a recent meeting, parents were concerned at how the Behaviour Policy was working and the allocation of House Points. It is a chance to speak to the Head in a semi-formal way on matters that are important to them. Sometimes parents who cannot attend, ask a parent to speak for them. The school also produces a weekly newsletter to keep parents informed.

As a Governing Body we also conduct Parent surveys and make sure we respond to any adverse scoring and comments. We do not want parents to think we do not actually read what they say. We do. We use Parent-Mail for communications where parents are expected to respond, eg booking into Parents' Evenings and curriculum meetings. Parent Governors are elected by Parents but do not represent them. Governors have a strategic role, not the day to day management of the school or taking up individual complaints with the Head.

I think if you find there are like minded parents who would like to start a Parents' Association (not a PTA as you probably will not get this) then you could approach the Head and suggest it. Start with small events (the Coffee and Biscuits as above) and see how you get on.

The Independent Prep School one of my children attended did have class representatives who met with the Senior Leadership Team once a term. However, these were never used to discuss individual children but would look at any item where it was felt an improvement could be made, e.g. morning snacks, dropping off arrangements, etc. so a bit like the Parent forum at the state primary school. Hope the above helps.

KaleingBy Fri 18-Nov-16 13:47:07

Thank you.
The Parent forum is what I had in mind to provide an accessible, semi formal discussion with school staff.
I will have a think about this in terms of my time as a possible volunteer and then float it with the Head, because they would have to give extra time to this also.
Presumably parent forums need to meet outside of school/office hours?
Does your school let you meet on the premises after hours?

Buddahbelly Fri 18-Nov-16 13:54:33

I would love my reception childs school to not have a PTA.

Unfortunately we have 1 gran who thinks its her god given right to tell the teachers how to do their jobs because of her role on the PTA, her grandchild can do no wrong, is always star of the bloody week (4 times since september... come on), has the most house points for the last 3 weeks running. Now if the child was amazing then fair enough but its clear to see how the next 6 years are going to go with her in the class.

Its clear she is on the PTA to look important and get the best for darling GC. And sadly its working, the teachers all fawn and pander to her every need. Sad to say but we all stand in silence when shes in the playground and rejoice when the child's mother who is lovely brings her to school.

bojorojo Fri 18-Nov-16 14:10:49

Our Parent Forum used to meet at 9 am. Obviously not suitable for all so we have now moved it to an evening slot and have much better attendance. Yes, the Head and Deputy attend the meeting and often a Governor but we see it as important aspect of communication with parents. Yes, it meets at the school because it is hosted by the Head.

A Parent Forum is a two-way discussion. We do not see it as a complaints forum. We use it to explore topics such as the 5 Year Strategic Plan, finance issues, format for sports day, sports teams and transport, effective communication with parents, results of surveys and how we address any concerns, and any topic a parent wishes to raise so long as it is not directly about their child. As I said above it is important to keep it semi-professional. It is very useful to know how our policies and strategy are perceived by parents and how these parents think we can improve the school.

One word of warning - some Heads will not relish establishing this type of forum. They mistakenly think Parent Governors fulfil this role. They do not. So tread carefully and take it step by step. Some Heads do realise it is always better to explain their rationale to parents rather than have a complaints group formed at the local coffee shop!

bojorojo Fri 18-Nov-16 14:16:34

Budda - That is not a fault of the PTA. It is a horrendous failing by the school! Dreadful - and should be tackled by parents who should complain to the Head. I have never heard of such favouritism and it definitely does not happen in our school. (I read the Newsletters where Star of the Week is announced).

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