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To wonder why more people don't help at PTA events ... and what would encourage more people to do so ...

(408 Posts)
onthebus Thu 21-Jul-11 13:29:34

In common with many other schools, our PTA had its annual summer fayre a couple of weeks ago. The school has quite a small PTA (about 6 people) and every year for this event they send out a note asking for volunteers for people to help set up/run stalls/clear away. Every year about 2 people volunteer and the PTA then run themselves ragged trying to do everything (and generally failing).

I'm not on the PTA by the way, though I do offer to help, and it strikes me that this really can't be the best way for anyone.

I understand that some people don't help because they are looking after small children/are at work/think the PTA are too scary/just don't want to but I'm really surprised that so few do. I did suggest to PTA members that if they actually asked people rather than sending out a note they might get more helpers but they are loathe to do this.

So ... I think most people appreciate that funds raised by the PTA are worthwhile. If you do/don't help out at PTA events, why is that, and what do you think would encourage you/other people to do so?

Seeline Thu 21-Jul-11 13:34:23

I am oneo f those not on the PTA (too scary!) but do always help at fairs etc when I can. Our school operates a system of class reps - 2 for each class ideally. When it comes to fairs etc each class is given a stall to run and then it is down to the class reps to ensure that the stall is fully manned by class parents for the required time. The rota given to reps to fill also includes slots for prepartation and tidying away. Whilst it does help to spread the load, I have to say it is nearly always the same parents who volunteer each time. Some parents just do not seem to care - they can't always be going out/can't find a baby sitter/working etc!

TartyDoris Thu 21-Jul-11 13:34:47

A lot of the people in PTAs are too worthy and come across as do-gooders that want to take charge of everything. Sharp-elbowed middle-classes etc. It is no surprise that many normal people are put off.

savoycabbage Thu 21-Jul-11 13:34:53

I feel like the PTA at my dd's school is run by a clique and you have to be an alpha mother to be in it. And I am not. I feel like they don't want other people to be in it.

Te one at my dd's kindergarten spends the money on CRAP as far as I am concerned. The people who run it do so for a year at a time, make you buy raffle tickets and then spend the money on a load of bollocks.

I do help out in my both of my dd's classrooms but that is why I steer clear of the PTA's.

PiousPrat Thu 21-Jul-11 13:35:26

I think the problem with PTA stuff is general apathy. I know in my community there is a core group of 'do-ers' who are on all the committees and run/attend all the functions, so most other people assume that this group have it under control and will do it all, so they don't have to out the effort in.

MoonGirl1981 Thu 21-Jul-11 13:37:59

I'm scared of them. They're what you'd call a 'clique'.

If I offered to help they'd probably just turn their noses up at me. Of course they might not, but why take the chance and embarrass myself??

I do other stuff. Like coming in and helping with cooking/sewing/art. I think that's just as important.

knittedbreast Thu 21-Jul-11 13:41:09

the meetings are on the wrong day at the wrong time

welliesandpyjamas Thu 21-Jul-11 13:41:11

Very much agree with PiousPrat. I think it is apathy that stops people bothering with the pta at our school, leaving to the ones that feel obliged to make the effort. All the children benefit by having their school trips paid for and nice things bought for the school but it is only a handful of the same people who ever put any effort in. There's no cliqueyness, it isn't one of those competitive pta's you hear about, it's just too easy to let other people do it. And it seems impossible to get any of the new parents to come along or help. If it keeps going the way it is, there won't be a pta as the children get older and the helpful parents leave the school [shrug]

piprabbit Thu 21-Jul-11 13:41:36

I don't think it helps when the requests for help are very vague. I think people are wary of volunteering for stuff that's going to take up more time than they have to offer, so they don't volunteer at all.

I think it's much more helpful to give people some specific choices e.g.
Can anyone help us in any of the following ways:
1) Set up fayre 10am - 12pm.
2) Run a stall 12pm - 1pm
3) Run a stall 1pm - 2pm
4) Run a stall 2pm - 3pm
5) Clear up 3pm - 5pm

That way I can volunteer, make the care arrangements for my children and be able to plan if they will be able to attend the event (and who will bring them).

welliesandpyjamas Thu 21-Jul-11 13:42:04

What is the right time and day for a meeting? [genuinely interested inn case it helps]

piprabbit Thu 21-Jul-11 13:44:49

Thinking about the meetings - our PTA isn't very good at communicating what's been discussed at meetings to the other parents. If they did a PTA newsletter after each meeting (to go on the school website perhaps) not only could they ask for specific support, but parents would have a better idea about the sorts of things that the PTA do (making them less scary perhaps?).

TeaspoonThief Thu 21-Jul-11 13:45:23

Our PTA all go no weekend breaks together - running marathons and skiing - scary stuff. I volunteered once to do the cake stall and was promised shifts. I missed DSs entering our dogs in the show etc. as no bugger came and took over from me for four hours.


wigglesrock Thu 21-Jul-11 13:45:43

I was in our PTA briefly, I think for me the problem was that they asked for volunteers, new members etc, I was asked and said I could help the odd time, I have 3dds, who will all go to the school so I wanted to contribute, but I explained I worked the odd night/weekend as does husband, so wouldn't be attending all the meetings etc. Was told no problem - every little helps, but as soon as I was "in", I helped out at a few things, then couldn't and was texted evey second day, can you do....? etc.

Also a lot of those on the PTA, had older primary school age children they couldn't remember how difficult it was to arrange a babysitter or to "just bring the kids along" when all the 3 kids were under 6 grin, including a new baby. Also the Chairperson whilst being very very good at what they were doing, also talked to others like they worked for her. The younger parents wouldn't go near her.

FoundWanting Thu 21-Jul-11 13:51:56

In previous years, our PTA has asked the Year 6 pupils to volunteer to help and then they send out a note saying, "Your child has offered to run a stall at the Christmas Fayre. Adult supervision is required. Please be at school at 9.30am to assist your child with setting up their stall."

Any tips on how to get out of this one without either a) letting your DC down, or b) being labelled as a selfish so-and-so who won't give up a few hours of a Saturday morning to do something that their child wants to do. grin

SquishyCinnamonSwirls Thu 21-Jul-11 13:55:37

I'm a parent governor and about a year ago got persuaded by our chair to liase with our pta too. They were quite a scary bunch and it's been hard to break into their ranks. I have no idea why this is.
They've been like this for the 5 years dd has been at the school, same people organising the same functions etc, resistant to change or new ideas, stuck in their groove. We have very few other parents show any sign of interest in helping. Frustrating really.
We print up our minutes and then make a copy available in the office for anyone wanting to read them, and have a section on the schools website.

Groovee Thu 21-Jul-11 13:59:26

I've left our PTA due to the attitudes from the office bearers. 2 in particular. 1 chaired a meeting that disregarded every thing people spoke about. My friend is chair and after the school fair this year had a few mutual friends going on and on and on about the fact that "certain members!" hadn't helped and how disgraceful that was. I'd obviously been the subject of a bitching campaign. So at that point I resigned. But it took them over 2 days to actually find my email and they all reported their shock at me resigning.

I used to run myself ragged and thought there are 520 pupils in this school and 300 families so we should have had much more help.

exexpat Thu 21-Jul-11 13:59:56

I help out for an hour or so on stalls at fetes etc but have never got involved in the PTA committee at any of the three schools my DCs are/have been at, despite being asked.

I'm a single parent and as the meetings are mostly in the evenings I would have to pay for babysitters to be able to go to the PTA meetings, which really doesn't seem to make sense. Obviously this is a problem not just for single parents but for anyone who doesn't have a partner around in the evenings who can be relied on for childcare. And meetings can clash with other commitments, eg children's activities.

I also know a lot of people who are put off by perceptions of cliqueishness, whether justified or not - the fact that the PTA members are usually so desperate for new recruits that they end up strong-arming their friends just adds to the feeling that you have to be 'in' with the existing committee to take part. Don't know quite what you can do to change that....

TotemPole Thu 21-Jul-11 14:00:18

I donate things for them to sell/give as prizes. Then I go and spend money at the events.

FoundWanting, wouldn't the children rather be spending money and playing games & buying tat?

Fennel Thu 21-Jul-11 14:04:01

I do help with pta things but am not one of the proper PTA insiders.

Reasons I don't help more:
a) I already run a youth group, volunteer at the community shop, board trainne guide dogs, etc, as well as full time job and 3 kids. Am already too much part of Cameron's big society.

b) They only ever ask or expect the mothers, not the fathers. In the end, I will do more if/when the fathers do some of it. At the moment it's 95% women. Though all the mothers involved have paid jobs too. This really annoys me.

c) time. Would rather just bung a fiver at something than spend 20 hours bag-packing on a Saturday morning.

TeaspoonThief Thu 21-Jul-11 14:04:12

At my school they're usually frustrated SAHMs who have given up good careers.

Although bizarrely, the mums who go in to read with the children all seem to be working mums (on shifts etc. or who own their own businesses) - odd that - and i'm not sure why it is....

Kladdkaka Thu 21-Jul-11 14:06:14

I used to but gave up because it was such a cliquey bitchfest. Can't be doing with all that.

porcamiseria Thu 21-Jul-11 14:08:16

I HATE all this fayre and fundraising shit, really. I work FT and would resent having to do this. just ask me for £20

I feel differently about school governers etc as their focus is on the school and education and I think they do a great job

but my guess is PTA are mainly cliquey frustrated SAHMs who get very petty power hungry about raffle prizes, fuck that for a game of tennis!

ps 80% of this negative view comes from reading MN!!!

FoundWanting Thu 21-Jul-11 14:08:24

TotemPole Of course they would. Which is why I had to man the 'Splat the Rat' stall for 3 hours on my own.

But there is no denying that this ploy gets the parents in.

Peachy Thu 21-Jul-11 14:08:35

I used to be heavily PTA involved, we ahd lots of complaints that meetings were in the day so they changed- therefore I stopped being involved as DH works nights.

Apart from the salient matter of how few of those complainers turned up (ie none) the point is simply that nobody can make everything and some people just can;t do it.

I now prrfer the reading though not sure I fall into either camp as I am a Carer who gave up a good career but is studying LMAO

piprabbit Thu 21-Jul-11 14:12:27

Perhaps the PTA needs to make it clear that you don't have to go to all the meetings to be a member of the PTA, and to make sure it communicates with parents who can't get to meetings.

Then use lots of little sub-committees to arrange different bits and pieces - letting the people on the sub-committees decide when/how/if to meet. That way it could be daytime, evening, in the pub, round at someone's house...whatever suits the parents doing that bit of the planning.

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