Ideas for getting more parents involved in PTA

(42 Posts)
Furzella Tue 17-Jul-07 11:47:37

I've got nobbled to be co-chair of our local primary PTA next year (dd1 will be in Year 1, dd2 is going into nursery). We've got a good and active PTA with a core membership of about 20 invloved families who are consistently the ones to organise events, bake the buns, man the bouncy castle at events, etc etc. The school, however, is large - about 60 children per year - and we'd like to get more parents involved with the PTA. We'd like to increase the diversity amongst the parents and to have a broader base of involved parents so that the things we get involved in really reflect the concerns of the broad body of the school. Also, frankly, it would be good to have some extra bodies to help at events, although this isn't the only driver. We try to make sure that there's a good balance of events and that none of them are expensive or exclusive.

Does anyone have any ideas for getting parents involved? Has anyone tried any incentives for involvement? If anyone is part of a really active PTA, how do you get the new parents at the beginning of the school involved?

All ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

hotcrossbunny Tue 17-Jul-07 12:07:13

I think the most important thing is not to be seen as a clique. I find the idea of rocking up to a PTA thing quite intimidating...they always seem to be places where everyone already knows each other or peopled by the most outgoing parents.

Perhaps you could organise a coffee and getting to know you morning for the new parents. I know my school don't do this and I think I'd have liked the opportunity to meet the new parents and PTA in a non-threatening way...

Furzella Tue 17-Jul-07 15:06:04

Thanks hotcrossbunny. We do have new parents coffee mornings but probably don't publicise them well enough and I think it might get lost in all the new stuff when your child starts school for the first time. Maybe if we did something just before October half term it might get better take up.

I think you're right about the PTA seeming to be full of outgoing parents and people who know each other. It tends to end up that way, but probably the extroverts don't realise that they are being intimidating.

ediemay Tue 17-Jul-07 15:10:07

Could you try holding some meetings during the school day and some in the evening? This might help to get a better mix of working parents, single parents and shift workers.

ConnorTraceptive Tue 17-Jul-07 15:11:29

Rather than get lots of people on the committee approach parents to see if they would be interested in doing a few one off things eg helping at the school disco. I found people didn't mind helping with activities but the idea of committees put them off. i would say that a core committee of twenty is plenty.

One thing I did was send out a letter with the annual events the pta were looking to do that year and asking parents to tick which events they felt they may be able to help with. Then when that event came up we just called them up and asked if they could help. We got a good response.

Furzella Tue 17-Jul-07 15:49:34

Conotraceptive, that's a really good idea about asking people which events they might be willing to help with. I'll suggest that.

Ediemay, I think you're so right about needing to vary the times of the meetings. It's something I'm very sensitive about as I work 3 days a week and long hours and it always irritates me when an event falls during work time. I'm sure others would feel the same about only having evening meetings. It would also be great to get more Dads involved - it's about 95% female at the moment, apart from when someone hurly burly is required to be Father Christmas at the Winter Fair or have sponges thrown at them in summer.

lilolilmanchester Tue 17-Jul-07 16:38:01

We've got PTA class reps, so that they can work with the parents from their child's class to man stalls, encourage each other to go to events etc. Seems to work better than before we did that, but still an uphill struggle. Events for/involving children seem to be better supported than parents only. having different people from the committee organise certain events also helps, again because reaching a different group of parents.

WideWebWitch Tue 17-Jul-07 16:43:59

Accept that not everyone wants to/can be on the PTA. Give an option for people to donate cash instead of time.

Ladymuck Tue 17-Jul-07 16:44:17

I would second connor's suggestion but go a step further - as well as asking which events they want to particpate in, also ask them about their preceived priorities for spending the money raised (eg playground, equipment, sports equipment, subsidised trips etc). That way you also link their involvement to the benefit.

Personal invites to help also work better than mass mailings ime. Helps to overcoem the clique/someone else will do it mentalities.

hannahsaunt Tue 17-Jul-07 16:50:14

Our PTA meetings are at 7pm which is a really hard to time to make if you have small children - I couldn't guarantee that dh would be home by then to do bed time so 8pm would be much easier.

Ours sends home slips before each event asking for volunteers. If someone volunteers and they aren't needed, do call and at least acknowledge the offer of help - I've offered several times and heard nothing back until the one time I was needed - I happen to have a thick skin and really want to get involved in ds's school but not everyone may persevere.

lljkk Tue 17-Jul-07 16:51:56

Regular Newsletters (at least once a term)-- New people joining our PTA often say "I didn't know it even existed!" Ours is called "The Friends" and I didn't understand what that actually meant for a long time. Didn't even understand what a "PTA" was, though, had they used that conventional name -- I don't even know if my primary school had a PTA, certainly my folks weren't involved.

Spell it out -- "We work to raise money to help the school fund extra projects. Even little bits of help are much appreciated."

ConnorTraceptive Tue 17-Jul-07 16:56:50

agree with lady muck always keep parents updated with a regular pta newsletter telling them how much they've raised and what yu are trying to raise money for and giving thanks to those who have contributed time/money

MrsMarvel Tue 17-Jul-07 16:58:24

Use class reps - insist on two per class and that if a person leaves they must find a replacement.

If you don't get any response in the upper years, recruit at the new parents meetings.

Make decisions on the committee but keep them separate from the class reps.

Give each class the responsibility for a stall at each event - delegate the whole thing - and rotate according to a plan every year.

The big events can then take care of themselves and the extra events can be organised by the committee.

Our class rep also organises whip-rounds, for teachers etc, social dates etc.

This is in a "posh" school and I am aware that some schools will find it hard to recruit people, but go in with high expectations and parents should rise to the occasion.

ConnorTraceptive Tue 17-Jul-07 17:00:22

tbh honest our biggest hurdle was getting teachers involved. The head only showed up to the meetings to "tell" us what we would be spending money on. W**R

I understand how much work teachers have on but think they should atleast have the courtesy to come to a meeting to ask if the pta would fund something rather than buying the stuff, giving me the receipt and saying "we thought this could come out of your funds"

ConnorTraceptive Tue 17-Jul-07 17:01:43

sorry irrelevent mini rant there!

notasheep Tue 17-Jul-07 17:02:58

i approach the parents directly by myself as its more informal than inviting them to a meeting that i know they wont come to !

I have found alot of people willing to help but only if asked-nobody actually comes to me to volunteer!!!!!

We have our end of term school BBQ on Thursday with live band and bouncy castle-our school only has 140 pupils in total.
I wish you every success

MrsMarvel Tue 17-Jul-07 18:21:52

You're lucky not to have staff attending - they're always telling us things we can't do.
You should have a treasurer doing accounts and he/she could make it their job to tell the school what you want to spend the money on.
Have you tried NCPTA?
You need to be a member, and it costs, but they have good ideas.
I do think class reps work, as you end up with lots of mini-groups bringing in their friends and it also prevents the pta getting cliquey.

Furzella Wed 18-Jul-07 10:27:47

Thanks so much everyone.

There are some great ideas there. While we do send out newsletters, I'm not sure how regular they have been. In the past it has been very difficult to get the school to tell us what they spend the funds we raise on, but the new head has acknowledged the need for greater transparency and over the next year we're planning on having a Blue Peter style fund raising "thermometer" thingie that will show funds raised and what the money is going on.

We have class reps but I don't think we've ever given a whole stall to each class. That's a fab idea.

7pm is difficult with small children. Maybe at our early coffee mornings for new parents we can poll people to ask them what time would suit them best.

I think also that possibly we aren't clear enough about the difference between the PTA committee and the PTA more broadly. At our meetings anyone who wants to can turn up and is involved in the decision making. This probably slows down the decision making, but also paradoxically makes the broader body of people feel it's cliquey as a few loud voices may carry the decisions. Hmm. One to ponder, as a change may be a bit controversial! Maybe we need to be a bit clearer about the purpose of the meetings - whether they're for general forward planning or for organising a specific event.

Thanks very much - lots to be thinking about.

MrsMarvel Wed 18-Jul-07 11:31:58

Furzella, it really does work better when you separate the Committee from the class reps.

Send separate information to each group so everyone's clear what their role is. Perhaps draw up some guidelines on what class reps do (class contact sheets, social meetings, recruiting for fundraising activities) and stipulate that Committee members are only there to get bigger decisions made and not so much of the hands on stuff. Some people love committees but hate doing on the ground work, or can't due to logistics, and some people love the hands on and hate committees.

When class does a stall by the way, they do the whole job, from buying the prizes, setting up, to clearing away and cashing up. I think they also get guidelines on how to do each stall so everyone's reasonably confident about how to do it.

ConnorTraceptive Wed 18-Jul-07 11:35:15

ooh just had a thought if you are raising more than £1000 annually you should really register as a charity. It is actually very easy to do and then means you are eligible to apply for charity grants and such like.

Gobbledigook Wed 18-Jul-07 11:38:19

Good luck. It's a fecking nightmare.

Right now, I've just about had enough.

I am secretary of PTA but pretty much right hand woman to chair. I am sick, sick, sick of the moaning, complaining yet lack of support. People saying they are too busy (like I'm not), yadda, yadda. It's a totally thankless task and at the moment I feel like saying 'stuff you, do without'.

Ahh, feel better now!

ConnorTraceptive Wed 18-Jul-07 11:40:17

yes it is a thankless task, think pta members get a shitty deal from parents and teachers personally

Gobbledigook Wed 18-Jul-07 11:42:27

Agree with sending out list of events and askign people to tick which they could help at - that has worked for us.

We have class reps but they struggled this year to get their own stalls manned for Fun Day - they ended up coming to us whenever there was a problem rather than sorting it out themselves.

We sent out a newsletter this term (first one in ages, we are a new committee) and we got loads of good feedback from it but still nobody contacted us - either by phone or just put a note in the PTA box in school office (not intimidating surely?!) - even though we put on the newsletter that this was an option.

Our school is a 70 intake - it's huge, but it's still the same old people that help out. Some people just can't be arsed.

Furzella Wed 18-Jul-07 11:42:42

ConnorTraceptive, we're planning on registering as a charity. We've wanted to in the past but there has been resistance from the school. I'm not sure why - possibly because of the loss of control to the trustees? The new head is much more open to the idea. Some people have told me that it's a very bureaucratic process. Do you have experience of this? The outgoing chair has just received a pack of info on this but I haven't seen it yet. Presumably it involves CRB checks on the officers, but is there anything else that is substantial?

Mrs Marvell, thanks for the tips on class reps. We have an enthusiatic woman who has agreed to be our class reps coordinator and I'm sure she would be happy to organise things this way.

Gobbledigook Wed 18-Jul-07 11:44:43

Also agree that child oriented events get more support than adult ones - we had to cancel our Ceilidh this year because tickets didn't sell (despite making £2K on the same event last year so don't know what happened there) and we are just about to cancel our parents' disco on Friday night because it's a huge venue, catered etc and we've only sold 40 tickets (out of school of 500+ kids that is crappo - about 20 of the tickets were for PTA committee and partners!).

THEN, people have the audacity to come up and say 'what are you doing about this, that the other' - er we have no cash because you can't bother your arse to come to anything.

Ooooh, sorry, am in the thick of it atm!!

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