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PTA dilemma

(63 Posts)
policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:27:03

The PTA at DS1's infant school is on the verge of collapse at the moment - the Chair (our second in 12 months) has just announced that she's standing down, and no-one is very enthusiastic about replacing her. I've been told that no Chair = no PTA (for Charity Commission reasons - would be interested to hear from anyone who knows more about the legal position). We're also struggling to fill the other committee posts, and as for getting parents to help out at events... ha ha ha <hollow laugh>

I've discussed taking on the role of Chair, and possibly sharing it with my friend who does the bulk of the organisation work already. However, if I did this, i think I'd want to send out a fairly dramatic letter to the parents first, saying 'The PTA will be disbanded if we don't have more parental support and fill more committee posts; if you don't want this to happen then we need you to either attend the AGM [in a couple of weeks], the first PTA meeting of term, or contact us with specific offers of help. If this PTA is disbanded it will mean no Bonfire Night display, no Christmas or summer fairs, etc. etc. - and of course no further new equipment for the playground or the classrooms.'

Is this worth doing or is it me being a drama queen arse?

BTW, if you're a PTA sneerer, feel free to post but I probably won't reply smile

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:28:19

I should add that we are reasonably successful at fundraising - about £8000 in the last academic year I think - and the teachers are pretty helpful.

popsycal Sat 06-Sep-08 15:30:12

The PTA at the school I work at fell to pieces several years back and it was awful. More recently, a new member of senior staff got the ball rolling, 're-branded' it to a 'Friends of......' and started by doing lots of low key things to get the quieter paretns involved.

Would something like that be possible?

Madlentileater Sat 06-Sep-08 15:31:54

seems fine to me.
may also be worth pointing out (if true!) that those people who are prepared to help out are not necessarily people with loads of spare time on their hands, as people tend to assume they are busier/more stretched than anyone else. Also,try getting them to commit to 1-2 hrs a term, keep a register of potential helpers, then call them when you need people.

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:32:48

Thanks popsy. What sorts of low-key things? Have parents been more receptive? Do you think they respond better to requests for help from staff (as opposed to other parents)?

BBBee Sat 06-Sep-08 15:32:51

would do the drama queen letter thing.

had similar position when i wanted to stand down as chair of preschool (my children were leaving) I asked politely and sent out nice letters - nothing.

Sent out letter saying "if no-one comes forard as chair the preschool will close and so you will have to start making alternative arrnagements"

someone came forward.

go dramam route!

Leslaki Sat 06-Sep-08 15:32:57

It's worth dpoing it but it's also worthwhile finding out from parents why they're not interested in the PTA. The PTA at my school is run by the most obnoxious woman ever who is so up her own arse that she really puts people off going anywhere near it. It is extremely cliquey and if you join the PTA but she doesn't like you your life is made a misery. That's why people don't join! Not saying yours is like that but maybe some parents have met characters like our chair before and want to give it a wide berth! Might be worth maybe getting the head to send out the letter saying how important the PTA is - parents might take more notice off a letter from the head than the pta!

At my friend's childs school they have a tear off slip for things like volunteering and for every slip returned by somoene who volunteers/joins up, they get entered into a rpize draw to win £20 at Xmas - really has boosted their numbers at meetings and events!

BBBee Sat 06-Sep-08 15:34:42

at our school a teache aproached one paretn per class to be rep/contact for PTA stuf - worked well as they knew people - each class got responbility for differnt thing at event (e.g. yr 2 parents in charge of refreshmanets) and had to co-ordinate and man it. Works well as you get a bit of competition going.

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:35:51

Thanks lentil. We did try a couple of similar things last year - we don't like to harrass those who are in FT paid employment, but we have said directly 'we know it's a pain when you have other children but most of us are in the same boat'. We also tried sending out a letter asking anyone who was interested in helping to reply with an indication of how much time they could give, any special skills/interests they had, and so on. I think we had two replies (out of a parent body of about 650).

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:39:16

Thanks leslaski, it might be a good idea to ask the parents why they're so reluctant! I like to think out PTA isn't horribly cliquey, but of course it never seems that way from the inside.

Interesting to hear about your playgroup experience BBBee. We already do the class rep thing, and have classes manning different stalls at the fairs. Some of the class reps are fab, but they're usually the ones who are also on the committee or attend meetings regularly. Others sign up reluctantly and have to be practically chased around the playground to get them to do what they signed up for!

Lucycat Sat 06-Sep-08 15:40:10

I agree with madlentileater (!) about getting together a list of helpers who can help out at things like the Christmas Fair but can't commit to regular PTA meetings - I took a step back from our PTA when last year's 'new reception mums' came in and took over with their 'oh we know what we are doing and what you've been doing has been useless' atttitude. They had decided before the AGM who they were going to nominate for positions that sort of thing. - sorry mini rant over blush

I'm not sure how many posts you need to legally fill to keep your Charity status - I would have thought - Chair, treasurer and possibly secretary?

Lucycat Sat 06-Sep-08 15:41:45

oh and our new Chair is a bossy cow - who phones up anyone who has previously helped out and askes them if they can offer help at the next upcoming event! - seems to work though - it's difficult to say no.

popsycal Sat 06-Sep-08 15:42:50

in our case, the teacher kick started it and we were lucky that a group of parents who had children who were friends with one another kind of took over

They began with little family quizzes (pay 20p for a quiz sheet kind of thing), then quiz nights, etc to try to gain supprt
they also gave talks in the initial parents' meeting held at teh start of teh year to recruit people.

IME, as teacher and mum at ds1's school, if you can get a group of people who are already friends on board then it is half the battle.

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:45:32

I like the idea of a register of potential helpers (and I understand that people can't necessarily attend meetings - fair enough), but I'd not sure how to go about it - as i said below, we tried something similar last year and got hardly any responses. Maybe we should do it every term and just keep plugging away?

lucycat, I was a bit shock when I read your post and had to check on your profile that you don't live near me! I'm one of a bunch of mums who were all Reception last year, who have basically taken over. Admittedly some of us have done a lot of bitching about the previous committee's efforts (not me though, honest guv!) I'm sure we've alienated quite a few of the old hands, which is stupid of us. However, in our defence, they did seem to be incredibly fractured and in-fighty - people kept leaving PTA meetings in tears!

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:46:41

Sorry about over-use of '!' there <slaps own face>

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 15:48:08

I think you're all right that phoning people is probably the way to go - it's too easy to say 'no' to an email, and you don't always bump into people in the playground, especially those who work.

Hassled Sat 06-Sep-08 15:56:28

£8000 a year in an infant school with disinterested parents is pretty bloody amazing - you're obviously doing something very right.

I think in the circumstances a slightly dramatic letter saying "all this will end" is completely valid. Be very careful how you phrase it, though - say nothing which might hack people off. So many people are ambivalent towards PTAs and it takes very little to turn them against the whole thing. So no distribution of blame, however tempting it might be

What has helped our committee in the past is spelling out, very specifically, what it is the PTA is actually there for. A lot of parents were oblivious to the fact we paid for Christmas pantos, discos, playground equipment etc - when we did spell it out people seemed more willing to help. We'd made the assumption that they read our newsletters - clearly a load of them just hadn't.

Don't start phoning - our Chair did this and it was a Bad Idea.

policywonk Sat 06-Sep-08 16:21:31

Thanks hassled - we certainly have no shortage of people wanting to attend the events, it's just that no bugger wants to help!

You're right about the phrasing of the letter, but it can be very difficult to convey the situation without sounding bitter. How about:

'Over the last xx years, our PTA has been enormously successful. With the support of all the parents and children who have attended our events, it has raised XXX. This money has been spent on XXX and XXX.

Unfortunately, we have been less successful at recruiting active new members to fill committee posts or help out at events. This has meant that our more active members have often taken on too much responsibility and become exhausted.

With our Chair's recent announcement that she is standing down with immediate effect, we are in the sad position of struggling to fill the necessary Committee posts. At our recent summer fair (which raised xxx) we also found that we did not have enough volunteers to run stalls, set up and clear away.

With great regret, the remaining Committee members and active members are seriously considering disbanding the PTA. If you have ever considered joining the PTA committee or playing a more active part, then we really need you to come forward. Please attend the AGM on XXX or the first meeting of term on XXX, and if you do attend please be prepared to take on a Committee post or offer specific help at one of the upcoming events. If you cannot attend either meeting - and we do fully understand that many of you have demanding work or family commitments - but would still like to help, please complete the attached reply slip.

Without the PTA, there will be no [list of events]. We will also be unable to complete the renovation of playground equipment. In the last year, the PTA also funded: new cookers for the Reception classrooms, new speaker system for the hall, etc. etc. [further details]. These are the kinds of things that the school will have to do without if the PTA disbands.

With best wishes,

Disgusted of NE Surrey xx

somersetmum Sat 06-Sep-08 16:30:54

Can I suggest that you hold a meeting immediately after school to try to drum up support. If possible, lay on a creche (use the Reception classroom for this?). I can almost guarantee that you will have lots of parents who would like to be involved, but cannot make committee meetings because of childcare for younger children. We did this and it was very successful. They didn't join the actual committee, but we were able to have conversations with people who were genuinely prepared to help, take their details etc and keep in touch. We had one of these meetings every halfterm for their benefit. They weren't long, just 30-45 minutes, not like the 3-4 hours longhaul committee meetings lol

Leslaki Sat 06-Sep-08 16:43:24

Oh just thought - when I ran it at ds and dd's nursery I put up a whiteboard when we had events and asked parents to sign up to help. Took the pressure off them as they weren't on a permananet register sorta thing. Most started attending meetings etc after they'd helped a few times.

TheGirlWithGreenEyes Sat 06-Sep-08 16:47:14

We combine the AGM with a New Parents wine reception. Gives the new parents a chance to get to know each other and find out about the PTA - and hopefully be unable to say know when you ask them to join/help at events.

flack Sat 06-Sep-08 16:57:17

Legal position, since you asked, this is from a lay-person who has read up not a qualified legal expert --

It's because your PTA is so successful, the threshold is around #5k/annum -- less than that you can't be a registered charity and then don't have to follow the Charity Commission rules so tightly.

So if it did disband but then regrouped just for occasional events that didn't raise too much money, in theory might get away without a nominated Chair.

Assuming you want to continue as Registered Charity, make sure that you remember to file annual returns with CC and that the named officers are all CRB-checked.

CC is very nice and tries extremely hard to be helpful and accomodating, but they will come down like tonne of brix if they think you have deliberately flouted the rules.

cargirl Sat 06-Sep-08 17:00:11

I would seriously work out how much income you are bringing in per child/family per event.

The head raved on about the Christmas Fair - I worked out we raised roughly £20 per family at the school - so went and spent £10 and donated gifts/stuff/enforced mufti items spending around another £10.......so a whole heap of effort for what exactly, I'd rather have given them £20!

littlerach Sat 06-Sep-08 17:01:58

As far as I know you have to have a Chair to continue.

I have been chair of dd2's preschool for 2 years and last year I really wanted to step down but no one came forward.
I sent out a letter stating we wouldn't be able ot continue if no one came forward and that in that case the preschool woul dshut.
Plenty came ot the meeting, but no one would take it on.
So I did it another year.
But no more!!!!

Our school has similar problems, and they have a Friends group now.
One thing that seems ot work there is that you choose a sub committee to go into, so you know you won't end up doing it all. They have a refreshments committee, marketing committee etc.

tiggerlovestobounce Sat 06-Sep-08 17:05:43

I agree with the working out cost per head thing. There was one event at my school that raised £26, another raised £11. Had I known I would have quite happily given them that much to save the hassle of all the planning and helping out.

Can I ask you policywonk, what is it you do to be so successful with your PTA - what events to you find are most successful?

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