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Anyone else's primary PTA have a distinctly cliquey whiff about it?

(25 Posts)
ShakingThatAss Thu 16-Oct-08 09:45:33

I've joined ours - thought I should do my bit with DS now at school. I can be a bit shy and self-conscious, especially around big personalities (of which there are several within the PTA), but I'm doing my best to be friendly and help out goddamnit, and I feel like an imposter.

I get the vibe that they say they want new people on board and helpers but, actually, it suits them quite well - as a circle of established friends - to keep it a bit of a closed shop.

You know what it reminds me off? Some of the worst pecking order aspects of school. In our village community, among the parents (mums especially), there seems to be a similar top dog, who's-cool-and-who's-not mentality/dynamic going on, and I hate it. I'm fairly sure I'm a good egg and am being quietly friendly with everyone, but I feel like I've been written off already for one reason or another.

Either I'm paranoid, over-sensitive, trying too hard, too shy, socially awkward, having a personality failure - or is it possible that a PTA (and I suppose also a posh-ish village community) can really be like this?

ahundredtimes Thu 16-Oct-08 09:47:04

Nope, think you are being over sensitive and insecure.

Treat it like any new situation. Smile a lot, give it time, make your contribution and keep smiling.

ShakingThatAss Thu 16-Oct-08 10:04:03

Hmm. Point taken ahundredtimes. I'm not yet convinced though - but will keep smiling. Ta.

nix66 Thu 16-Oct-08 10:06:29


I joined my PTA in April after being "roped in" to do some design stuff for them. Before I would never have joined because it seemed cliquey ... it was fine though, I basically did my bit smiled a lot (as a hundredtimes said ).

I would say I generally speak my mind and don't mind speaking up but if you feel a bit shy perhaps there are other parents you know who might want to come with you who hasn't been before? Maybe a whole load of you could join and then it wouldn't be so cliquey?

The way I look at it is that they really do need more people as getting money for the school benefits all your dc's.

Sorry if that sounded a bit soapboxy... am trying to get more parents to join my dd's PTA so have said this a few times lately grin

AbbeyA Thu 16-Oct-08 10:07:38

I think you are over sensitive-give it time.
Perhaps the other people on it are shy. It is ever so much easier to chat to someone you already know than approach a new person.
I felt very much like you, but when you have helped at a few things it gets much easier.
It is something that you could bring up later on and perhaps make them aware that they need a friendlier approach for new comers.(Not something to try until you feel secure).

HuwEdwards Thu 16-Oct-08 10:09:25

Ours is great, we got about 8 new members this year, so some of the older members gave up their membership to let the new faces in - they will all still support the activities though.

And we go to the pub after the meetings and have a Xmas night out etc.

Surely every PTA is just glad of the support?

ranting Thu 16-Oct-08 10:12:06

I totally agree with you, ime a lot of PTAs are like this, I'm fairly friendly with a couple of girls on our PTA but I'm well aware that they do give off an air of a 'closed shop' iyswim. I would most definitely not want to join them, too much political kiniving going on.

TheGashlycrumbTinies Thu 16-Oct-08 10:25:48

STA have you read the chick lit book "Mummy Mafia"?

It is about the PTA and playground politics, quite funny, and quite accurate. smile

seeker Thu 16-Oct-08 10:33:55

One of the problems with PTAs and things like that is that because it always seems to be the same people who do stuff you can't help getting friendly with them. Then you end up looking like a group of friends - because you are - then you end up looking like a clique - which you aren't. It's a bit chicken and egg-ish, if you see what I mean.

It's often hard to join any established group - I would hold my nose and jump in, if I were you! Why not start by helping at a particular event, then you'll have a job to do.

christywhisty Thu 16-Oct-08 11:03:43

Ours were incredibly cliquy, they even went on holiday together shock. They were also making snide remarks about the efforts of others.Found out later the were all Masons
Thankfully most of their children left and it was disbanded when a new Headmistress arrived and a Friends of (school) was set up.

ShakingThatAss Thu 16-Oct-08 11:34:40

Hmm. On the basis of posts here (thanks BTW), I'd say that probably both factors are at play: an established, slightly cliquey PTA and me being a bit shy/sensitive. I'm going to smile my socks off and help out when I can, and we'll see how it goes from there. Thanks all.

MorticiaAnnSpookington Thu 16-Oct-08 11:47:15

absolutely agree there with seeker - I know this from experience - but do persevere

JLo2 Fri 17-Oct-08 12:02:27

If, after you've tried smiling etc, you still don't feel comfortable with the PTA. See if you can find a different way to help out in the school that's not to do with raising money.

Personally I was a bit like you and just found the whole PTA thing a bit much for me, so I go in and help in classrooms. I find that junior teachers in particular are normally pretty happy to have someone who'll come and do photocopying/mounting/listening to readers....etc for one afternoon a week, as there are not many parent helpers up that end of the school. My husband, on the other hand, couldn't go into school in the day so he became a governor and that works for him. We may not be as 'high profile' as some of the PTA, but that's the way we like it (being slightly shy/sensitive types!) smile

wessexgirl Fri 17-Oct-08 12:08:37

I'm doing it the way seeker recommends - I'm too shy to just walk into a meeting full of strangers, so I've offered to help out at various events/xmas fair etc. first.

Did my first stint on the door at an after-school fun event this week - at first I felt quite excluded, as 'old hands' were joshing each other/talking about their dc together, but then a couple of other Reception parents rolled up and I had a good chat with them. They are members already, so if I join I know I'll have a couple of people I can smile and pretend to be cliquey with grin.

singyswife Fri 17-Oct-08 12:12:58

I have just joined the pta and although I feel that they are an already established team most of them....and I say most of them have made me feel very welcome. There is one who I dont think takes kindly to a new woman being in her teritory but I will keep at it as it is in the intrests of my 2 dd's. I have to say that I am a very shy person who doesnt do well in new situations at all but I am forcing myself to do it as I want to not be like this any more. I just go along and sit and occasionally I have even spoken out in front of the group. I felt myself going red when I did it and i was shaking uncontrolably but I did it. Woo hoo for me.

BibiThree Fri 17-Oct-08 12:16:12

you EXACTLY described the PTA at dd's school. All ex pupils, v chummy with the head, who was te head when they were there too and all good friends.

I quit after a year

ComeOVeneer Fri 17-Oct-08 12:17:08

I second what others have said about it appearing cliquey due to the fact it is the same people that end up doing everything because nobody else volunteers. Our PTA looked cliquey when dd joined the school almost 2 years ago. A year down the line and I became chair of PTA, another year on and we have had a massive drive to recruite loads of new faces from the reception and nursery parents.

I am most certainly not the most outgoing of people, so be brave and jump in. Appearances can be deceptive.

mabanana Fri 17-Oct-08 12:19:12

Yes, loads are really cliquey. At the last meeting I went to I tried to say something and someone on the committee raised their finger at me as if they were a teacher, and barked, 'No! Not now!'. I really am not sure I'll bother next time.

Xmasishere Fri 17-Oct-08 12:19:28

It's difficult to get into an already 'established' group. I attended one meeting and I really felt like they are not really interested in welcoming newcomers esp from ethnic minority. During the break no attempt is made to 'break the ice' between the old and potential new members - everybody kept in their own little groups. And some on their own sad. Very uncomfortable and I probably wouldn't bother to join now.

Madsometimes Fri 17-Oct-08 12:49:29

I was collared by our head yesterday and asked to join the PTA. I think it is because I have run stalls etc at fetes but do not go to the meetings due to shyness. I guess I will just have to swallow my shyness now, especially because I no longer have any babies to hide behind.

seeker Fri 17-Oct-08 17:26:14

But I do think it's a pretty rare PTA that isn't desperate for more help. Any poor unsuspecting new person who wanders into one of our meetings - even if she was only looking for the loo will be stuffed with cake and wine and given a comfy chair and before she knows it she'll be running the cChristmas tombola.

PLEASE don't mistake friendliness for cliquenyness!

ShakingThatAss Sun 19-Oct-08 12:08:12

Comfy chair, cakes and wine at meetings, seeker?! Crikey. None of that at ours. In a classroom at school under fluorescent bulbs sat in rows of child-sized hard plastic chairs getting a square arse. No wonder it's less fun!

Helpful to know others have experienced this kind of dynamic too - I don't think I'm imagining it. Although I recognise that how I respond to it could make it worse than it is.

STA smiles and offers to help out and smiles some more ... I can give it a year, eh?


seeker Mon 20-Oct-08 11:21:20

Well, I was exaggerating about the comfy chair. But we're so desperate for people to help that we'd bring one in if we thought it would encourage volunteers!

And we do have wine at evening meetings and cake at daytime ones!

hellywobs Tue 21-Oct-08 10:10:03

Aren't all PTAs cliquey? But it's true they need all the help they can get.

brokenrecord Tue 21-Oct-08 10:22:52

Don't blame yourself - our PTA is awful. I do think that some of the worse personality types are drawn to it. Every year lots of really nice people try to join and within weeks are walking away shaking their heads.

I wouldn't even say it was cliquey - just that the core group are a) close friends, b) very bossy and unable to delegate. Decisions made in meetings are overturned by a couple of people later in the week who have had a coffee together and decided that they have a better idea.... I could go on...

It really is a thankless task...

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