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Parent Council/PTA needs taken by the scruff of the neck - tips please!

(19 Posts)
bluesatinsash Wed 28-Sep-11 15:20:20

At the risk of sounding like an overkeen PTA newbie blush I attended my first meeting last night (DS1 started Primary One last month). The school has suffered from lack of parental involvement for years although this is changing albeit only in the past couple of years.

The meeting was a bit of a shambles with no steer or up to date paperwork (other than Agenda) and the accounts are in a a black hole somewhere. The AGM is taking place early October to elect this year's members. I've suggested we implement a 'g-mail' account as a starting point to house the constitution, previous agendas and minutes etc. rather than communicating by emails which have to be updated every year as members come and go.

What is the secret to running a tight ship, admin wise? My hope is that if the admin gets sorted from the word go then the parents and teachers can concentrate on school issues and fundraising.

Am I about to enter the twilight zone?

alittleteapot Wed 28-Sep-11 17:03:40

also a newbie so will watch this space with interest!

bluesatinsash Wed 28-Sep-11 18:43:05


dearheart Wed 28-Sep-11 18:44:13

DD's old school was like this. The PTA was desperate for new active members, and would have been thrilled to have someone like you come along - so long as you propose to do the work yourself rather than just pointing out that 'they' should be doing things differently.

If there is no secretary, offer to take on the role. If there is a chair and secretary already, then just offer your help.

shesparkles Wed 28-Sep-11 18:53:53

I hear ya! I went to my first PTA meeting ever (have had one child or another at the school for 10 years!) and came out chairpersonconfused
To be honest, I've been wanting to be involved for a few years but there was such a tight knit clique involved, it was pointless joining before they'd moved on.

One of the first things I've done is exactly what you're suggesting, and set up a Gmail account-there were a few shocked looks at the meeting! I've also set up a facebook page, as one of the biggest problems with ours has always been communication-I didn't think eyebrows could raise that high when I suggested it!grin

Through speaking to PTA people from other schools, I also have a load of plans to bring it kicking and screaming into this century.
Fortunately the HT is relatively new to the school, and we do seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet

bluesatinsash Wed 28-Sep-11 21:00:03

<relief> so I'm not alone.

shesparkles I did think about mentioning a Facebook page last night but felt it may have been a straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back scenario grin. Glad you agree re: Gmail.

dearheart - going in with a 'sleeves rolled up' mentality. Have just finished four years on playgroup committee, two as secretary which also involved manning multiple stalls at Xmas/Summer fayres, home baking every other week etc. Not afraid of grafting but just felt so hurrumph last night at the lack of get up and go..

alana39 Wed 28-Sep-11 21:36:46

Like shesparkles I also came back from my first meeting as Chair - and had high hopes of sorting out admin etc.

I am normally very organised but part time work plus 1 baby/toddler in addition to the 2 at school has meant this hasn't yet seen much action!

From the experience of the past year (hardly vast, I know!) I would say communication is the most important thong. We decided to use a newsletter which is copied / emailed to all parents each month. It's still a struggle to get people to come to meetings, and I understand that seeing as it took me 4 years to bothergrin but we have found it much easier to get volunteers to help at events. I'm sure that's down to us not being a clique (our kids are in different years, we weren't one group of friends to start with, so we know a wide range of parents between us) and being more open about what's happening.

I still get a bit frustrated that everyone who comes to meetings works outside home so already have lots of stuff to juggle and I'm jealous of my friend's school where there are loads of non-working parents with mire time and energy to devote, but you have to be realistic about how quickly things will change.

alana39 Wed 28-Sep-11 21:38:18

Communication is an important thing, not thong! Damn phone.

JWIM Wed 28-Sep-11 21:48:22

Interestingly with 10 years Primary School PTA behind me I would say it is often the WOHM that take on tasks - and we had lots of stay at home parents. May be slated, but I just think that WOHM are often good at time management and may want to fulfill the Alison Pearson 'have it all' role a bit too. I have been both WOHM and SAHM.

Any enthusiasm/effort can ony be good. Best of luck with your PTA involvement.

alittleteapot Fri 30-Sep-11 12:51:02

Has anyone here tried using an site like dropbox as a central place for filing documents? I think seems a good plan but wondering if any pitfalls.

alittleteapot Fri 30-Sep-11 13:34:15

just answered own question. ncpta (national PTA body) offers PTA online for online filing.

Anyone here's PTA a registered charity? WOndering what you can claim gift aid on, e.g can you do it for selling cakes???

Elibean Fri 30-Sep-11 14:38:59

Our PTA was non-existant two years ago, now small but happy and fundraising has more than doubled - its worth it, really contributes to the life of a school when it works!

We became a charity this year (after I got fed up with waiting and pushed through the paperwork) and the main benefit is that we're able to join fundraising forces with one of our Governors, who is great at finding funding for things like music workshops - but only to charities. We have also had a couple of donations from parents as a result (because they can use CAF accounts). Other than that, as yet, no other benefits - hasn't affected smaller amounts, but is very handy for all sorts of 'charities only' funding.

We also have an on-site drop-box in the form of a box file in the school office - the office ladies know where it is, obviously, and will put mail in it for us, leave receipts and invoices, etc.

G-mail is a great idea - not done that yet, as still wading into the 21st century (those of us who set up the committee 2 years ago are mostly older parents, for some reason, and none of us techy or particularly skilled at organizing - just got through on willingness!). We're still using email lists and Parentmail for communication, along with hard copies in bookbags (loads of parents still don't get Parentmail at our school for one reason or another).

alana39 Fri 30-Sep-11 22:31:13

Ours is a charity - I don't think you can gift aid cake sales as you're buying something. I think gift aid only applies for gifts where you aren't getting anything in return which isn't how PTAs generally work.

2 very easy things to do;
1. If you are near a Waitrose keep filling in the nomination forms to get selected as one of 3 charities that share £1000 per month.
2. Sign up to easyfundraising and promote to parents before people start Christmas shopping. I'm a big fan of raising money without getting off your arsesmile

giggly Sat 01-Oct-11 00:01:13

Reading this with interest as I was going to post something similiar. I to ended up as chair really as no one else was willing.
I was looking for fundraising activities/events that have been particulary good.
We are a small school with a real mix of incomes. sorry for hijack.

alittleteapot Sat 01-Oct-11 10:20:14

Hi - Alana I read on a site somewhere that you can claim gift aid even on cake sales - so worth looking into...

alittleteapot Sat 01-Oct-11 10:36:08

oops - apologies - your'e right you CAN"T claim it on things you sell. Sorry, was reading at a bleary eyed time of day! just checked out easyfundraising. Good tip!

alana39 Sun 02-Oct-11 20:24:02

alittleteapot - I haven't looked on the ncpta website as much as I should but the few times I've looked stuff up I've found their information very clear and helpful.

giggly - look up bag2school if you don't already do it. It's clothes recycling that you get paid for. We raised £700 on our first one plus it helps the school get an Eco-schools award and if you have an Eco-school committee you can get them to do alot of the work <lazy>

funnypeculiar Sun 02-Oct-11 20:33:29

I'm an outgoing chair - & moving tech/comms forwards was one of our goals. Over the last year we have:
- created a gmail account, & send out a weekly email to all parents who have signed up (about 2/3 now)
- we also have some our key personel docs shared in google docs attached to the gmail account - these are available to secretary & chairs only. On an event by event basis we have docs in dropbox, which can then be shared with whoever is involved with that event. We also try & make sure that there is a 'key learnings' doc saved after each event so that if there is a new team the following year they don't make the same mistakes smile
- interestingly, the one thing that isn't there is accounts - mainly because our treasurer has her own systems. Think that's the next thing to do, though.
-We don't have a fb account as our HT was anti last time it was raised. Think that (&/or twitter) is the next thing though.

One thing to bear in mind. I've been amazed how many people either aren't on email and/or don't have regular internet access. We use backboards on school grounds to communicate key events, so as to cut down on the letters.


bluesatinsash Sun 02-Oct-11 20:47:58

Thanks everyone, some great ideas for me to chew the end of my pencil about smile. Think FB is a great idea. Parents who wouldn't dream of coming to a meeting can still feel engaged and have somewhere to go to see what is coming up and hopefully in turn more inclined to help out.

Going to also ask to meet with office staff to pick their brains as they are the stealth core of the school.

Tricky thing is presenting all this at our next meeting and not offending or pissing of current members or disrespecting what they have done so far..

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