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How can PTA/ school governors help struggling families?

15 replies

notnowmonster · 10/10/2022 21:41

I’ve been a school governor and active in the PTA for a few years, school is in an affluent area in south east. Parents will approach me (because of my day job - which they are aware of) with issues about how unaffordable the after school clubs/discos/ trips etc are, particularly where there are several children in the family. Whenever I raise this issue as a governor or in the PTA meetings the head assured me it is being dealt with, but this is not reflected in what parents are telling me. I’m assured that parents who are struggling can access the after school clubs (£6 an hour) , council paid music lessons (£80 a term) without charge but that’s not what I’m hearing from the class parents. Can anyone advise ?

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?

6 votes. Final results.

You are being unreasonable
You are NOT being unreasonable
ohfook · 10/10/2022 21:42

I think you just need to continue to raise the issue until someone pays attention.

Violettaa · 10/10/2022 21:45

I think you need to ask for specifics (without naming names).

Exactly how do parents access this help?
How is the fact that help is available publicised?
Does the school proactively offer help when families opt out of a trip?
What % of requests for help are turned down?

That sort of thing. The answers will either show you/ the school what’s going wrong, or give the head a kick up the arse of they’re being complacent and hoping you’ll drop it.

iCouldSleepForAYear · 10/10/2022 21:47

Sounds like there's a communication issue between school and parents.

Could be that the parents in need aren't being signposted properly for services. If that's the case, PTA can work with the school to communicate how those services are accessed.

If the issue is more that the threshold for assistance is too low, and too many parents don't qualify but still can't afford the extras, then PTA can communicate that to the school. And then school and PTA can figure out how to try and address that problem. Maybe some things, like school discos or field trips, could be subsidised more through fundraisers.

Disabrie22 · 10/10/2022 21:49

Time for an anonymous survey for parents

AntlerRose · 10/10/2022 21:55

Have a google of 'the cost of a school day calendar'

Try adding it as an agenda item at one of your meetings.

Eupraxia · 10/10/2022 21:56

As a governor - ask for how Pupil Premium is spent. Its a requirement that schools publish this info.

As PTA - you could fundraise to create ring-fensed funds for specific reasons. For example fund raising for FSM students to go on a school trip. Parents may not be happy about this and may prefer to fund raise for all students going on the trip, but that's a different issue. If a PTA wanted to, they can fund raise for specific groups of students. As long as they are upfront about it.

isittheholidaysyet · 10/10/2022 22:00

I suspect the help is there for the poorest, pupil premium children, etc.
But all the people who speak to you look like they should be doing OK, but aren't. They just miss all the thresholds for help and so don't get any.

Riverlee · 10/10/2022 22:05

Can you find rise to subsidise the school trips, music lessons etc. Either bring the general cost down, or set up a contingency fund for those in Sponsor a child (discreetly) to attend the club. Also, for school discos, can you have a reduced payment for second dc’s (how much is a school disco that it’s unaffordable.).

debbiewest0 · 10/10/2022 22:07

Yes, if a family is over the cut off for receiving free school meals but has a few children it can be a struggle.
so while the family on FSM can have the lunches and after school football club for free, the family who earn maybe £20k but have three kids will be asked to pay £80 a term for each child for the club or £14 a week for each child’s lunches etc.

Kite22 · 10/10/2022 22:08

It sounds like you need to clarify the specifics of who can apply for what, and how, with the HT, then go back to the parents and say both 'Did you know about this?' (and if not, then there is the issue - the availability of the information)
'Do you qualify?' - in which case you could find that this is the issue, the threshold for getting help.

Long before this crisis (my dc are adults now) my dc missed on some trips because we couldn't justify the cost, but we were never in the threshold for help. We were both working and quite a way above free meal criteria. Doesn't mean we could afford to pay out for some of what was offered.

This wasn't the case for us, but is there a possibility that there might be too many 'extras' people are being asked for.

Overshadowed · 10/10/2022 22:10

Music lessons where I live are free to those eligible for free school meals from primary right through high school.
I’m unsure about after school club other than child tax credits/universal credit have an element to cover childcare. Clubs not for childcare such as hobbies come out of pupil premium.
School trips afaik usually require a certain percentage of paying parents to allow a contingency fund for those who can not afford.

Unfortunately schools are so underfunded they have to try to raise more however which means more events which can exclude some. There’s no quick fix unfortunately. Change of government needed.

Caramac555 · 10/10/2022 22:13

Well I don't know how your teachers would feel about this but...

We've had an email asking for no Christmas end of term presents for teachers, but the teachers have had an amazon wishlist so you can buy a few craft bits or books instead, if you have money to spare and the inclination. No obligation is emphasised.

Could parents add to a slush fund to subsidise the school disco or reasonable school trips? ( museums rather than ski trips)

notnowmonster · 10/10/2022 22:14

AntlerRose · 10/10/2022 21:55

Have a google of 'the cost of a school day calendar'

Try adding it as an agenda item at one of your meetings.

@AntlerRose - this “cost of a school day calendar “ is exactly the resource I needed to demonstrate the continuous costs for families - I’ll add this to the next governor agenda, thank you

OP posts:
Iamnotthe1 · 10/10/2022 22:20

It depends entirely what you mean by struggling. If the family are or were eligible for FSM (specific rather than general FS/KS1 meals), then there will be pupil premium money that the school may spend in this area. Those are the children and family are officially recognised as "struggling" in data (although not labelled as such) and it may be this that the HT is referring to.

If a family is saying that they are struggling but are not eligible for FSM then they won't be officially recognised as "struggling" in data. There is little here that the school can do: they receive no money to support those families and would be diverting money from main funds towards families who are identifying themselves as struggling rather than objectively struggling. Spending money in this way would be questioned because they'd have no evidence that the families actually need it beyond them saying they do.

You can, by all means, lobby for fewer cost-based activities but this isn't your role as a member of the governing body (it's operational rather than strategic). You'd be doing it with the parent hat instead.

FatAgainItsLettuceTime · 10/10/2022 22:27

Until recently I had thought that anyone eligible for Universal Credit was eligible for FSM and PP but it turns out that you have to have a household income of less than £7400 to be eligible for FSM.

I think having a pot of money that the headteacher/school administrators could use to support trip costs would be good so that support could be expanded outside of the FSM group.

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