In 2017 I became a new Mum to school life and all that goes with it. Trying to strike up conversation in the school playground, suddenly having more time on my hands and missing my little one (whilst at the same time feeling some relief) for 6 hours a day.
Within a couple of months, I found myself at a PTFA (Parent, Teacher, Friends Association) meeting feeling rather confused and overwhelmed with the information being bounded around. It seemed there were lots of hurdles to getting events planned and executed. It’s to be expected of course, we are talking about planning events involving 400+ children, organising and getting volunteers, checking red tape etc.
By the January, the Chair and the Secretary had decided that due to personal commitments they could not give the PTFA the time it needed and deserved so decided to step down. At the meeting it was announced I found myself being voted in as the new Chair, without really knowing what I was taking on or what it involved, I accepted the position. I was flattered yet apprehensive about the road ahead, but it was just the challenge I needed to fill up some of that free time!
So, I find myself this month looking back on my first year as Chair of the PTFA and thinking about what we as a team have managed to achieve, because we are a team, no one person is more valuable than the next (including me). Everyone who has contributed from idea’s to manning events has been an integral part of the machine and we could not have done everything without each and every person.
With that in mind, my top ten tips for surviving the first year as Chair of the PTFA are:
- Leave the past right where it is. Anything that happened before you got there is irreversible and irrelevant, no about of discussion, worry or digging is going to change it – so leave it where it belongs!
- Everyone is valuable. Teachers, Admin staff, Caretakers, Kitchen staff, Parents and people from the community are all important and essential to having a successful PTFA. Do not take anyone for granted, we all like to know that we are needed and appreciated.
- Remember to say THANK YOU! No matter how small or big a part someone played the PTFA wouldn’t be a success without them. From spotting a spelling mistake in a flyer to manning the bottle tombola, say thank you to everyone. People will appreciate it and come back to help again!
- Listen to everyone, but especially the Head Teacher. Everyone’s idea’s and input are a great way of making an event work, and reducing the things that can go wrong. The Head Teacher is great at knowing what can be achieved within their school, so make sure you have excellent communication with them.
- Apply the KISS theory (Keep It Simple Stupid). Sounds daft but I can assure you it works, keep events, flyers, activities, instructions as simple as possible and there is less that can go wrong or be misinterpreted.
- Ask for help. Do not try to do everything yourself. No one will volunteer if they think you have it all under control, so let them know you need help, what you need help with and what they can do. People love to help, but don’t like to put themselves forward.
- Do not undervalue the marketing power of a PTFA event. Local businesses, supermarkets, self employed parents love a bit of free advertising that comes with donating a prize to an event so make sure you let customers know where the prizes came from and send a copy of the flyer/newsletter acknowledging them to the company so they can see that everyone was made aware. They will be happy to donate again!
- Organise and Plan. The more you get done in advance the easier it is to deal with the little things that come up on the day. Make sure everything is in one place, that everyone knows what they are doing before the day. That way when someone is ill on the day or a prize hasn’t turned up it is easy to quickly fill the gap.
- Keep records. Paper or electronic, emails or text messages, keep it all and file it for that event. When you come to do another event, you can utilise the resources you already have rather than starting from scratch. Financial breakdowns of stalls at fayres help you to know what not to bother with next time, where to put more volunteers or to put more of a similar stall on.
- Don’t stress. Easier said than done, but believe me customers will not know if you forgot to put a certain stall on, or the raffle wasn’t drawn when you planned for. They are too busy chasing their children round and spending their money to care that the fruit cake never made it to the table!
I have been voted in for a second year at our AGM, so I must be doing something right! I am looking forward to yet more great events as our PTFA goes from strength to strength.
(Vicky is the Chairperson of her PTFA. Her school, St.Nicholas Church of England Primary School are on the Stamptastic PTFA Rewards Scheme and receive a commission every time an order is placed with their unique code. To find out more about the Stamptastic PTA Rewards Scheme click here)