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Getting support – advice from PTAs

When all your event-organising efforts are met with apathy from parents, don't give up! We've all been there, as a recent thread on the PTA+ Facebook page showed. For ideas, advice and support, read what other PTAs had to say...

Below is a sample of responses. Download the word document for more comments. A big thank you to all those who shared their advice.

CALL FOR HELP FROM SUSAN WILDING: Due to a lack of uptake and general apathy we have had to cancel our annual quiz night/disco for the parents this Friday. It is sad as it can be a good fundraiser and we desperately need funds for this years' project which the parents are fully aware of. Yet no one supports us. We offer good value for money and yet we still have no response. As it stands it is the few PA members and their families that actually support the fundraisers and occasionally teachers... why do we bother? Do you have any suggestions on how to get people interested and motivated? We have tried everything we know, but perhaps we've missed something.

Julie Hartell: As Co-Chair myself, we have experienced similar issues. You are constantly trying to swim upstream. We used the Xmas school productions of each key stage to give a seven-minute talk to the visiting parents sitting in the audience AND left leaflets on every seat for them to take home. Result - a new CD sound system paid for by a parent touched by our words and 5 more volunteers. Definitely worth it - I can send anyone the speech if required?

NOTE: Julie has kindly provided a copy of her speech, click here for details.

PTA+: Can you ask your head to appeal to parents? Demonstrate the impact your PTA has had thus far. Could your student council write a letter to parents? How about putting on family events, such as a talent show, run jointly with the school. Use this as an opportunity to get parents to complete a questionnaire asking which events they might be interested in (we have a template you can download from our website /info-sheets/parental-involvement/parents-questionnaire.aspx). Put entries into a draw to win a prize. Above all, remember that your own children will remember all the energy you have put into trying to make their school experience the best it can be. Their pride in you should help you to keep trying! Good luck!

Lisa Pratt: We had the same thing happen (with our quiz night) - PTA teams and 1 teacher team only - so the event was cancelled. We now know that the parents of our school will support discos and fetes or bazaar and Christmas shopping events. The reason we restarted our PTA was really to arrange fun events for the children whilst at the same time raising some money. It can be really hard at times with lack of support from school and teachers but I try to remember the reason I am involved, that helps me keep going.

Deborah Watson: Oh I feel for you! Been there too and judging by the responses it's reassuring to know you're not the only ones though that's not going to help you much. We found that we get the best attendance at events the kids want to go to and therefore parents have to bring them (the nag factor) eg. Christmas fair & summer BBQ (kids like the bouncy castles) rather than events that parents come to without the kids.

Amanda Fox: Can totally relate to this! I often wonder if it would be easier to just ask each family for £20 each September and then just run the summer fete. We'd leave them all alone then from September to June, reckon they'd go for it as they wouldn't have to attend anything!

Emma Sadler: We have very similar problems. I've just had some really constructive feedback from parents to say that they feel overloaded with events and dress-up days. They would rather have a few large family events through the year (e.g. May Fair, Christmas Bazaar, Fireworks Display). We're planning to concentrate our efforts on those to make them bigger and better. It's definitely worth asking parents for their opinions.

Emma Wesley: I think it helps to spell it out too. Do a newsletter and say that the support is low, say what this means for the children. It's simple really as every £1 put into the PTA is spent on their children. We pay towards trips so that the contribution required by parents is lower, we provide fun activities and special days and events for the kids and parents need reminding it doesn't come from nowhere!

Lucie Sydenham: Our PTA struggles with the same issues, it's sad and very dispiriting to have to cancel events, we've had to cancel two events this year already. These were new events - hoping to attract new and more parents and families. We have a core band of families who support us and our events, and I've soon realised that these are the same mums and dads that help with brownies, football and all the other stuff our kids get involved in. I think that there are those that 'do' and then those that 'don't and probably never will.

Elizabeth Whyman: We have all felt like you. You have to try to keep reminding yourself what you get out of it - business skills, setting a good example for your own children, a chance to know about school happenings before other people... You are appreciated and your own children are benefitting. You could try thinking of it in a business like way - what will engage that target audience of 'younger mums'? I'm wondering if they are thinking they have nothing in common with you or it's too daunting to get involved. Maybe adult nights will go first - if you're going to go out once and it's a toss up between a night at a pub or in the school hall… Also with Quiz, is there a possibility people may be insecure re showing themselves up? How about a cake /ice cream sale in playground on a Friday? Something non-threatening. Re: questionnaire - just did one via survey monkey and people did it on their phones waiting in playground. Unbelievable response of over 100 (out of 590). 12 of whom said they have never helped and would do so in future.

Dolly Mixtures: You need the full support of the head teacher & staff to support initiatives. Engage with the school council to inform your choices of activity & fundraising, get them to write a letter telling the parents why they should help out. Good luck & keep smiling. 

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