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Tips for agreeing a wishlist

Agreeing how to spend your hard-earned PTA £££s can be a delicate subject. Work with your school to establish a strategy for how wish lists should be agreed. Here are a few tips...

Check your constitiution

Every PTA should have a constitution in place. This acts as a guidance document and should state the aims of your association. Most PTAs have two key objectives - firstly, to cultivate relationships between school staff, parents and the wider community; and secondly, to provide resources or experiences which enhance the educational experience of pupils.

Having a detailed consititution can be a great benefit should any disagreements arise between school staff and the PTA committee. Therefore, if your constitution was drawn up a while ago, it may be worth reviewing it. Discuss with your fellow committee members which items you might feel fall outside the remit of the PTA. That said, you may want to consider whether, in light of the economic downturn, your PTA needs to be sensitive to new pressures the school is under. If your association is a registered charity, you should consider how you can best meet your core charitable purposes.

Check your bank balance

Provide regular reports on the amount of money in your PTA coffers. This will enable the school to suggest items that are realistically within reach. If you're hoping to raise money for a specific project, then announce this to parents and local businesses - you never know where support may come from, but if you don't ask, you don't get! Don't rule out bigger projects because the money isn't there. There are an estimated 10,000 trusts and foundations in the UK giving over £2 billion a year. For information on finding and applying for grants, see our feature 'finding funding'. Whilst it's prudent to keep some funds in reserve, bear in mind that the parents who helped you raise that money will want to see their children reap the benefits. Agree a realistic policy for reserve funds.

Agree a strategy

Schools and associations work in different ways when it comes to agreeing how PTA funds should be spent. Often this can be a fairly fluid process with a mix and match approach, but others prefer more structure. The chair and head teacher should work together to agree a strategy up front that both parties are happy with. This may include one or more of the following:

  • Ask teaching staff to provide a written wish list each term. Consider working with the school to create a bespoke form, asking for details of each resource (including price) and the benefit it offers pupils. This may be particularly valuable in secondary schools to ensure that different departments are represented.
  • Some PTAs agree to commit a set amount each term towards a specific resource, such as library books or subscriptions to online learning tools. Others set aside a certain amount each year towards leavers' gifts.
  • While teachers are best placed to know which resources will be of most benefit, there should also be the opportunity for the committee (and indeed parents and pupils) to offer suggestions for consideration.

All requests and suggestions should be voted on by the committee. Where there are disagreements, be clear about your rationale and work towards finding a solution. It might be that you agree to part-fund something in conjunction with the school. Either way, an effective PTA is reliant on a relationship based on mutual respect and support from the school staff.

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