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10 ways to start the year off right!

It's back to school with a bump, so here's a whistle-stop guide to get you off to a flying start...

1 Welcome new families

How can your PTA help calm new-school nerves and make parents feel part of the school community? A coffee morning in the first few weeks enables parents to get together and provides a great opportunity to showcase what your PTA does and how parents can get involved. Create a concise and snappy leaflet that summarises the aims of your PTA. Include details of past events (with photos), ask your Head to write an endorsement, and outline the resources your PTA has funded to date and the impact this has had. Let parents know how they can contact the PTA and how they can support you, from baking cakes to joining the committee!

2 Get organised

Review last year's events - which ones will you do again, and what needs a shake up? Are there new events you'd like to try? Assess who might step down from the committee and think about how you might fill their shoes. Make sure all your paperwork - knowledge capsules, licences, supplier contacts, etc - is up to date. Check your finances - are there any commitments in place. e.g. playground maintenance or an amount per term for library resources? Do volunteers know what expenses they can claim back and the process for doing this?

3 Meet with the Head

Having a good working relationship with your Head is vital, so give them a strong message of support and be clear about how they can support you. Arrange regular meetings, and ask whether a specific teacher can be appointed to liaise with the PTA. Discuss the school's plans for the year and see how you can help them achieve their goals.

4 Gather the team together

The first meeting should be about orientating the team rather than long discussions about specific initiatives. Prepare an agenda to make sure key issues are dealt with swiftly, and agree a schedule for future meetings and key events. Provide a document that all attendees can take away to digest - this might include a list of committee members (with roles, responsibilities and contact details), key dates and information such as useful websites (e.g. pta.co.uk!) and goals/targets for the year.

5 Check your constitution

It may have been a while since you looked at your governing document, so set aside some time to read through this. Who is or isn't defined as one of your members, how are committee members elected and how are decisions made? If you can't find a copy and your association is a registered charity, the Charity Commission for England and Wales may have a copy. Go to charitycommission.gov.uk.

6 AGM and changes to the committee

If you're holding your AGM this term, it is best practice to give at least 21 days written notice to members of your association (generally this means ALL parents at the school). It is usual for members of the committee to stand down at the AGM, although they can seek re-election. Include a reply slip on letters, seeking nominations for election to the committee. Remember to action any changes required to the signatories on the PTA bank account, or named contacts held by other organisations such as the Charity Commission.

7 Set goals

Agree your overall goal for the year - what resources are you hoping to fund and how much do you need to raise? If you have sub-committees looking after different events, what are they aiming to achieve and how does this fit into your overall PTA strategy? If you're fundraising towards specific projects, such as iPads or new playground equipment, make this clear when promoting your events.

8 Publish dates for PTA events

Announce your events programme as early as possible then take every opportunity to remind parents again and again! Send details out via letters in book bags, emails, posters, more letters, more emails… you get the picture!

9 Check any PTA equipment

Were you one pole short of a beer tent at your last summer fair? It's worth taking some time (and a group of helpers) to go through your PTA stores. Does anything need repairing or replacing? Does any electrical equipment need to have its annual PAT test? If so, can this be done in conjunction with the school?

10 Make a start on big events

Bonfire nights and fireworks, Christmas and summer fairs, music festivals, grand balls… these all take some organising, and the earlier you get cracking, the better for everyone's blood pressure! If you're supplying alcohol, you'll need a TEN. (Read our FAQs feature on TENs). If selling raffle tickets prior to the event, you'll need a lottery licence (Read about running a raffle and the licences you need). Other licences may also be required, and these can take a few weeks to come through, so better to get these arranged sooner rather than later.


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