school classlist

Chair: Lent Rise School

Lisa Pope, Lent Rise School, Burnham, Bucks (450 pupils)

Running your PTA

  • How many people are there on your committee? 3 trustees and 15 regular helpers
  • How long have you been Chair? 4 years, but I have just stepped down
  • When is your busiest time of year? December, as we usually hold six events! We run traditional discos, a Christmas fair, a shopping evening and Santa visits on the last day.
  • When is your quietest time of year? January to March, as bad weather normally stops attendance at big events, plus there is a lack of money amongst families after Christmas. We are a very mixed school with quite a few Premium Pupil families so are mindful of costs to parents.
  • How hands-on are you as a Chair? I am guilty of not delegating enough! Sometimes, by the time you have told someone what you want doing i.e. printing tickets, ordering items, it's quicker to do it yourself. By the end of my 4-year run, I did allocate many more jobs and just accepted that people sometimes do things differently to the way I would.
  • What is your relationship like with the school and the staff? It's brilliant. The Headteacher is really supportive of the PTA and all the teachers have helped us at events one time or another. Having worked with our Head for four years, I am confident that I know what she would and wouldn't approve of. We have very similar ideas and she's approved many of ours.

Tips and advice

  • What's the best piece of advice you received before taking on the role of Chair? Delegate where possible, but I didn't manage this very well.
  • What advice will you pass on to your successor? Delegate! And if someone comes up with a suggestion say 'great idea, can you arrange it?' I learnt this in my last 18 months!
  • What do you wish you'd known before becoming Chair? The secret to securing volunteers! Does anyone know it? 
  • What have you personally gained from being Chair? A greater understanding of how our school runs, and I've made some friends for life along the way. 
  • What is the best thing about being Chair? I love getting to know so many of the children, and them learning about who you are. It's lovely when I walk into school and many say hello, or 'What are you doing?' when I'm sorting out the PTA cupboard during school time! They always make me laugh!
  • What do you think makes a good PTA Chair? Being very organised, from setting out fair layouts to booking stallholders to recruiting volunteers. I love a list!

Challenges in the role

  • What challenges/difficulties do you face? A lack of volunteers - it always ends up with the same people running events and running themselves ragged trying to make them a success.
  • What is the most daunting task you have to undertake? Probably the Auction of Promises event we ran. Securing good enough promises to make people want to pay for them is hard work! The 40th birthday celebration fair for the school was also a challenge and we organised a huge event, which included a circus performance
  • Have you ever had an instance where you have had to challenge the school's decision(s)? No, never. We agree everything beforehand at regular meetings once a term.
  • How do you go about handling any animosity/disagreements in your committee? We hold regular meetings where everyone has a say, but ultimately the Chair's decision is final. I think a Chair has to be mindful of how to deal with difficult people and firmly make suggestions to prevent any arguments. I have overruled suggestions knowing that the Head wouldn't be happy with particular ideas, but I always say why and once understood it's accepted.

Boosting support

  • How do you go about recruiting volunteers for events? We encourage our Year Reps to drum up support for events. Facebook is a great tool for advertising for help and listing events. Termly newsletters are sent out detailing what events are going on so parents are forewarned!
  • How do you go about boosting morale and motivating your committee? I've never really had to. Most regular helpers are keen as they want to make sure their children get as much benefit from the PTA as possible. That and sometimes it can actually be fun!
  • How do you welcome new families to the school? We host a 'Teddy Bears Picnic' that all new Early Years children attend. Parents come into the school hall where we provide tea / coffee and sell uniform. As Chair, I prepare a speech outlining what the PTA has done and what we plan to do in the upcoming year. Parents are encouraged to sign up by leaving their email with a promise that they are not signing their life over to the PTA!

Stepping down

  • How long do you intend on being Chair? I have just stepped down.
  • How long did you plan on being Chair when you started, and has this changed since taking on the role? I didn't really have a plan, but as is the case with many PTAs, there wasn't usually anyone else willing to step up. Rather than see it fold, I carried on. In the end, I made a decision based on the fact that I wasn't enjoying the event-planning side of it, and the other committee members supported my decision.
  • Did you shadow the previous Chair before taking on the role? It was planned but never really happened. I just went with it although she was always available if I had questions. Plus, sometimes you want to put your own stamp on something. I'm finding it hard not saying 'do it like this, or try that' to the new Chair. Luckily I know her very well, so I get a quick reminder that in a nice way that it's not my role anymore!  
  • Do you intend on having your successor shadow you in the role, before you step down? Not as such, but I am happy to answer any questions and support the new Chair. I'm happy with the way it has turned out and I still have 2 years left at the school until my daughter leaves, so I'm always around.

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