Step-by-step: disco

Discos are simple to organise, offer guaranteed fun and are a firm favourite on the PTA fundraising calendar!

Whether you're planning an event purely for children or as some family fun, discos are a firm favourite with PTAs. Keep things simple or throw in a theme, some party games and a dance competition...

Step-by-step

  1. Agree a date and book a venue. If hiring a professional DJ, book early, especially at busy times such as the run up to Christmas or wedding season. If not, check that any equipment you need is available and in full working order. Giving your event a theme can help create a buzz of excitement! Popular ideas include crazy hair, shorts and shades, monsters bash (for Halloween). For older children, how about a roller disco? Find suppliers in our online directory.
  2. Check which licences you need. Read our event licensing guidance or verify requirements with your local authority. As a rule of thumb, if featuring live or recorded music (where copyright applies), you should obtain a PRS for Music licence (your venue may already have this). You may also need a PPL licence. You no longer need a TEN (see tips and advice, below), unless you plan to serve alcohol.
  3. Start publicising your event with posters around the area about four-six weeks before the date (for professional poster solutions go to PTA Print Shop). Good practice is to sell tickets in advance and adopt a ticket-only policy on the door. This helps control numbers and is a good security safeguard. Sign children in against a pre-prepared list, taking contact numbers for parents/carers as an extra precaution.
  4. Recruit enough volunteers. Start signing up volunteers to help set up, supervise children, cover entrance and exits, staff refreshments, monitor toilet areas and to clean up after the event.
  5. On the day... Set up your venue with decorations, refreshments and entertainment - face painting is always popular, and party games are a great way to keep younger dancers entertained. You might also be able to offer a karaoke element, with a list of available songs - check with your DJ.

Tips and advice for running a school disco

  • Music licences: If featuring any form of live or recorded music, a music licence is required. Many venues hold these licences, which will cover any events held there, so it's worth checking.
  • Boosting profits: Increase income on the day by selling glow products and by running a tuck shop. If your audience are too young to be trusted with cash, include a glow bracelet or finger torch in with the ticket price and charge slightly more for entry.
  • Safeguarding: If children are not being accompanied by their parents, check your adult:child ratios and start securing volunteers. Supervising adults may need DBS certificates, although this is not mandatory.
  • What to charge: This may vary depending on your costs and what you're including in the ticket price. Based on a poll on our Facebook page, most PTAs charge between £1-£4 or £5 for a family of three or more. Include squash and a biscuit or a hot dog.
  • Regulated entertainment: A TEN is not needed for a disco (unless selling alcohol), as in 2015 recorded music was declassified as 'regulated entertainment' under the Licensing Act 2003 reforms.

Disco success stories

'Our discos are very popular, and make around £1,000 each time. The profit rose from £150 to £1,000 in about two years. The discos used to be held on a Saturday morning, without a proper DJ kit and we were only charging £1 per child. However, we have found that the more professional the disco, the more children want to come and the more parents are willing to pay. Our discos are for pupils in Years 3-6 and we usually run them in the last week of every term. We charge £2.50 per ticket in advance, or £3 on the night. During the evening, we sell drinks, glowsticks and hot food (pizza and hotdogs) but no sweets. We buy a big shipment of glow products from The Glow Company once a year, usually sold at £1 per item. We also run a raffle (10p a ticket) with about 15 donated prizes, or leftover prizes from fairs. The disco never runs for more than 90 minutes as the children get overtired. Music plays from 5-6pm, we draw the raffle at 6pm and then finish off the last 20 minutes with some 'big' music numbers! The school is lucky enough to have a dad who is a DJ in his spare time and has all the kit. The DJ visits the school in the week of the disco and does a brief 'Don't forget the disco this Friday!' in assembly. The children get a letter in their book bags with a slip to fill in for advance tickets. We don't issue paper tickets - names are checked off against the class lists. This saves time and hassle on the night. A member of the PTA comes in every morning of disco week to collect money and slips.'

Clive Cini, outgoing PTA chair, Courthouse Junior School, Berkshire (390 pupils)

'We have been running a disco twice yearly for a while, and with each event we adjusted the timings and refreshments offered until we were happy that we had a winning formula! We then turned our attention to the content. We saw the giveaway for UV face and body paint in the spring 2014 issue of PTA+ Magazine and were inspired!

We ordered 36 tubes of Neon Face and Body Paint at £5.99 per set of six 10ml tubes. We also ordered 200 glow bracelets from Glowsticks using the PTA+ discount. The bracelets were excellent quality and glowed very brightly. We gave one to each child as they were signed in, having learnt that, if left out for the children to collect, they just grab a handful! We advised parents in advance that the bracelets were not suitable for children under three years old. The DJ supplied the UV lights free of charge.

We offered patch testing at school pick-up for the three days prior to the disco (patch on hand and behind the ear) and put a sign up at the event explaining that we were not liable for any adverse reaction or staining of clothes! We still painted the children who hadn't been tested, but suggested that they just had a hand design if any skin sensitivity was suspected. Nobody experienced any adverse reactions.

To keep things simple we offered basic tribal designs, smiley faces, lightning flashes and flowers. The thicker the paint was applied, the better it glowed. We used brushes and cotton wool buds to apply the paint, and had several parent volunteers manning the face painting station. The children often started with designs on their hands and then came back for face paints later.

The paint and glow bracelets were included in the ticket price (£3 per child, free for pre-schoolers) and we sold sweets in pre-prepared cones, crisps, home-made cakes and squash. We made a profit of £350 - a 40% increase on our typical income from a disco. It wasn't at all messy either! The event was enormously popular; we had much better ticket sales than previous discos and many parents who don't usually comment on Friends' events were very positive. Most importantly, the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves!'

Judy Emanuel, PTA Chair, Newport Primary School, Essex (150 pupils)

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.