Step-by-step: international evening

Draw on your school's diversity or raise awareness of other cultures with an international event.

For schools with pupils from various ethnic backgrounds, international events draw on that diversity. In less diverse schools international evenings can help raise awareness of other cultures. Use a religious or cultural festival as a basis for choosing your timing and theme - fireworks for Diwali, or a French cheese and wine evening for Bastille Day.

Some very adventurous PTAs hold international weeks! We've based this guidance on an international evening of music, dance and food.

What to include

  • A performance of music/dance.
  • A bar - this will require a TEN.
  • Decorations made by pupils - with an international theme.
  • Costumes/dress - encourage guests to wear their national dress or something colourful.
  • Presentations by the pupils and their families about their cultural background.
  • Ask parents to donate a dish as this will keep food costs down. Alternatively (or as well as), ask local restaurants for food donations in return for some low-key advertising.

Costs/revenue

  • Sell tickets in advance and adopt a ticket-only policy on the door to help manage numbers and for security. Find out how to sell tickets online.
  • Consider holding a raffle to help boost revenue.

Involving parents and local performers

  • In addition to involving pupils, seek out talented parents.
  • Guests contributing food need to ensure that they label and name each dish and list the ingredients used. This is particularly important for foods that commonly cause allergies or dishes containing meat. Find out about food safety in our catering FAQs.
  • Your event could include performances from local musicians and dance schools.
  • Your local paper is a good place to source dance troupes and musicians that may be willing to support your event.

Publicity

  • Publicise the event well in advance on posters, notice boards, newsletters and via school and PTA websites.
  • Prepare and submit a media release and issue this to the local paper and radio station.

Success stories

'The school is a large, multi-cultural comprehensive in North London, so we decided to hold an international evening to celebrate the diversity within our community. The evening itself had three main attractions - food, acts and decoration. Parents and local restaurants provided us with dishes from their countries; students performed - we had all sorts of acts - Indian dancing, Irish dancing, African drumming, a jazz band and a Turkish band; for the decorations, our textiles department made flags and outfits using traditional cloth. The music department organised the performances, and the design and technology department provided additional food. We booked the school hall in September, and started detailed planning about three months before the event. My advice for organising a successful international evening is to have a very clear project plan, detailing each and every step. Then delegate tasks to teachers, members of the local community and parents. Tickets were £5, sold in advance and on the door, and we had a bar and raffle. In total we raised £1,500.'

Jane Wiffin, PTA chair, Alexandra Palace School

'Having held an annual Valentine's ball for many years, our PA decided to try something a bit different - a Bollywood ball! After setting up a small sub-committee, and with the help of a grandparent of a student, we started planning. Our aim was to make the evening as authentic as possible, so we chose images and colours that reflected this - elephants, Kali, flowers, etc, using these on decorations, table plans and menus. We wanted to keep ticket prices low, so we secured a catering company to provide a traditional Indian three-course buffet at a discounted price.

The school hall was the venue, and with a team of helpers we were able to transform it into a Bollywood set, complete with a 'Taj Mahal' archway. Coloured silk hangings were suspended from the ceiling and the tables were decorated with bright satin runners and flowers. Bollywood posters were put up around the hall, a gazebo was placed in the entrance and decorated with hangings and lights and a red carpet put in place. Bollywood images were projected onto the wall of the stage throughout the evening. On arrival, guests received a traditional 'Namaste' welcome from students in costume, before being served Buck's Fizz. A group of sixth form Young Enterprise photography students set up a small studio and took pictures of guests. A BBC Asian Network award-winning DJ provided a fantastic blend of Bollywood-themed music, mixed with classic disco/pop numbers. During the evening we had a fabulous bhangra dance group perform a spectacular floor show followed by an interactive bhangra dance lesson. Virtually all of our 160 guests took to the dance floor - and they stayed there all evening!

The invitations had suggested dressing in a Bollywood theme, and we were delighted to see that the majority of guests embraced this - there were many patterned shirts and colourful saris on display, and that was just the men! Guests were able to complement their outfits with henna tattoos provided by our henna artist, and of course our Young Enterprise team were on hand to take photos, providing guests with a keepsake of the evening. We ran a raffle with prizes donated by local companies and secured a good price on real ale from a local brewery. By utilising items purchased for previous events, negotiating costs with caterers and entertainers, making props and having sixth form students assist, we were able to set a ticket price of £25 - not bad for an evening of entertainment and a three course meal.

We have never seen such a busy dance floor at an event and, given the feedback from guests, the evening was a tremendous success. Comments we received included a couple who said they now wished they had attended more PA events given how much they had enjoyed the ball. The support we received from the school staff, parents and, in particular, our sixth form students meant we were able to keep costs down, and we made a profit of over £2,500. It was hard work but definitely worth it and we have already selected the theme for this year's ball. My advice? Start planning early, don't be afraid to ask suppliers for a discount or to ask around for help and support. There are always people who, whilst not wanting to make the commitment to join the PA, are nonetheless happy to help out for a one-off event.'

Ruth Desmond, PTA Chair, Parmiter's School Parents' Association, Hertfordshire (1,362 pupils)

For more information

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.