People power oils the wheels of the PTA, yet a lack of helpers is usually one of the biggest challenges facing the committee. Whether it’s securing and maintaining parental support for fundraising projects, getting your messages out or planning who’s going to take over as chair, we’re all familiar with the challenges a shortage of volunteers brings. All this can change by harnessing the potential of class (or year) reps.
A visible point of contact between the school, parents and PTA, class reps help disseminate information to their groups, freeing up the rest of the committee for other tasks. While it’s near impossible for committee members to know all the parents at your school, reps give parents a point of contact with a familiar face.
PTAs can often be perceived as being distant and cliquey, so appointing multiple representatives across the school could help parents feel closer to the committee and more likely to support its decisions. Through the class rep system, committees can understand more about each year group, making for more thorough and well-rounded decisions. Getting more parents involved is a great way to spread the workload and provide a strong support structure for the core committee. And when it comes to succession planning, this increased involvement gives you a broader pool of possible candidates.
If you’re struggling to get volunteers in the first place, recruiting class reps may seem an impossible task, but different commitments appeal to different people. It’s often the responsibility and time investment that is the dealbreaker when it comes to more prominent roles such as chair, treasurer and secretary.
Becoming class rep is a much smaller commitment, with duties often fitted into just an hour a week. There’s also less paperwork, and reps mostly deal with parents they already know.
Begin by inviting parents to take on the role for a term and welcome them along to meetings, creating a low-risk way to get involved. Encourage people to sign up in pairs with friends to create a less daunting experience. Use testimonials from PTA+ magazine to help inspire less experienced volunteers, and make sure they know they can count on committee members for support and guidance. Be sure to emphasise the positives:
- It’s a great way to meet people and become more integrated into the school community.
- Volunteers learn new skills and become more actively involved in raising money for the school.
- The children get to experience more of the memorable activities your PTA can provide.
If no parents step forward voluntarily, ask class teachers for recommendations. Who can resist the flattery of being approached and told, ‘Ms Smith suggested you’d make a great class rep’?
Depending on the size of your school and the number of volunteers, you may decide to appoint year reps instead. Remember that while fewer year reps are required, it does mean a heavier workload for each one. You could try appointing both class and year reps if you have enough people. Discuss options to see what would work best for your school.
What does a rep do?
Before starting a recruitment drive, it’s essential to agree on the role of your reps. Some PTAs invite class reps to attend monthly meetings, while others keep them in the loop by sending minutes of meetings or special requests.
Some are elected at an AGM and form part of an extended committee with voting rights, while others take a less formal role. Based on your decisions, draw up a job description to make the role easy for volunteers to understand. State how long you expect them to remain in post (eg. one academic year) and what they will be expected to do in that time. Typically, class reps do the following:
- Pass on information from the PTA to other parents in their child’s class, collate the results of any parent surveys, and encourage parents to support the PTA.
- Publicise PTA fundraising events and help sell tickets.
- Attend the AGM and PTA committee meetings.
- Coordinate volunteers to help with fundraising activities. With social distancing in place, you may wish to ask your class rep to organise a small event or fundraising drive for one bubble.
- Organise informal social activities for parents and families in their child’s class, ranging from coffee mornings to end-of-year parties – either face-to-face or virtual, depending on guidelines
- Seek feedback from parents on PTA events or funding requests and pass it on to the committee.
Recruit a new class rep towards the end of the summer term to take over in the new academic year. Whatever you decide, make sure you let potential reps know that they will be supported in their duties.
A new approach
With Covid-19 measures in place, PTAs can’t currently have such a face-to-face, playground-orientated approach. Encourage reps to create class or year groups on platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook or use existing groups to spread the PTA message informally. Suggest they start by posting a photo and a friendly introduction. If parents know who they’re approaching, they’re more likely to get involved.
Retaining your reps
It takes time and effort to get reps on board, so you’ll want to keep them in your team for as long as possible. Create opportunities such as rep meetings where they can voice concerns and make suggestions. Listen to what they have to say and give feedback. Nominate a contact on the committee so they can email any issues or worries. If you can, offer perks such as volunteer raffles and discounted event tickets. Always take the time to say thank you – if your reps enjoy the job, they may hold the role for several years.