One of the most common questions PTA members ask us is how to get more people to come along to meetings. It can be difficult for parents and carers to attend meetings due to work and home commitments, even if they are keen to be involved. But for any organisation to work effectively, members need to be able to get together in order to make important decisions and tackle issues as a group. So how can you encourage more people to attend?
Face to face meetings
Among the PTAs we spoke to, the general consensus was that evening meetings work best. Typically these are held on school premises, but some have found that holding the meeting in a local pub encourages more people to come as they prefer the more informal atmosphere.
Be mindful that most attendees won't want a late night, so for evening meetings, it's crucial to stick to your agenda. Discussions can quickly go off-topic (particularly if you're in the pub!) and you run the risk of new members being put off by a late finish.
To avoid this, some PTAs now hold their meetings straight after school. If parents are picking children up anyway, it's not too much to ask for them to stick around for a meeting, especially if you can offer childcare. On Facebook, Vicky Thompsett says: 'We had always held our meetings in the evening but we recently held one straight after school with the children going into the after-school club for free. It was a huge success and we had no spare seats!'
Take it online
With more and more of our daily communication taking place digitally rather than face to face, should PTAs consider holding online meetings? This would resolve any childcare issues and might encourage less confident members to share their opinions with the group. Skype and Google Hangouts are effective platforms for group chats and conference calls, but Facebook is clearly the favourite for PTAs. Whether you have a group for all school parents or a smaller group for PTA members only, it's a great platform for sharing ideas, but could it host a meeting? Liz Newmarch from Ysgol Nannerch VC Primary School in Mold, thinks so. 'We are a small primary school with supportive but busy parents so we recently held a "virtual PTA meeting" on Facebook one evening. The committee posted various questions/topics/polls for parents to engage with. All parents could see what was being discussed so it was a very open and transparent "meeting". Parents could comment at a later date if they couldn't make that time. There were no minutes to type up and it's been easier to chase up action points because we just check the comments and add a reminder. 'For some kinds of meetings, such as the AGM, you will need to check your constitution to see if it allows meetings to be held online.