What is it?
The chair is the one in charge, the one most likely to be wearing a Britney Spears-style headset at events and having sleepless nights before the summer fair. It’s also an immensely rewarding role, as you’re leading a team which gets to see what an incredible difference the PTA is making and the driving force making it happen.
A role like no other
You’ll have heard it a thousand times – the PTA is at the heart of the school community, enriching the children’s school experience and helping them to thrive. And at the centre of that heart is the chair – the one who brings everyone together to make it all happen.
If that sounds like a lot of responsibility, you’re not doing it alone. You’ll work with a strong team with all different kinds of expertise. It’s a lot of hard work but hugely fulfilling – you get to come up with ideas and follow them through to fruition, making a difference not only for your own child but for children in years to come.
The chair’s responsibilities
1 To lead meetings, including the AGM, in an efficient and productive way – sometimes they can get off track, or the louder voices can dominate while the quieter ones don’t get a chance to speak. It’s your job to keep things running smoothly
2 To welcome and encourage new volunteers
3 To be the point of contact for the school
4 To write the chair's report which is delivered at the AGM – this is your chance to shout about what you’ve done over the past year; mention events that went particularly well and the difference you’ve made to the school
5 To work with the trustees to ensure the PTA meets its legal obligations eg, submitting reports to the Charity Commission.
The benefits of co-chairing
1 Sharing the role means you have less of the responsibility and can share the stress
2 If you’re struggling with recruitment, it can be less daunting for someone to take on the role of chair if they know they’re not solely in charge
3 It’s a great way for a new recruit to learn from someone who has more experience
4 Different people bring different skills to the role, which is a huge benefit to the PTA – you can each take on tasks which play to your differing strengths
5 You’ll have someone to discuss things with – if you’re kicking around ideas for your next fundraising event, or ways to solve a current problem, there’s someone to bounce ideas off.
In detail: the AGM
- Let members know when and where the AGM will take place – your constitution will tell you how much notice you need to give
- You’ll welcome everyone and pass on apologies for anyone who couldn’t make it
- Approve the minutes of the previous AGM
- Deliver the chair’s report – unlike the treasurer’s report, this is informal and completely optional
- Invite the treasurer to deliver their formal report, including the opening balance at the start of the previous year, how much money was raised, any costs incurred, a list of what was purchased for the school and the current balance. The PTA then adopts the accounts
- Elections – committee members, including the chair, will usually stand for a year and will need to be re-elected if they wish to remain in position. You will need also to be seconded. Check your PTA’s constitution to find out how this works for your group
- Any other business – this might include any new guidelines or policies you wish to adopt alongside your current constitution.
Do’s and don’ts
DON’T feel you need to do everything yourself: if you have willing helpers, delegate jobs.
DO thank volunteers for giving up their time: everyone likes to know they’re appreciated. They’re more likely to volunteer again if they know how much their work means to you.
DON’T feel you need to do it forever: it’s easy to think ‘I need to carry on, as the PTA would fold without me’; know when to call it a day.
DO learn to say no: you’re one person and you can’t do everything.
DON’T take criticism personally: people love to complain, whether they didn’t like the snacks offered at a film night or they’d have preferred a different date for the summer fair and as chair you’re the obvious target for it. Invite detractors to volunteer their time and contribute in a constructive way.
DO keep up your enthusiasm, even if at times you have to fake it till you make it: your energy will inspire others.
DON’T leave it too late to plan what happens when you step down: it’s important to start succession planning in plenty of time to ensure a smooth handover with your replacement.
DO keep lines of communication open: with members, so they know what you’re dealing with and with your school, so they know how hard you’re working for the children.
DON’T be shy about approaching parents regarding recruitment: if you see someone who has the right skills and you think would be a good fit for any of your roles, have a word with them to sound them out.
You’re probably already doing parts of the chair role in other areas of your life without knowing it:
- If you’re the family’s designated planner and list maker, those skills will come in handy when you need to organise a PTA event
- Maybe at work you’re the person who keeps everyone on track during meetings – well congratulations, you’ll be a natural at the AGM
- Perhaps you’re approachable and friendly, which will be a bonus when welcoming volunteers
- If you have bags of enthusiasm, this will come in handy if anyone’s spirits are flagging – you can remind them why’re doing this in the first place.