PTA health check
Covid-19 forced PTAs to cancel events and put plans on
hold. We look at what's happened since then and what steps PTAs can
take to get back up and running.
With so few pupils in attendance and no external visitors to
fund, you might think that schools have saved money since lockdown.
But, according to a survey by the National Association of Head
Teachers, English schools are, on average, £25,000 down after
coping with the costs of coronavirus, with lost income accounting
for around £15,000 and additional costs the rest.
In an interview with ITV News at the end of the school year,
Simon Kidwell, headteacher of Hartford Manor Primary School
in Cheshire told how his school had spent £16,000 to keep
the children clean, safe and secure. Adding in losses from
cancelled nursery and pre- and after-school classes, the school is
£50,000 down in total.
Hartford Manor PTA chair Michelle Bebbington
told us: 'Our fundraising total was just below £10,000 before
lockdown and we were on course to hit our £20,000 target. As the
schools closed, we made a conscious decision as a PTA to put
fundraising on hold. Towards the end of the summer term we were
able to hold some virtual quizzes, an online group challenge and a
virtual balloon race event. In total, we raised around £13,000 for
At Ann Edwards CofE Primary in South Cerney,
Cirencester, school business manager Kevin Parker has been
investing heavily in cleaning materials, PPE, resources and
signage. 'We certainly haven't viewed this time as an opportunity
to save money,' he says. 'We are aware there is Covid-19 emergency
funding available, but it will be extremely ring-fenced and it's
not completely clear what will be eligible.
'Our school used to raise an extra £1,500 each academic year
from lettings to external clubs, with the summer term being the
most lucrative. We don't know when that might start up again.'
The PTA at Ann Edwards is also short of its target. 'We were
hoping to raise around £10,000 this year,' says PTA chair Sarah
Delbridge, 'but we felt it was appropriate to pause our activities
at the start of lockdown. We think we actually made just half that
So how should PTAs approach the coming year? 'We will review
which events can be run within the current guidelines,' says
Michelle Bebbington. 'Maybe once we get an update on gatherings, we
will be able to hold adult events such as "Fashion and Fizz" and
Christmas wreath-making. We're kicking off the new school year with
a sponsored bike ride, and we'll do our utmost to at least match
last year's total.'
'The PTA will also be an excellent point of contact for new
families,' says Simon Kidwell. 'Although it won't be possible to
meet in school, they can still visit by prior arrangement to access
resources. The PTA can build the community cohesion which is every
bit as important as fundraising.'
There's a spirit of working together at Ann Edwards too. 'We
have arranged our virtual AGM and will start planning from there,'
says Sarah Delbridge. 'We'll look at what we want to achieve and
work out if the school or the PTA can do it best. I think all PTAs
will have to work closer with their schools in the next few years.
At first, parents will be exhausted and the challenge will be to
engage them in what we're doing.'
'We need to get parents invested in what the PTA and the school
are doing,' says Kevin Parker. 'The PTA can get the children fired
up about fundraising again, and I'll be talking to Sarah and the
rest of the committee to establish how we can work together for the
Time for a checkup
Now is the perfect moment to conduct a PTA health check, says
In the same way you'd check the roadworthiness of your car by
taking it for an MOT, your charity will also benefit from a regular
health check to ascertain what's working and which areas might
benefit from some attention. As we start to adapt to differents
ways of working and while we are still facing an uncertain future,
a health check is something that can help reinvigorate the team and
kick-off preparations for the new school year.
Taking time out to assess the health of your PTA has clear
- It helps you spot problems before they turn into major
- It helps you work more effectively.
- It gives you a chance to step back and brings the committee
together as a team.
A charity health check need not be a huge and complex
undertaking, but it does require a little forethought and effort.
Use it as a way of opening up discussions on topics you may not
usually encounter. Working through a list of questions in a group
helps everyone on the committee understand that there is more
to consider than just the next fundraising event. Either arrange
one-to-one video chats with key people, or get a group into your
back garden and ask for their ideas. Remember, the aim is to check
what is happening and identify any gaps. Here are some areas to
Having a clear purpose and some well-defined goals helps
everyone pull in the same direction and will prevent your committee
from becoming overwhelmed with well-meaning suggestions. It binds
the team together.
Ask yourself whether it is clear what the PTA is there to do.
Does it have a clear purpose and clear goals? (Take a look at your
constitution and at the key objectives.) Is the committee aware of
these objectives? Do parents understand the role of the PTA?
The committee is core to the work of the PTA so it is important
that it functions effectively. Are the roles for chair, treasurer
and secretary filled? What other roles do you have? Do committee
members know what their roles are? Does the committee reflect the
school in terms of year groups, ethnicity, background, etc?
Diversity is a vital driver for creativity. How can you reach out
to include others?
Having a clear idea of income and expenditure, and any risks to
your budget, helps you put in place actions to mitigate in good
Think about how you generated money in the past. Are there new
ways to generate income while we are still being socially distant?
Would you like to work with local businesses to gain sponsorship or
Does everyone have a clear idea of the budget? Are there
longer-term financial goals? What is the process for checking the
accounts or signing off expenditure? Are there clear audit trails
for money? Are you planning to set up contactless payments and
online payment systems? If so, have you thought about how you will
keep track of this money?
PTAs are volunteer organisations. People volunteer for lots of
different reasons and keeping them engaged and happy will make your
work a lot easier.
Examine who gets involved. Are they enjoying their roles? Do
they feel engaged and valued? Do you actively seek to get new
volunteers? How long do people stay for? Why do they stop? Do you
have succession planning in place for key people in your
organisation, such as event organisers, chair and treasurer, in
case their circumstances change and they have to step down?
PTAs frequently work closely with other organisations in order
to succeed in their work. Those relationships require care. Who do
you collaborate with? Do you work with Lions, Scouts or other
community groups? What about other local organisations? How are
those relationships? What can be done to strengthen them? How can
you make them work in the current circumstances? Take a look at
your relationship with the school. If there is tension, what can be
done to help you all move on together?
As you can see, these are wide-ranging questions but they are an
excellent way of focusing the team and picking out issues and
opportunities. Discussing these items in committee meetings can be
an excellent team bonding exercise too.
Performing the assessment is just the beginning. When you have
the answers to your questions, use them to generate a list of
priorities and begin to set meaningful and achievable goals. While
you undoubtedly need to include fundraising goals in the mix, you
may also decide on other targets such as recruiting new committee
members or setting up a second-hand uniform service. Speak to the
school to find out what they want, when they need it and what is
possible within their guidelines. Whatever you decide, remember to
celebrate every achievement and make sure you thank your team and
all those involved for their hard work.
- Paul Kaerger is a consultant and management trainer. He has
been a school governor and charity trustee and now works with
charities and small businesses delivering leadership training. pkms.co.uk.
Set the right goals
You might think setting objectives sounds too corporate for a
PTA, but well-defined goals are a powerful way to stop your group
pulling in different directions and becoming overwhelmed with
Try following this five-part method used by project managers to
create SMART objectives.
Specific: What is the goal? Why do we want to
hit this goal? Who will be involved?
Measurable: Actual amounts or real deadlines.
How much money did we raise? How many committee members were
Attainable: Do you have the skills, equipment
and finances available to help you get there? Do you have the
backing of the head? Will they help with promotion, and is access
to the school possible?
Relevant: Does it align with the overall goal
of your PTA and the school? Is now the right time to be doing
Time-bound: Some goals may be long-term, such
as funding a new playground, while starting up a Facebook group
could be done much more quickly.
Example objective: Raise £1,000 to pay for
online learning resource subscriptions by January 2021 with not
more than £100 outlay and using current committee members. How will
you do it? Hold a virtual event in December.
Break it down further: Research and select an
event, and assign job roles in October. Approach local businesses
for sponsorship - if required - and promote in November.
Once you've got a rough framework for the year it's easier to
see where you might go wrong or where resources may overlap. Use
your objectives as a guide to give you confidence and to help keep
the school updated on your progress. If you don't achieve your
goals, assess why that happened and use this to learn for the
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