Label P LB J20

Chair: Chewton Mendip Primary School

Sarah Ryrie, Chewton Mendip CEVA Primary School, Radstock, Somerset (144 pupils)

Running your PTA

  • How many people are there on your committee? 7 members
  • How long have you been Chair? 7 months
  • When is your busiest time of year? The autumn term, as we have welcome-back-to-school coffees, the AGM, School Grounds Tidy-Up days, and several other events!
  • When is your quietest time of year? The spring term, because we have just one regular event, which is our hugely popular soup lunch.
  • How hands-on are you as a Chair? I'm generally very hands on. If I'm not prepared to get involved, why should I expect anyone else to do it? We do have different groups of parents organise different events, such as our Christmas craft fair, and I just support in any way I can, whether that is helping to find additional volunteers or carrying out a health and safety report.
  • What is your relationship like with the school and the staff? It's fantastic, and the Headteacher and staff really value the contribution that our PTA makes, not just financially but also to building a closer school community.

Tips and advice

  • What's the best piece of advice you received before taking on the role of Chair? Don't be afraid to ask for help!
  • What advice will you pass on to your successor?  You can't do everything yourself. Don't be afraid to ask the people you don't know to help!  The worst they can say is no.
  • What do you wish you'd known before becoming Chair? Just how much time it was going to take up! However, I have set up various things that we didn't previously have so it has taken more time than it would normally do.
  • What have you personally gained from being Chair? Getting to know the school and village community much better. I have also shown my children that it's not a bunch of magical fairies that make all the amazing events happen through the year; they happen thanks to the hard work of parents. The best thing has been my children's willingness to help out as well.
  • What is the best thing about being Chair? Breaking the misconception that I am a power-crazed stay-at-home mum with nothing else to do! I work and I have a busy family life, so being Chair of the PTA has to fit in with that. However, nothing would get done without the support and teamwork of the committee, the parents and the school staff.
  • What do you think makes a good PTA Chair? Someone who is organised! Someone who is willing to get their own hands dirty. Someone who wants to make a difference to the school and the academic journey that their child is on.

Challenges in the role

  • What challenges/difficulties have you faced? Making sure everything gets done. I am not the most organised of people and I work better under pressure, but I have to remember that I can't do everything at the last minute!
  • What is the most daunting task you have to undertake? Taking on the fireworks display with little background information available. There is so much to consider in order to create a wonderful experience for both the school and the village.
  • How do you go about handling any animosity/disagreements in your committee?  We are a small team and if there are any disagreements, we try to find a compromise as swiftly as possible.
  • How do you go about recruiting volunteers for events? We put requests out via Facebook, notes in book bags, emails to those parents we have details for, posters around school, information in the weekly school newsletter, and talking to parents at school pick-up and drop-off times. We also have Class Champions who help spread the word about activities.

Boosting support

  • How do you go about boosting morale and motivating your committee? We meet every four-to-six weeks. Everyone's opinions and ideas matter, no matter how small.
  • How do you welcome new families to the school? We now have a PTA leaflet detailing all the information needed about the PTA, along with contact details.  We also host a welcome coffee morning in September to bring old and new parents together. We also have a presence at the new parent meetings that the Headteacher hosts in the summer term.

Stepping down

  • How long do you intend on being Chair? Two years maximum.
  • How long did you plan on being Chair when you started, and has this changed since taking on the role? Two years, as I firmly believe that the people holding a position should change every two years to ensure there are minimal PTA politics and that the rest of the parent community feels that they can get involved, too.
  • Do you intend on having your successor shadow you in the role, before you step down? I don't, but I do intend on having a PTA file with all the information needed to replicate events we run during the period of me being Chair. I didn't have this and so some events seem to be a bit last minute. I have already started compiling it.

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