Label P LB J20

Chair: Elmtree Infant School

Ashley Myers, Elmtree Infant and Nursery School, Chesham, Bucks (260 pupils)

Running your PTA

  • How many people are there on your committee? 18 members
  • How long have you been Chair? 1-2 years
  • When is your busiest time of year? The autumn term - in September we organise a Harvest festival, by getting famlies to donate food for Harvest goodie packs that we distribute to the vulnerable members of our community. We make up the hampers ourselves. We usually have a school disco and an open day for new families. The PTA also starts planning the Christmas fayre, Christmas parties and concerts.
  • When is your quietest time of year? During January, but we are always planning film nights, discos, quiz nights, etc, to run before the half-term break.
  • How hands-on are you as a Chair? I am very hands-on but I do delegate some tasks. I think we all have particular tasks that we like to do, so those get repeated throughout the year.
  • What is your relationship like with the school and the staff? Amazing - the staff have always been so helpful and I have gained the respect of many teachers, so they are now stepping forward to help at events more.

Tips and advice

  • What advice will you pass on to your successor? Don't give up, don't be afraid to approach people to ask if they will volunteer, and maintain good communication with the school. Don't be afraid to change or adapt things when you need to.
  • What do you wish you'd known before becoming Chair? What else the PTA was involved in, other than fundraising events.
  • What have you personally gained from being Chair? I have gained great relationships with the school staff and some of the governors, plus a good insight into the running of the school. I think I've also regained confidence in skills that I had prior to having my daughter. Having given up a successful project-management career, it has been great to use these skills again!
  • What is the best thing about being Chair? The strong relationships I have with the school staff and teachers, and knowing that the money we've raised has benefitted so many children.
  • What do you think makes a good Chair? Being able to communicate on all levels, being organised and planning ahead.

Challenges in the role

  • What challenges do you face? I've had some criticism in the past for not doing things that have always historically been done. This wasn't intentional, but simply due to the fact I couldn't get enough volunteers. I find it frustrating to be told things have to be done a certain way. I think the Chair should always be given the freedom to make positive changes that they think will work.
  • What is the most daunting task you've had to undertake? Running the Christmas and summer fayres, and also participation in the town's summer carnival.
  • Have you ever had an instance where you have had to challenge the school's decision(s)? The school has always worked very well and closely with the PTA. We seem to negotiate well and come to a compromise of some kind so that both the PTA and school are happy.
  • Have you ever had an instance where an Officer was not fulfilling their role, and was refusing to step down? No, not really. Everyone does what they can and we all understand that we have work and family commitments. People are usually upfront if they can't meet their role's expecations and we all just get on with it to get the job done.
  • How do you go about handling any animosity/disagreements in your committee? There hasn't really been any animosity as far as I'm aware. We did have some disagreements about expenses that were being claimed, but those involved discussed the matters between themselves until they reached an agreement. It was all handled very diplomatically, and it was good to hear each person's perspective.

Boosting support

  • How do you go about recruiting volunteers for events? We put sign-up lists outside each classroom and get the school to text all the parents regularly, to remind people they are there. I also use Facebook, the PTA noticeboard, and often put up posters. I did also once threaten to cancel an event due to lack of volunteers and it was amazing how many people then stepped forward!
  • How do you go about boosting morale and motivating your committee? I remind people how much money we raised and how much the children and school benefit from all our hard work. I thank everyone all the time as I do appreciate all the help we get. I also ensure that the school acknowledges the PTA's efforts in their newsletter, letters to parents, and during some assemblies and events.
  • How do you welcome new families to the school? The PTA speaks at the induction days in July for new families. At the beginning of term, we have a coffee morning as a 'Welcome to/back to school' event.

Stepping down

  • How long do you intend on being Chair? Until my daughter moves on to a new school for Year 3.
  • How long did you plan on being Chair when you started, and has this changed since taking on the role? I anticipated I would be there for the remaining time my daughter had at the school (two years). However, after my first year I would have liked to have stepped down to Vice-Chair, and helped someone new take on the role as Chair so they could continue once I'd left.
  • Did you shadow the previous Chair before taking on the role? No, but as I was Treausrer and had worked closely with the Secretary, I had an understanding of what was required.
  • Do you intend on having your successor shadow you in the role before you step down? I am writing a handbook detailing everything that the PTA is involved in, which should help the new Chair.

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