Label P LB J20

Chair: Ysgol Y Llys

Nikki Barlow, Ysgol Y Llys, Prestatyn, Denbighshire (375 pupils)

Running your PTA

  • How many people are there on your committee? 5 members
  • How long have you been Chair? 3 years
  • When is your busiest time of year? Between October and November is our busiest time, as we run several events, but I am always busy as Chair because I'm constantly on the look out for new things and ideas to try - I am keen to improve on events year after year.
  • When is your quietest time of year? I don't think there is ever truly a quiet time, but the start of the New Year is always much less chaotic, especially after Christmas.
  • How hands-on are you as a Chair? I would consider myself to be hands-on but probably don't delegate as much as I should. There is just so much that I would like us to do but we just don't have the manpower or the resources.
  • What is your relationship like with the school and the staff? Very good - we have an excellent relationship with the school and we all work well together. We always have staff representation at our meetings and we attend their staff meeting as and when needed. It's important that we maintain a good relationship with the school and at the same time ensure we understand the school and its day-to-day workings and restrictions.

Tips and advice

  • What's the best piece of advice you received before taking on the role of Chair? I wasn't really given any specific advice. I was handed some stock information and some contact details. In the future I would love to create a local group of PTA Chairs and meet so we can share ideas, contacts, split costs etc.
  • What advice will you pass on to your successor? Get to know the school and staff, and look at the events that are usually held. It's important to maintain a close working relationship with the school's Head. Make sure you have all your facts, have checked everything with the school, and you will be fine. Remember to keep an open mind and not take anything too personally.
  • What do you wish you'd known before becoming Chair? How difficult it would be to recruit volunteers - sadly this always seems to be a struggle. I automatically assumed that everyone would feel the same as I do!
  • What have you personally gained from being Chair? Self-confidence, and knowing I have contributed to enhancing the children's education makes me feel very proud of our achievements. This is the case especially when I look at how much we have raised over the past three years and see where our money has been spent. I absolutely love what I can do for the school.
  • What is the best thing about being Chair? Playing a big part in my children's education and being closely involved with their school and its staff. We have also changed the ethos of the PTA at the school, and have become a strong link between the school and parents. The best thing is the people - I have met and become friends with some great parents and school staff from all walks of life. 
  • What do you think makes a good PTA Chair? I believe it's the ability to work with all kinds of people, to be patient and open-minded, and get the best out of everyone. The ability to delegate is key, as you cannot to do it all by yourself, and most of all you need to have good communication and organisational skills. Understanding peoples' situations is also important.

Challenges in the role

  • What challenges do you face? A lack of volunteers like all PTAs seems to be a common challenge. I do worry that our current committee is mostly made up of parents with children in the upper years of the school and we shall soon be moving on. It's important to me that we establish strong connections with parents with children in the younger years so we can start to hand over to avoid any major disruption to the school.
  • What is the most daunting task you have to undertake? The most daunting thing I experienced was my first event as Chair - we ran a disco. The previous Chair had been in the role for many years so I was filling experienced shoes! I really wanted to make sure that it went to plan. The night was a success, and with that I gained confidence and believed I could fulfill the role. Another daunting occasion was presenting our pitch at our first new parents evening!  All those new parents were hanging on every word, whilst hoping that I wasn't going to sign them up for a lifetime of school fayres!
  • Have you ever had an instance where you have had to challenge the school's decision(s)? Yes - we hold a disco for Nursery and Reception in the afternoon straight from school separate from the other years. The school asked if we could invite 2 other years to join the young ones' disco instead of coming later in the evening, but as pupil numbers were increasing we were concerned that the disco was getting too big for the younger ones. This was all discussed amicably and the teacher attending our meeting could understand our reasoning. It's currently been left as planned but we are going to monitor the event.
  • How do you go about handling any animosity/disagreements in your committee? Luckily we have not experienced much of this and everyone gets on really well.  We all know our strengths and weaknesses and it all just gels together.  We are very lucky!

Boosting support

  • How do you go about recruiting volunteers for events? We have regular volunteers for the big events, and we also use Facebook to ask for help. It's always nice though to get new faces to help out. We always try and ensure we have parents helping from all the school years to balance it out. You find that parents who help out regularly then become more involved with the PTA as a whole - our hope is that these parents can then possibly take over the PTA roles as people step down, so we are always aware of succession planning. We make sure that after all our meetings that our minutes are circulated to all parents.
  • How do you go about boosting morale and motivating your committee? We had a summer get-together in the holidays with our children and one Christmas we had a Christmas meal out with our children. Most of the main committee members see each other on a regular basis and we are always in touch.
  • How do you welcome new families to the school? Three years ago we decided to start attending the school's welcome evening for new parents. Since then our role has evolved where our 'slot' now consists of a presentation and a promotional video, and we hand out goody bags to each set of parents. In the bags we include our newsletter, a questionnaire, uniform information, fundraising schemes we have set up, and cookies with welcome rhymes attached to them for the children. We also have a raffle and the bag with the lucky star in it wins a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates!

Stepping down

  • How long do you intend on being Chair? I should probably only be in the role as long as my children are in the school. At the moment I am happy to carry on until someone else wants to take over. At our recent AGM I did offer the role out but everyone was happy for me to remain as Chair.
  • How long did you plan on being Chair when you started, and has this changed since taking on the role? It's not something that I actually thought about. I'm sure if I had been asked back then, I would say the same as I would now.
  • Did you shadow the previous Chair before taking on the role? Sadly, no, but I was part of the PTA before I took on the role so I had a rough idea of how things worked. The previous Chair was more than happy to support me and emailed me information as and when I contacted her.
  • Do you intend on having your successor shadow you in the role, before you step down? I would do this. I would say several months or longer if necessary would be an appropriate length of time to shadow. It would be good to go through all the events once before handing over completely, but that may not be possible.

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