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A little help from my friends

Sarah Kingsley Sarah Kingsley | 12:49 UK time, Thursday, 13 January 2011

When I was a child – not quite the dark ages, although it sometimes seemed like it during those three day weeks in the 1970s – the idea of parents organising fund-raising events for their local school was virtually unknown. My mother had little involvement with what went on behind the school gates and found it hard to meet other parents or find out about school activities.

Today, things are quite different. Many schools have a PTA (Parent Teacher Association)  and usually every parent or registered guardian of a child at that school is automatically a member. The PTA’s main role is to create a partnership between home and school. This often includes the organisation of fund-raising events such as fetes, quiz nights and discos which also provides an opportunity for parents and staff to socialise. 

On my son’s first day at primary school, I’m not sure who was more nervous, me or him, and I was grateful for the welcoming arms of the PTA. As I got to grips with what the PTA was all about, I decided to get involved, dipping my toe in at first and then jumping right in, by editing our PTA magazine and raising money for the school through advertising sales. Not only did I get to meet parents and staff, it was good for my confidence too – I was stuck at home with a baby at the time – and I’m sure it has helped me gain work as a result. 

colored cup cakes @ pink candy - fotolia.com

Of course, not everyone is able to help out regularly, but even if it’s just manning a stall at the summer fete or the occasional baking for the cake sale, every little helps. Admittedly, there are times when requests for money and help seem to come from all directions, but I can forgive the occasional over-enthusiastic organiser, when the benefits are so worthwhile. Apart from the money, which is a boost to most schools, the PTA contributes to a sense of community within the school and local area.

However, the PTA is not just about fund-raising and fun. Increasingly, its role extends to other parts of the school as, wearing my PTA editor’s hat, I discovered from David Butler, the chief executive of the national charity which represents over 13,000 PTAs - the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA):  

“There are a variety of ways that a PTA can help parents to become more engaged in their children’s learning such as language support for parents with English as a second language, tailored help for traditionally harder to reach parents, guidance on how to help with homework and support on issues such as internet safety and bullying.”  

We’ve certainly come along way from the days when parents were seen but not heard. Education is about being better informed and if parents and teachers can work in partnership - whether through fundraising, social events or support in the classroom - our children are more likely to thrive and succeed. And, I’d like to add, so are we!

Sarah Kingsley is a freelance writer and a member of the BBC Parent Panel.


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