Chair: St Mary's C of E School
Lisa Smith-Walker, St Mary's CofE School, Truro,
Cornwall (210 pupils)
Running your PTA
- How many people are there on your committee? 9
- How long have you been Chair? 2 years
- When is your busiest time of year? The summer
term - the summer fair takes a huge amount of planning. The welcome
sessions for new parents, organising leavers' hoodies, and our
end-of-year disco take up time, too.
- When is your quietest time of year? Early
spring - this is our recovery time after Christmas, before the real
work towards summer begins!
- How hands-on are you as a Chair? I am very
hands-on. There are certain tasks that are delegated to volunteers
but I organise the events and oversee most of the activities
- What is your relationship like with the school and the
staff? In the past the relationship had been very
difficult, but thanks to good communication we are now on great
terms with the school.
Tips and advice
- What advice will you pass on to your
successor? I would say that things often take a long time
to organise, so leave plenty of time to get events approved by the
school and planned out properly. Facebook has been controversial
but essential in gaining support and volunteers - parents are an
amazingly skilled and helpful bunch if you ask!
- What do you wish you'd known before becoming
Chair? The amount of time it takes up. I really needed a
proper handover with an explanation of structure, charity status
- What have you personally gained from being
Chair? I've gained a much wider social circle, and I've
met a huge amount of parents and staff that I wouldn't have crossed
paths with otherwise. My children love that I am the Chair and
organise the discos, school fairs, etc.
- What is the best thing about being Chair? I
love seeing the children's reactions to events and being able to
buy lovely things for the school.
- What do you think makes a good PTA Chair?
Communication with other parents, committee and school! Flexibility
and ability to cope with the stress that events bring are
Challenges in the role
- What challenges have you faced? Taking on a
PTA that had no structure, constitution or committee and getting it
back on track was tough. The first piece of post I was handed was a
'red letter' from the Charity Commission, threatening to remove our
charity status, as our paperwork was three years behind! Luckily,
some of the parents helped me with the backlog and we are all above
- What is the most daunting task you have to
undertake? The role as a whole! The PTA at our school was
waning when I took over, and spoke up at the AGM that I was able to
help out, but unsure in what capacity - before I knew it I was the
Chair! At that point the constitution was lost, the books were a
mess and the committee was non-existent.
- Have you ever had an instance where you have had to
challenge the school's decision(s)? The PTA and Year 6
parents really liked the idea of leavers' hoodies, but the school
was worried about pupils' names being visible, and didn't think the
hoodies were creative enough. So I tracked down a graphic designer
on Facebook who was willing to design the backs of the hoodies with
the students, making it creative, personal and anonymous! The
school loved the revised plan and we plan to do this again this
- Have you ever had an instance where an Officer was not
fulfilling their role, and was refusing to step down? The
Treasurer in post when I took over had not completed the books or
Charity Commission paperwork for three years, didn't check emails,
come to meetings or answer their phone. One of the more experienced
PTA members offered to help complete the paperwork and together we
all discussed their role and possibility of him stepping down - it
was agreed and I think he was quite relieved!
- How do you go about recruiting volunteers for
events? Emails are sent out about events and the help we
need for them, and volunteers reply. Facebook has played a major
role on boosting our numbers, volunteers and support - there were
three people on the page when I took over two years ago, but there
are now 105. I make 'PR Boards' showing all of the events, plus how
and where the funds raised have been spent.
- How do you welcome new families to the school?
Year R parents are invited to an information session at the school
that we attend and have a 'stall' to hand out details and gather
email addresses. We include flyers to our summer fair in the
information packs that the school sends out to new parents, and put
posters up in the local nurseries that feed into school. We have
First Day Teas for the Year R parents on the first morning for new
Reception children; the parents are invited to join us for a cuppa
after drop off, tissues provided!
- How long do you intend on being Chair? It
depends when you ask me! Just before the summer fair, I'm never
doing another! At this time of year, I'm thinking that I might stay
on a bit longer.
- Do you intend on having your successor shadow you in
the role, before you step down? I'm not sure if they would
shadow, as even when I step down I won't have gone far. Hopefully I
will always be available to offer any advice and continue to lend a
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