Discos are a classic PTA event as they can be adapted to suit children, families and adults alike. Whether you're planning your first one or hold several each year, here are some helpful tips to inspire you...
Family discos are great as it means everyone can come, so there's no issues with parents with two children having to pick up and drop off children for different time slots, plus they allow the whole school community to get together.
Children's discos offer the prospect of a few hours' childcare to parents, although consider whether parents will be allowed to stay if desired. If you do this, limit it to one parent per family for the sake of numbers.
For an adults-only disco, bear in mind that more considerations need to be made before anyone can commit to coming – parents will need to arrange childcare, for one. Survey parents to see if this type of disco would be appealing and when would be best to hold it.
The obvious place to hold your event is in your school hall, but if you don't have the facilities, how about hiring a local hall? Ask your council for advice on suitable venues, and try to negotiate a discount on hire fees. If you're a small school, consider teaming up with other local PTAs and putting on a joint family disco in the local village hall.
Many PTAs run one disco per term, either to coincide with seasonal celebrations such as Valentine's or Easter or to mark the end of term. Always consider which other fundraisers you're offering in the same time period so you don't exhaust parents' pockets.
Depending on the size of your school and the age range that attends, it may be appropriate to hold multiple discos for each year or key stage.
A disco for younger children may need to be shorter than for older pupils to prevent children getting too tired. Our research shows that PTA discos typically range from 45 to 90 minutes. Consider offering a party instead for younger pupils, who may be intimidated by the noise and lighting of a full-on disco.
Giving your event a theme can help create a buzz of excitement! Popular ideas include crazy hair, shorts and shades, and monsters' bash (for Halloween). For older children, how about a roller disco? Appeal to adults with an 80s or 90s night.
Be inventive with how you tie the theme into the event – food, music, clothing and decorations can all add to the fun.
If hiring a professional DJ, you'll need to book them early, especially at busy times, such as the run up to Christmas or wedding season. Ask for recommendations from parents. If you're unfamiliar with the DJ, enquire about the playlist – after all, songs need to be suitable for the age group. If you're not using a DJ, check that any equipment you need is in full working order.
If featuring any form of live or recorded music, a music licence is required. Your school may have this already, so it's worth checking. You only need a TEN if you're planning to serve alcohol. If this is the case, be sure to apply to your local council at least ten days before the event.
- See our licensing guide for all you need to know about licences
You'll need volunteers to help set up, supervise children, cover exits, sell refreshments, monitor toilet areas and clean up after the event. It may be beneficial to recruit a member of staff or two to help to control the excitement!
If children aren't being accompanied by their parents, consider what adult:child ratio will be appropriate. Supervising adults may need DBS certificates, although this is not mandatory. All parents should fill out permission slips when allowing their children to attend the event, including contact details in the case of an emergency.
When holding children's discos later in the evening or in the darker winter months, you need to consider how pick-up will work. Chances are the school's outdoor lighting isn't great, and it's not easy to send children home with the right adult when no-one can see anyone's faces! Instead, get the children to sit down in the hall and ask parents to come inside to collect them.
Tuck shops go down a storm with older pupils who love being able to buy things with their own money. Offer a range of soft drinks, crisps, fruit and sweets purchased from a wholesaler such as Booker, which offers sale and return.
You can also sell glowsticks and fingerlights to add to the disco atmosphere. To make it more exciting, consider offering a glow products lucky dip – charge the same amount you would for the sale of a glowstick. If your audience is too young to be trusted with cash, include a glow bracelet or fingerlight in with the ticket price and charge slightly more for entry.
Will you run your disco straight after school, or will there be a gap allowing children to go home and eat first? Consider this when planning the food you will supply – if you're hoping to sell burgers but children have already eaten, parents won't send along the money for seconds! If offering a meal, hot dogs are a cheap way to feed pupils, or ask your local pizza takeaway if they can donate some pizzas and deliver them at a set time on the day.
Face painting is always popular, as are glitter tattoos, which can be bought as sets online. Party games are a great way to keep younger children entertained. You might also be able to offer a karaoke element – check with your DJ. If you have a theme, consider running a competition for the best costume, with the DJ handing out the prizes.
To ensure that all children feel safe to attend the event we recommend you take the following steps:
- Provide parents with bullet points of what will happen at the event so they can go through this with their child.
- Consider noise levels and lighting when planning the music, DJ and decor.
- Have a refreshments room where parents can stay – this can double as a quiet area in which children can unwind.
- If you have the facilities, have two disco rooms, one of which is quieter with subtler lighting, and allow children to flow freely between the two.
- Read our full feature on running SEN-friendly events
Pre-sell: It's good practice to sell tickets in advance and adopt a ticket-only policy on the door, as this means you can confirm numbers beforehand, ensure you have the appropriate number of volunteers and prevent overcrowding. Consider using an online ticketing platform to reach parents easily. On the day, sign children in against a pre-prepared list.
What to charge: Charges will vary depending on your costs and what's covered in the ticket price. After asking our PTA+ community we found that most committees charge £2-£3.50 per child, or £5 for a family of three or more. Some PTAs only charge the first two children in the case of numerous siblings.
Consider what you want your ticket to cover and the cost of these items when deciding what to charge. Some PTAs simply charge for entry and then anything else is additional, others will include a snack, i.e. crisps or fruit, and unlimited squash, whereas more expensive tickets may include something more substantial, such as a hot dog.
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