PTA-UK's annual survey of members shows that the average PTA committee comprises between five and ten members. However, anecdotally we know that many PTAs continue to operate sometimes with considerably fewer numbers. (NB: the PTA-UK model constitution stipulates that the minimum number of members a committee can have is two.)
This can make the workload difficult to manage and often means that it is hard to recruit new members as there is a general fear about the time commitment involved.
Whilst is it feasible to continue to operate with a limited number of committee members, you will find it beneficial to develop strategies to deal with the workload and engage new recruits.
It is very important to be flexible and think creatively to ensure that your PTA committee gets all the support it needs. Firstly, parents (and others) that wish to volunteer, do not actually need to be a member of the committee. Many PTAs operate very successfully with a small committee supported by a dedicated group of PTA helpers which can be called on to assist with events. New volunteers are often happier to give their support occasionally and for a limited amount of time at events as opposed to making an on-going commitment to the committee. This approach can often lead to the volunteer feeling more comfortable about taking on a more active role, perhaps as a committee member or even an officer's role.
Survey parents to find out what skills they have and how often and when they might be happy to help out. Make it clear that all offers of help are welcome, no matter how small. PTAs have found that this is a particularly good way of getting Dads involved who tend to prefer giving practical support rather than joining the committee.
Alternatively, if you are planning an event draw up a specific list of what support is needed and ask parents to volunteer. Making the level of commitment explicit and therefore quantifiable for parents is likely to increase the numbers coming forward.
If you are struggling to get committee members again think about being flexible. Offering an officer role as a job share might make it more likely that it gets filled. This could also be sold to prospective committee members on the basis that it is a good way to get to know another parent at the school. Alternatively, for more complex roles such as the Chair or Treasurer consider having a period where the current and new office holders overlap so that the incoming committee member has an opportunity to learn the ropes.
It also pays to be fairly brazen. If there is a parent who you feel would be a good member of the committee there is nothing to stop you approaching them direct and saying as much. Talk to the school about parents that volunteer in the classroom; there is evidence to say that people who volunteer in one capacity are more likely to offer their support in additional roles.
Many successful PTAs operate a 'class rep' system. This is a simple idea, whereby one or two parents, represent a class or year group. It is then their responsibility to promote forthcoming events to other class / year group parents and to seek additional one-off offers of assistance for events such as stallholders for the summer fair.
Most importantly make sure that your PTA is open to all and is welcoming and friendly. Sometimes committees can seem like a 'closed shop' to those not involved - run by a group that know each other well and therefore it appears hard to join or become part of. Target parents when they are new to the school, making it clear all are welcome and offering the PTA as a way to get to know the school and other parents. A good way to do this is to make your first event of the school year a social one, specifically for new parents. This could be fairly low key - simply meeting in the pub for a drink, to get to know people, or an informal coffee morning. The PTA-UK has produced a template to enable its members to create a booklet for new parents to welcome them to your school and introduce them to your PTA, its operation, work and achievements.
Once you have established your loyal band of supporters it is really important to say thank you. Whilst they may be volunteering for the sake of the school and their children parents will want to know that their contribution matters and is valuable. Get the children and the school to write appropriate thank you cards or possibly do a thank you assembly where the children get the opportunity to thank members of the PTA direct.
• build up a group of occasional volunteers who don't want to be members of the committee but who are happy to lend their support from time to time
• survey parents to understand what skills they can offer
• be specific about what support is needed for an event and ask parents to volunteer
• consider introducing a class rep system
• to gain new committee members consider job share roles and work shadowing especially where parents lack confidence
• target parents that it is felt will make good committee members
• make sure the committee is open and welcoming to all
• remember to say thank you for any support
• All Saints Primary School PTA in Marple has been given permission by the headteacher to incorporate a skills audit into Parents' Evening. The head and the staff ask a few relevant questions of parents as they conclude their parents' evening discussions. This information is then fedback to the PTA.