Whilst it might be obvious, gaining the support of the school isn't something that should be overlooked or taken for granted. Just think about what the school can offer a PTA:-
• access to your target audience including pupils, staff, grandparents etc;
• a wonderful venue that almost always comes free of charge;
• an endorsement of your activities; and
• lots of free publicity
PTAs that work well with their school are often those where a close working relationship has been developed. This might not happen overnight and may take some time and effort.
A good place to start is by identifying an appropriate member of staff who is happy to be your main point of contact even if they can't come along to meetings. Most often in primary schools this will be the headteacher but this responsibility may be delegated to another member of the senior management team in secondary schools and larger primary schools. However, do remember to promote the PTA and its successes generally to all staff. This will put you in a stronger position if your main contact leaves the school.
If you have a PTA, Friends, PSA, or HSA remember that the teaching and non-teaching staff are also members of your association and are therefore eligible to stand for election as a member of the committee. If you have a Parents' Association, check your constitution as there may be a facility to co-opt onto your committee from outside of the association's membership, again giving you the opportunity to invite a member of the teaching / non-teaching staff to join the committee. There are obvious benefits to having a member of the teaching and /or non-teaching staff on the committee, as they will automatically provide a link with the school.
Keep your contact informed of your plans and progress. Ensure that the headteacher, the staff (teaching and non-teaching) plus the Board of Governors have access to the PTA minutes and that they receive a copy of the PTA newsletter. If you need specific support from the school give as much notice as possible. If your requests cannot be accommodated, try to be reasonable about the decision taken by the school. Schools are juggling many priorities and your understanding may gain considerable support from the school in the future.
Whilst it is legally the responsibility of PTA committee members as the trustees of the charity to determine how funds raised are spent this usually only works effectively where the school is consulted. Most often this is done through a 'wish list' provided by the school with the PTA committee members making the final decisions, using a simple voting procedure.
Sometimes things don't always work well with the school. This can be for a variety of reasons and is usually best addressed by meeting the most appropriate member of staff at their convenience to talk through any issues. Try to understand any concerns and discuss how these might be addressed. Find out what the school actually wants from the PTA - especially at secondary level this might not always be fundraising. Then agree a way of working that will suit everyone. This might take some degree of compromise but as confidence and experience of working together grows this will pay its own rewards.
• identify a main point of contact at the school for all PTA business
• understand how the PTA can be most beneficial to the school
• consult the school on how funds raised might be spent
• meet with the school to discuss any issues as quickly as possible