PTA NI and Titanic Belfast conference a resounding success

29/11/17

Earlier this month, PTA NI and Titanic Belfast, the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction, teamed up to host a special event for parents and PTAs at the iconic venue.

‘Maximising the Impact of Your PTA’ took place on Saturday 11th November 2017 and hosted over 100 delegates who heard from experts in Education, Community, Governance and Parental Engagement.
The day was judged a great success by joint organisers Jayne Thompson, PTA NI and Karen Hamilton, Titanic Belfast, who were proud to support the event due to its passion for outreach and learning. 

As a reminder for attendees and for those unable to attend the event, please find a summary of the learnings from the day below. 

Introduction

Judith Owens, Director of Operations at Titanic Belfast, opened the conference, welcoming all the delegates and speakers by emphasising how important parental engagement in schools and the work of PTAs are, and how delighted Titanic Belfast were to organise the joint event. Judith also spoke of some of her own experiences as a PTA member, as well as leading Titanic Belfast’s Learning and Outreach programmes - a total of eight workshops and three guided tours which have now welcomed over 150,000 pupils since opening in 2012.

Morning Keynote Speaker

Peter Weir MLA, Former Education Minister, provided the morning keynote speech and he told the delegates that PTAs and parents are the glue that bring school, home and community together.  He went on to say that when there is wider community participation it has a positive impact on children’s education.

Panel 1

Speakers:

  • Chair - Joanna McConway (Department for Communities NI)
  • Myles McKeown (Charity Commission NI)
  • Beverley Wall (DENI)
  • Jayne Thompson (PTA NI)

Topics:

Myles and Jayne discussed charity registration and AMR and responded to concerns raised by parent groups about delays, presently due to small staffing numbers. Joanna McConway informed delegates that she appreciated learning about these experiences from PTAs and that she would feedback to her Department. 
Beverly Wall highlighted the need for more parent governors. She outlined the training and support available to them but reminded parents that they are ideally placed to take up governor posts, having a really good insight to the school and being a link to the community and parents.

Panel 2

Speakers:

  • Neil Irwin (niFundraising)
  • Barry Kilmartin (St Anne’s Primary School, Dunmurry)
  • Roy Greer (Moneyrea Primary School) 
  • Caroline Hanna (Big Lottery)

Topics:

Presentations on Fundraising outside the box got the room fired up. Neil Irwin emphasised the amount of extra monies that PTAs can claim via Gift Aid, especially the small claims Gift Aid.

Barry Kilmartin wowed the audience when he shared how much his school’s parent group raises annually by organising the Afterschools clubs. He told the delegates that they are supporting other PTAs to do similar and if any want support on setting up, they are happy to help.

Roy Greer mesmerised the room with pictures and reports from his PTA's fundraising activity.  Reinforcing Peter Weir’s message from earlier in the day about wider community participation, he also stated that strong leadership is vital, along with not being afraid to take on challenges and spend money on events to make them the best they can be.

Caroline Hanna walked delegates through the grants available via Big Lottery and highlighted the support they have available for applicants.

Afternoon keynote speaker

Dr Janet Goodall, parental engagement expert at Bath University, enthralled everyone in the room with her riveting presentation on the impact parental engagement makes on children’s learning, with practical tips for how they can promote learning in their normal daily routine. She used the effective example of ‘Mouse’ – which is when a school gives all children coming into P1 a toy mouse to look after; they need to dress him, brush his teeth, make sure he goes to bed on time and so much more. It’s a simple and effective strategy to help prepare young children for school.

Panel 3

Speakers:

  • Professor Ruth Leitch (Queens University Belfast)
  • Gillian McKee (BiTCNI)
  • Anne Davey (ETI)

Topics:

Professor Leitch gave an overview of the recent ILiAD (Investigating Links in Achievement and Deprivation) report, highlighting that for studies in four different wards in NI, they found that parents play a significant role in their children’s academic outcomes.

This was echoed by Anne Davey who also accentuated that parents need to engage with children’s learning from the early years.

Gillian McKee informed the room of some of the great work Business in the Community is doing, including engaging parents and others as reading volunteers in classrooms in a number of schools across NI.

Panel 4

Speakers:

  • Chair - John Anderson (ETI)
  • Louise Dunwoody (Principal of Creavery Primary School)
  • Paul McClenaghan (NAHT NI President)
  • Lorna Sibbet (Governors NI)
  • Jayne Thompson (PTA NI)

Topics:

This session was about how parents are engaging in schools and where gaps remain. Louise Dunwood wowed us all when she told us of the number of parents who volunteer in her school on a daily basis, from making toast in the morning to taking Afterschool Clubs.  Paul McClenaghan sketched out the financial landscape, explaining the shortage in schools this year and the impact that will have. He called on parents to support their school and get behind them as they lobby government for more funds. Jayne Thompson gave some other examples of how parents are engaging across the province and gave the delegates an insight into PTA UK's strategy and how they are growing their bank of resources to further support and empower parents. Lorna Sibbet reminded parents as Beverley Wall had earlier, that they are vital addition to every Board of Governors and urged everyone to consider putting their names forward.

Results

Feedback was extremely positive from all attendees.

One of the many comments received was, “Amazing, informative in a fantastic location, I look forward to attending many more.”

The evaluation forms showed an average score of 4 (out of 5) across all areas.

Thanks again for your support with the event.