It’s that time of year when schools up and down the country are in the throes of organising what is potentially the biggest fundraiser of the school year: the Christmas Fair.
These events always take a good deal of planning, as there are usually lots of stalls on offer – not forgetting, of course, the ever-popular Santa’s Grotto.
To help you plan for this year’s grotto, we caught up with two of our members, who are using the PTA Events platform to take the strain out of the organisation, planning and general admin surrounding school Christmas events planning.
Busy mum of three, Liz Taylor, who’s co-chair of the PTA at Widmer End Community Combined School in Buckinghamshire, says that she “often felt like I was drowning in paperwork and the admin created by our Christmas Fair.
“For our Santa’s Grotto, we used to send a form home in school book bags, asking parents to indicate their time slot preferences. Most of the forms would eventually make it back to school and we then had the unenviable task of working out a complicated jigsaw puzzle to meet everyone’s preferences. Whole evenings were lost to planning the grotto, typing details into spreadsheets, handling cash payments and issuing hand written tickets.”
Working mum of two, Leanne Grogan, stepped into the role of co-chair at her children’s school, Elworth C of E Primary in Cheshire, two years ago. Like Liz, she felt that the PTA needed to relieve the paperwork and admin burden created by fundraising events: “As I was new to the role of co-chair, it felt like a good time to look at ways to improve the use of PTA time. Most of our committee members are working parents, so I was keen to find out how we could run the admin side of things more efficiently.”
Both Liz and Leanne decided to look online for options and decided that PTA Events would work well for their needs: “It seemed the most relevant and PTA specific,” says Liz. Leanne agrees, although she says they “initially experienced a little bit of resistance from parents – I think because some felt that it would be complicated to use the platform. Luckily, one of our parents offered to put together a very user friendly ‘How to’ video guide, which our school office sent to all parents, along with lots of information about PTA Events, so we quickly overcame that hurdle. Most of our parents are using the platform now with great success – it’s particularly been a big hit with working parents who want to respond to school admin in their own time.”
When it comes to using the platform, Liz says, “It’s so easy to create an event like Santa’s Grotto. The platform does everything online that you would have to do yourself, but in a fraction of the time. Parents can book and pay for Santa slots; they are issued with electronic tickets; the money goes direct into the PTA bank account; and all the details are available to download in one easy document which can be printed off prior to the event.”
“We decided to launch our PTA Events page with the Santa’s Grotto event booking,” adds Leanne. “We thought that would be a good way to encourage parents to use the platform, as it’s such a popular event in the school calendar. Happily, that worked!”
Top tips for the perfect Grotto
We asked Liz and Leanne to share their advice for other PTAs who may have recently started using - or are thinking about using - the PTA Events platform for their Santa’s Grotto…
- Give parents at least a week’s notice that the booking for Santa’s Grotto are going live, so it’s not a rush on the day and parents are given a fair amount of notice
- A good time for the bookings to go live is around 8.00pm, when the vast majority of parents, including working parents, are able to access the Internet
- Bear in mind that there may be a small proportion of parents without Internet access. Make some provision by ensuring that your grotto offers walk-in slots on the day and communicate this to parents ahead of the event. The PTA Events platform is flexible enough to enable you to book people on as a cash payment
- Don’t forget to add the option of enlisting volunteer slots for parents to sign up to for the fair. Having secured and paid for their child/children’s slot with Santa, parents are more inclined to offer their time to help on a stall at the event
- Consider whether to incorporate the fees that apply when you sell tickets using PTA Events into your event prices. Many parents choose to cover the fee as well as the ticket price, as they would rather that money goes towards their children’s school
- There is a wealth of information out there online – tap into resources such as letter templates to communicate with parents.
Our blog is a place for a range of opinions and debate on parents and their role in their schools and their children’s education. Whilst we think this debate is really important, we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.