Staying engaged at school when time is short

Ruth Lowe
23 August, 2019 : 14:40
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Think you don’t have the time to get involved in school? Think again…

When you're a working parent, your time is limited and it can feel like there is little opportunity to socialise. I know from personal experience, it can therefore be difficult to have anything left ‘in the tank’ to dedicate to your child’s school or even just connect with other parents there. However, I believe it’s well worth carving out some time – as even a few minutes a week can make a big difference to you and your school, and be enjoyable too!

In Parentkind’s recent national parent survey; mums, dads and carers all said that by far their biggest barrier to getting involved in school was lack of time (40%). I completely understand this. When my daughter, who is now 11, started primary school, I was working full-time and my daily commute meant school drop-offs and pick-ups were done by my fabulous childminder. That meant that my contact with school and other parents was minimal.

I didn’t end up getting engaged in my daughter’s school until she was in Year 2, but discovered to my delight that with a bit of planning, communication and creative thinking, it is possible. The benefit it can bring to you, your school and your child makes it worth it. Remember: there is lots you can do as part of a community of parents to help each other out and reduce the work. And technology also allows us to make a difference from the comfort of our own home outside working hours.

Here are my top tips for getting more engaged in school whatever time you have:

If you have 10 minutes

  • Put important PTA and school dates in your diary. If they are in there you are more likely to remember and carve out some time to attend one or two.
  • Send a positive feedback email to your teacher or school about how your child is doing.  
  • Join the PTA or school Facebook/WhatsApp (or other social media) group. You can stay in touch on the hoof, or check in while queuing in the supermarket.
  • The next time you are in school, locate or visit the PTA or Parent Council notice board. Snap a picture and share it on the class / PTA Facebook page to help other parents who can’t get into the school as much as they would like.

If you have 30 minutes

  • Contact your school or parent group to ask what opportunities there are to get involved this year. As ad hoc volunteering can be a real challenge when you are in full-time work, see if you can plan ahead and get involved in the flagship events such as summer or Christmas fairs.
  • Knowledge is power. Share interesting articles or helpful information you have found with other parents via social media.
  • Set up a Facebook page for your year group or PTA if there isn’t one already. Make sure you have some basic rules of engagement to keep it helpful and informative.
  • Give your views to school consultations or surveys.

If you have a half-day

  • Give a talk at your child’s school about your job or chosen career.
  • Check if your employer helps staff fundraise and sign up to employer matched giving schemes to benefit your child’s school.
  • Offer to babysit so another parent can attend a PTA meeting  or parent-teacher consultation. Maybe next time they can return the favour!
  • Check if the school needs volunteers to help children with their reading and offer your services.
  • Do some virtual volunteering: could you edit a flyer or poster for the PTA/parent council noticeboard or apply for grant funding towards a school improvement project?
  • Join the PTA committee or be a class representative on the Parent Council committee!

If you have a day

  • Shop for goodies for a PTA event.
  • Join a weekend working party to tidy up the school grounds.
  • Volunteer to help on a school outing or in the school office.
  • Look into the option of being a school governor or trustee.

How did you find being part of your PTA when time was short? Comment below, like and share via social media. Keep up to date with our latest news and blogs on Twitter @Parentkind.

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.

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Ruth Lowe
Ruth is Parentkind's External Affairs Manager.

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