Involvement in school life

We break down all the ways you can get more involved in your child’s school.

There are many volunteering roles that you can do that puts you at the heart of school life and offers valuable support, resource and expertise. Schools need and will welcome parent volunteers. 

Parent Governors/​Parent Trustees work alongside the Board of Governors to keep the Headteacher accountable and set the strategic direction of the school.

PTAs are voluntary groups that work alongside the school to offer the best possible educational experience for all pupils. What a PTA does varies from school to school but according to our research they consider their main roles in order of importance to be:

  1. To raise funds or other resources for their school (72%)
  2. Holding events and other activities to build the school community (63%)
  3. Enhancing communication between parents and school (66%)
  4. Helping parents have a voice at school (70%)

Parent volunteers can offer both regular and committed or ad hoc support. It varies from school to school and between individual and individual. But in general all and any help is appreciated .

Parent Councils have no rigid format, in general it’s a regular meeting between the parents on the Council, the headteacher and a member of the Board of Governors.

Parent Reps represent a single class or year group, acting on behalf of the collective voice on specific issues for these students and parents

Parent action groups, sometimes called school action groups are groups of parents (and teachers, governors and even pupils) that come together to solve a specific challenge.

Being a Parent Governor

Being a Parent Governor or Trustee is challenging but satisfying. The role helps set the strategic direction of the school, holds the Headteacher to account and ensures the vision and mission of the school is lived and breathed by all. The role is voluntary (though you may occasionally be able to claim back expenses for things like travel and childcare) and does require some time, but the benefits are immense.

Five benefits to being a school Parent Governor or Trustee

  1. You will add value, impact, and significantly help the Headteacher and Senior Management Team run the school smoothly.
  2. It is rewarding. You will give back to the school and help shape the budget and influence policies which will impact hundreds of young people, not least your own children if they attend the school.
  3. Due to the diversity of roles on the Board, being a Parent Governor offers opportunity for excellent networking opportunities and a chance to be at the heart of your local community.
  4. You will offer a wealth and breadth of experience and a unique perspective that will enrich how the school runs.
  5. You will gain skills in diplomacy, strategic thinking, chairing and communication which is great for your own personal development and may enhance your own career.

School governors provide strategic leadership and accountability in schools. Governors appoint the head teacher and deputy head teacher. It is governors who hold the main responsibility for finance in schools, and it is governors who work with the head teacher to make the tough decisions about balancing resources.

The National Governors Association (NGA)

Being a Parent Governor in Wales

Parent Governors at schools in Wales take on the same roles and responsibilities as their counterparts in English schools. Parent governors are elected as representatives of the interests of parents of pupils currently attending the school and can serve for a four-year period.

See Governors Cymru
for more resources and information if you are in Wales. 

Being a Parent Governor in Northern Ireland

Schools in Northern Ireland similarly have a Board of Governors deciding the direction of each school, though the make-up of the board and the amount of power they have varies depending upon the type of school.

Controlled schools (funded and managed by the state)

The Education Authority oversees management of the school by liaising directly with the Board of Governors.

Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS)

Staff and Trustees of the Board of Governors are appointed by the CCMS rather than the Education Authority.

Grant-Maintained Integrated

Managed by their Board of Governors and are fairly autonomous, but with some oversight by the state via the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) to ensure Integrated Education.

Voluntary Grammars

Self-governed by their Board of Governors. More info here.

Being part of the PTA

PTAs are voluntary groups that work alongside the school to offer the best possible educational experience for all pupils. 

We all want our children’s schools to be the best they can be. Parent and Teacher Associations (PTAs) are enormously important to achieving this. As our research has shown that there is a correlation between an active PTA and a happy and successful school. Plus, educational research on the involvement of parents in schools shows that children achieve higher levels when parents and teachers work together.

PTAs are voluntary groups that work alongside the school to offer the best possible educational experience for all pupils. They raise extra funds for their school through a wide range of fun and creative initiatives, events, and much, much more. Last year, the top five areas their fundraising contributed to were: Leavers’ events, educational materials, outdoor learning areas, playground equipment and IT equipment. 

A PTA also acts as a conduit between parents and the school and another instrumental role for them is to help bring that wider school and local community together.

Regardless of the educational stage or type of school, all schools can benefit from the introduction of a PTA.

The PTA is run by a committee of volunteers and while they have responsibility for managing the association, the more members that actively help, the better. If a PTA already exists at your child’s school, then you are automatically considered a PTA member regardless of the level of involvement you do, or are able to, contribute. In most cases PTAs are always looking for additional help as attracting parents to volunteer is one of their biggest challenges.

There are many reasons why people join the committee or get involved with a PTA. These can include wanting to make a difference, to meet new friends, to add to a CV, being new to the area and wanting to integrate into the community, feeling like you have skills that will help, or wanting to be more involved in your child’s school experience. Whatever the reason, the evidence is irrefutable, it will not be something you regret.

I was new to the area and didn’t know a soul! I took the plunge by volunteering to be the PTA reception class rep. It’s been a great way of building my confidence and meeting new friends.

Six benefits to being part of a PTA

In busy lives, it is easy and forgivable to see volunteering for the PTA as something that will take a lot of time. But this is not the case. You can give as much as you are able. The ethos of a PTA is always collaboration and cooperation. Parents who do get involved never regret it and here’s why:

  1. Friendships. PTAs are great fun. They offer a great way to meet other parents and build solid friendships with like-minded people.
  2. You get a valuable Inside Out’ perspective. Being on the PTA does offer an insight into school life not normally seen by parents. It makes your understanding of school dynamics and mechanics much easier to understand, which in turn will benefit your child.
  3. It feels good. Helping to organise a successful event that enhances the experience children have at school, feels satisfying. You feel part of something bigger than you and you feel your time makes a difference. Because it does.
  4. PTAs enhance the school experience. We all want our child’s school to be brilliant. The experiences that the children have while at school include what’s run (and paid for) by the PTA.
  5. Model the behaviour you want to see. There’s a lot of evidence that talks to the fact that when parents are engaged in school life, a child’s attainment is improved. Children love to see their parents in school and being involved shows that you think school is important.
  6. Role in the community. Being part of the PTA roots you not just in the school community but the wider community too. It sends a message that you care and are invested in the area. Which in turn can open doors and offer opportunities for other community events and groups that otherwise you may not have come across. 

Other ways to get involved 

While becoming a Parent Governor or being part of the PTA are some of the most obvious ways that you can get involved with school life, there are other ways that you can share your voice, spend time at the school and have a positive impact on the children’s experiences.

Parent Councils

Joining a Parent Council is a great way to have a voice in the school. Whilst there is no rigid format for a Parent Council, in general it’s a regular meeting between the parents on the Council, the headteacher and a member of the board of governors. The role of the Parent’s Council is to canvass the views and concerns of the wider parent body (often via Parent Reps and the PTA) and bring them to the attention of the senior staff at these meetings.

The Parent Council also helps to create an environment where all parents know that their views matter, and where they feel confident and comfortable putting them forward. They can really help improve communication between home and school, as parents have a mechanism to raise things that are bothering them and Schools benefit because it gives them the space to explain the context of decisions made. 

To be most effective it’s essential that the Parent Council work alongside the PTA, either as a separate group or as a separate committee under the PTA constitution. In addition the Parent Council must align themselves to the Student Council (if there is one) as well as the Governing Body. 

Parent Representative (Parent Reps)

Another way to get involved in your school and support relationships between home and school is to become a Parent Rep.

Parent Reps represent a single class or year group, acting on behalf of the collective voice on specific issues for these students and parents. Parent Reps will raise issues and concerns with the Parent Council or the PTA. Who in turn will raise it with the senior leadership team. In turn teachers may use Parent Reps as a quick and informal way to support communications to parents of children in the class or year group.

Parent Groups

Parent groups, sometimes called School Action Groups are groups of parents (and teachers, governors and even pupils) that come together to solve a specific challenge. Such as fundraising for a school bus or improving the school grounds. The group forms and then once resolution is achieved, disbands.

They can be fun and effective groups to be involved with and in most cases need a lot of different skill sets. So, if there is a group being set up at your school, they will be keen to hear from you.

Parent Volunteering

Whilst all members of a PTA are parent volunteers, you don’t have to volunteer for the PTA to be a parent volunteer. Sounds confusing but it’s not really.

Parent volunteers in general offer more ad hoc support than regular PTA committee members, or they can lend themselves to the school directly. It can involve one off skills sharing sessions, such as running a crash course on social media to help with the PTA’s or school’s promotion or offering a photography workshop, for example.

Similarly, it may involve providing extra hands for an afternoon on a gardening project or accompanying a school trip. A lot of parent volunteers help in the classroom, offering very welcome support to teachers on tasks such as listening to reading or helping with maths exercises. In secondary/post-primary schools, parent volunteers can give their time on Information and Guidance days by sharing their own career stories and advice, coaching sport sessions or helping complete grant application forms.

Whether a parent volunteer or a PTA committee member, schools will welcome your involvement and you and your child will benefit too. Get in touch with your school.