Involvement in school life
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:
- To raise funds or other resources for their school (72%)
- Holding events and other activities to build the school community (63%)
- Enhancing communication between parents and school (66%)
- 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 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.
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.
Self-governed by their Board of Governors. More info here.
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.
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, 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.
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.