APPG — 3rd July 2023

Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Parental Participation in Education met to celebrate and hear from four National PTA Award winners.

Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Parental Participation in Education gathered in Westminster on Monday 3rd July 2023. The group exists to promote the benefits of parents actively participating in their child’s education, and of building close and successful relationships between homes and schools.

The meeting was a celebration of the incredible achievements of four National PTA Award-winners. Parliamentarians heard presentations from:

  • Friends of More House (Anna Benfield, Alison Reynolds) 
  • Friends Of Christ’s College Guildford (Sophia Wyatt, Clare Kerr) 
  • Alexandra Junior School PTFA (Laura Gladwin) 
  • Marshgate Primary School Parent Staff Association (Tom Panagos, Andrew Keesing)

Parentkind’s Head of Marketing and Campaigns Louisa McNally gave an overview of the role of PTAs in schools. She spoke of parent groups’ impact not merely in terms of the fundraising for educational resources, but also in running events that bring together the whole school community. Then she introduced each of the award-winning PTAs in turn.

1. Friends of More House, secondary school winner for Champion PTA

Anna Benfield gave some background to More House. It is the largest independent specialist school of its type in the UK for neurodivergent boys aged eight to eighteen plus.

The outstanding-rated school sees many of its pupils achieve inspirational success in the qualifications they achieve. But since the school attracts an intake from a wide geographical area, bringing the whole school community together can be a challenge.

Friends of More House’s mission is to help to connect parents and they achieve this through a host of innovative digital ways, providing a variety of channels of communication to suit parents’ needs and preferences. The second-hand uniform shop offers a warm welcome as they are often the first point of contact new families have with other parents.

The PTA has hired a venue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the school’s production of​‘Rockbeth’, a riff on the Scottish play that boasts a rousing soundtrack. Their biggest event,​‘Proms in the Park’, brought together 125 musicians across pupils and staff and included a parent choir. In total, 850 Proms tickets were booked, enabling the PTA to raise £5,660 for the school.

2. Friends of Christ’s College Guildford, secondary school winners of Community Initiative of the Year.

Sophia Wyatt spoke passionately about the importance of parental participation as a key ingredient in children reaching their academic potential and embracing their education. But she highlighted the comparative difficulty of getting parents involved once their children reach the secondary school phase.

Raising the school’s community in the local area, the PTA supported the head girl and boy in bringing the Knife Angel project (an enormous sculpture created from the blades of knives donates under an amnesty) to Guildford Cathedral. A pupil-centred second-hand uniform shop is also proving a big success. 

Her efforts have modernised the PTA, digitising processes and using social media to communicate effectively with the school community.

3. Alexandra Junior School PTFA, primary school winners of Community Initiative of the Year.

Laura Gladwin spoke about how the PTA held a competition, asking members of the public and the school community to send in photographs of their pets. The children judged which ones were the cutest. From a resulting shortlist, a calendar was created.

The PTA reached out to local businesses to sponsor each page in the calendar which covered the printing costs. They sold 250 copies, raising £1,300 for their school. They have also partnered with a local charity shop on the hight street that has created a hub for second hand uniforms where parents can send donations.

It is proving an essential resource for many parents during a cost-of-living squeeze.

4. Marshgate Primary School Parent Staff Association, primary school winners in England for PTA of the Year.

Chair Tom Panagos and Vice-Chair Andrew Keesing spoke of breaking down barriers with an International and diverse parent community in Richmond, where 7 in 10 families speak a language other than English at home. They have created a representative committee that unusually has more dads than mums.

After adopting the watchword of KISS: keep it super simple”, the PTA started afresh and held popular events to involve and engage as wide a sample of the parent community as possible. This included a flavours-of-the-world bake sale. The summer fair included a book bazaar and animal experience.

Dads were encouraged to sell bakes on Mother’s Day to give the mums a break. All their efforts and events have a focus on breaking down barriers and including the whole school community. 

During a general discussion afterwards, Mary Glindon, the MP for North Tyneside, asked the PTAs how they ensure sufficient volunteers are involved. The chair Ian Mearns, the MP for Gateshead, afterwards took the parents on an informative tour of the Palace of Westminster. He mentioned the meeting and the presentations that he had heard from the PTA parents in the House of Commons on Wednesday 6th July.

Mearns asked the Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt, to join him in congratulating the winners, and she thanked all PTAs for the incredible work that they do for their schools and communities. You can see a clip of the exchange below.