Ysgol y Cribarth's PTFA contribute to the school's success and standing in the community. They speak about their one-peak challenge, parent focus group, community tea party and much more besides.
We spoke with members of Ysgol Y Cribarth's PTFA, whose chair is Rebecca Davies. They agreed that the school has a parent-friendly culture, which means that new parents who may feel daunted when they don't know anyone are made to feel immediately welcome and part of the community. The PTFA plays a role in that, but it makes a big impact at the school in many ways. We caught up with them to find out more about their activities.
Open door policy
Describing how they contribute to the overall friendly school environment, the PTFA told us, "We hold informal coffee morning drop-ins for parents and staff when they drop off their child. Some parents don't feel able to chat in a school yard but they can drop in for a coffee. The head teacher joined us last time and he went round chatting to people. That way, you get to know names and faces, which makes it easier to ask later when we're looking for volunteers!"
Parent focus group
The idea to form a parent focus group arose through the informal coffee mornings. Supported by the head teacher, it will launch when the new academic year starts in September. "There'll be parent representatives from every class. Some parents don't feel able to approach school with concerns. It'll be an open forum led by one of our teaching assistants. Parents can feed back to school if they have any concerns or discuss policies and be more involved in the decision-making process in the school, which is exciting." The parent forum will give the parent community the opportunity to input into operational and policy issues. This includes class sizes, organising school trips, the curriculum, changes in the Welsh education curriculum and education policy. "Part of it is helping parents be better informed too. It's not about trying to overturn decisions made by school leadership, but a method of communicating ideas while consulting with the whole school community about issues affecting the school. Parents will get to know the head teacher more, his personality and his vision for the school."
One peak challenge builds community spirit
Rebecca told us about a fundraiser that saw 120 children climb the local mountain along with parents, school staff and other locals. "The head and deputy head were there. We're a small village and we want to promote our belief that the community is part of the school as well. The highlight was seeing children and parents who have lived by that mountain but never been on it, make it to the top. There was an enormous sense of pride and achievement. Our local MP Chris Davies came with his family. He was really impressed. It wasn't hard to organise. We shut the road: the fire brigade and police turned out for us, and fire engines went half way up the mountain to a stopping point with a refreshments table. Everyone just joined in. Word got around and people turned up and helped out by acting as markers to guide people on the route. You get your usual families who will take part, but it's nice to see some families who are starting to get involved now and take part. Once people found out what was happening, a community spirit built up around the event." What was the end result of the challenge? "We donated £350 to local cancer hospice, so the children have an understanding of the importance of giving back, and we made links within charities. From that, we'll be arranging visits to local residential and nursing homes to encourage interaction between the elderly and unwell, and young people. Their eyes light up when the children visit."
Other community initiatives
The Community Tea Party – No sections of Cribarth's society is overlooked, and the PTFA hold a Community Tea Party at the school and ask the elderly members of the community, including the pupils' grandparents, to join them. Becs explained what it's all about. "The children serve tea, sandwiches and cakes to the older generation. They serve things on a proper bone china tea service. A lot of the older people who join us have been donating cups and saucers. Or we'll have a sausage supper, where they eat with the elderly from the village or surrounding ones, which is important. We are trying to teach simple social skills to the children, so that they know how to talk to people, the social interaction and respect."
Blodau Ystradgynlais in bloom – "There's a big gardening competition in the valley which is part of Wales in Bloom. All of the schools are entering a wheelbarrow, which you have to fill and decorate with a theme relevant to your school. We'll draw all the talent from grandparents, parents, children and teachers. We have one with a background in engineering, so he'll lead the older children in making a pump and water feature in the wheelbarrow. Every child and parent will paint a pebble to go in the water feature, and grandmothers will teach children how to crochet. It's a project for the whole school to muck in. We're very excited about it. Our entry has to be ready for the national judges who are coming soon to the village. The person that owned the wheelbarrow has passed away, but he attended the school in 1924. Now his great-grandchildren attend the school. His daughter and her grandchildren will paint pebbles."
Christmas tree competition at local church – "At Christmastime we have a Christmas tree competition in church. Groups and schools enter a Christmas tree. Last year we entered and won. We made the tree out of pom-poms. Every child made one with the help of parents or grandparents. It's about getting the children to think of designs."
What has the PTFA funded?
- £1,000 to support maths classes
- Sixth form leavers' party
- Whole-school cinema trip
- Picnic, with hamper for all the children
- Sports day drinks and snacks
- Year 6 leavers' do at local restaurant
- Summer ice-cream sales.
Rebecca outlined why she sees raising funds to pay for things for the school is important. "It takes a bit of financial pressure off families, because there are parents who may struggle for every penny and cannot afford the extras. The PTFA is helping all children at the school to have a good school experience, and for everyone to have the same chance. We want children to know their worth, and feel they could be anything if they put their minds to it. We want every child to have an opportunity."
What have you learned makes a successful PTFA?
"Communication in all forms is essential," Rebecca told us. "You have to get out there, be approachable and talk to everybody in order to get people on board. Be enthusiastic. Don't be frightened to fail. If something doesn't work, try again. I phoned our local Highland Spring water company. We had no connection with the business at all, and I was only asking for some water bottles for sports day. They gave us over 300 bottles, free of charge, and asked if the school would be interested in coming and doing educational trips to the water treatment plant and the water bottling place. They are trying to get local children into engineering, so it benefits everybody. So from asking for a few bottles of water for sports day, we made a really positive sponsorship. You can win support from people with influence, too. [Cabinet Secretary for Education in Wales] Kirsty Williams has been a major supporter of ours, as has Chris Davies, our MP. People want to help."
- As Ysgol Y Cribarth's PTFA confirm diary dates for the regular events of the Christmas fun run, Easter egg-stravaganza and lottery, they reflect on other fundraisers that have been successful.
- Fun run through the village. "We shut the road through and everyone runs in fancy dress Christmas theme. The fire brigade came out to cheer us, and locals."
- First aid courses for parents, to be rolled out to children. "One of the local paramedics comes in to teach it and they have a certificate at the end of it. It was just from asking around."
- Club Cymraeg, to support Welsh first language. "We pay for weekly lessons where a Welsh teacher comes into school for an after school club."
- Mandarin teacher. "At a Chinese New Year party, the teacher taught residents and children Mandarin and they cooked dumplings."
Reflecting on success
We asked Rebecca to summarise what the PTFA is, and what it contributes to Ysgol Y Cribarth. "When you have a dedicated group of parents, include everyone and know what their transferable skills are. Remember that you're there to have a positive impact on the children and their experience at school. We all have different interests and backgrounds, but everybody gets involved. It's a community."
With thanks to Rebecca, Chrissy, Katy, Sarah, Carly and Meg of Ysgol Y Cribarth PTFA.
"The PTFA is about more than raising funds, it's about engaging a community and supporting parents." Rebecca Davies, PTFA Chair, Ysgol y Cribarth.