When Nhung Wan heard that her children’s school was going to cancel one of its biggest annual fundraising events due to dwindling PTA support, she offered to step in and take over the reins. We spoke to Nhung, Howbridge Junior School’s new PTA Chair, to find out how she went about successfully rebuilding the group.
Nhung was already actively involved in helping out at her children’s school gardening club, which she was able to fit around work commitments. "One day, at lunchtime school gardening club, the deputy head, Mr Howlett, who’d been involved in the PTA, told me that they were going to have to cancel this year’s summer fair and only hold an 'inflatable fun day', as there were no members left in the PTA. I’d no idea that the group had lost so many of its members due to their children moving on."
Making it happen
Nhung tells us that she had to do something to help, “I felt it was sad that the children would lose out on their summer fair – not to mention the fundraising element for the school – so I offered to take over the reigns. We decided to reach out quickly to other parents and luckily we had around 10 supporters (of Mums and one Dad), which meant the fair could go ahead."
Local business support
"That’s when the hard work really started – a bit like a fun rollercoaster ride!" she says. "With the help of the other parents, we were able to organise a summer fair in two weeks. I’d approached local businesses and we were lucky enough to secure sponsorship and many kind gift donations for our raffle ticket draw. It was quite overwhelming support when I explained I was new to the role."
Nhung says that it was a wonderful experience: "Seeing the children, parents, teachers and those who supported us as a team pull through in such a tight timescale was really something. The entire event was such fun and a huge success."
Broadening the appeal
After the summer holidays, Nhung says that parental support for the PTA was up to 20 members, and now with a newly appointed Treasurer (Emma) to the team, they were able to support the school in organising a Macmillan coffee afternoon, raising a fantastic sum of money all for the benefit of the charity.
"Our next event was our first ever school disco – again, with a tight turnaround time of just two weeks. We decided to open it up to all year groups (years 3 to 6) and again, it was a huge success. We heard such positive things about it (even two weeks after the event) that the disco created such great memories. It just goes to show what can be achieved when the whole school community pulls together."
Nhung and the rest of the team then turned their attention to a big fundraiser they’d
been planning – the school Christmas Bazaar. "This was another 'first' for our new team, but we were lucky enough to be supported by local businesses again, with generous and highly prized gift donations for our raffle draw. With quite a few of us able to run stalls, we had children’s competitions, games, various tombolas, homemade produce including cakes, mince pies and mulled wine and reindeer food!."
Nhung tells us that she really wanted to raise the profile of the school and the event among the wider community, and create a real excitement around it. She decided to write to the local MP, Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP, who had visited local business over the summer and spoken to Nhung, encouraging her to contact her office if ever there was a community topic or school needing support.
"I was over the moon when I received a reply confirming that Priti Patel would come to our event.
Leading up to the Christmas Bazaar, we organized a ‘Fill a Jam Jar Competition’. The children were invited to fill a clean empty jar with sweets and decorate it as creatively as they wished. I approached our local town hall and our Cllr JoAnn Williams was delighted to be a Judge."
Nhung says that Priti Patel presented prizes to the winners on the evening, “To add to the whole event, we decided to have children playing hand bells to greet and welcome Priti Patel’s arrival and also a team of children performed a surprise song and dance from The Greatest Showman – 'This is Me', in flashmob style! The children worked so hard to prepare for the fair and we thoroughly enjoyed watching the show."
Advice for others
We asked Nhung what she would say to others thinking of getting involved in their school’s PTA. “It has been a wonderful experience taking on this role, reaching out and working together with other parents, but most importantly it has created a wonderful buzz and uplifting atmosphere around and within the school for everyone’s benefit. We certainly couldn’t have organised such wonderful events without the continuing support of our dedicated team of parents and teachers.
"Since the Disco, we've received more volunteers including a couple more dads on board to lend a helping hand. We've even recruited an 'official' PR consultant parent to our team who's taken our Christmas Bazaar event to Press!
"Finally, I’d say don’t be afraid to ask for support, be open-minded, be honest, enjoy and keep everyone smiling!"
- Positive feedback and support from school community following PTA being re-established and the events that have taken place
- Huge support from local business and political figures, which helps to raise the school’s profile among the wider community and encourages further support
- PTA helping to forge greater, stronger links between parents and school
"The Parentkind magazine was such a comfort for me, after managing our very first event with little experience. It’s thanks to reading other parents’ stories that I felt inspired and encouraged to bring ideas to our own PTA – and I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to build up such a successful group in a relatively short period of time."