Like many other parents, Richard and his wife visited numerous primary schools in anticipation of their son, Alexander, moving into reception class in September last year. Richard takes up the story: - “Alexander was in a small nursery setting and, whilst we were a little concerned about how he would adjust to being in a large primary school, we felt that the school offered a greater variety of clubs and activities due to its size.
“Although we felt we’d made the right decision, it felt quite daunting for us as a family, so I decided I’d get involved in the school community and signed up to join Moorside Friends PTA – MOORFS – during a welcome meeting.
“My in-laws used to be committee members of a Christmas Tree Festival and as I’m a mechanical engineer by profession, I’d spent a lot of time building Christmas tree themed games, so I jumped right in at our first Christmas fair.”
Richard says that the trees led to him being asked by the PTA whether he had any other creations that might appeal to the children and help the school to raise money at future events.
“I’d built a ride on electric jeep for Alexander and we set it up in the playground during the school summer fair. We sold 120 rides, which raised £240.00 and was a very popular activity at the event.
Supporting school learning
“Following the success of the jeeps at the fair I also thought about how best as a parent I could offer support to the school staff in ways perhaps beyond typical PTA activities. One of the first things that came to mind was offering support for the children’s learning.”
Richard tells us that the link between MOORFS and the school staff is really effective, with strong communication between the two. So, when a request came through to the PTA asking whether any parents would be able to support Year 5’s latest topic – learning all about space – Richard knew it was something he’d be able to help with.
“One of my other Christmas Tree Festival props was a rocket tree, which easily dismantled into separate parts. I converted it into a regular rocket before it was placed in the Year 5 classroom for a few weeks to enable the children to interact with it.
Love of learning
“The response from the children was absolutely wonderful, not to mention the fantastic thank you card they made for me in class with their teacher. The children were so excited to learn and it made me appreciate how inspirational teachers can be. With any luck, some of the children might have gone home that bit more interested in reading and learning a bit more about space, science or engineering!”
Richard believes that getting involved in the school and utilising his engineering skills has had a really positive impact. “I think it’s got some of the other parents thinking about how they could help out in a similar way. I’ve been quite vocal about how rewarding I’ve found it and the great feedback I’ve had – not only from my own son, who loves seeing me in school, but from other children too. We’re talking about setting up a building group and although this is in its infancy, I think it could be the catalyst for other parents getting on board and utilising their skills for the benefit of the children.”
Fostering parental engagement
We asked Richard to share his thoughts on how schools can really foster parental engagement with the PTA’s help – and here’s what he had to say…
- Ensure that parents understand that any level of help they can offer to their PTA/school – whether large or small – is always welcomed;
- Encourage parents to identify their skills and try to think how they could benefit the school;
- Ask parents to provide suggestions for their involvement to PTA members – and ensure that parents know who their PTA contact/rep is;
- Ensure the parents are aware that they can utilise their PTA to feed requests through, with the PTA acting as a hub between parents and the school; and.
- Consider setting up weekend groups which may encourage more involvement from dads as well as mums – help is always required!
Richard concludes: - “I’m really grateful to MOORFS for making me feel so welcomed to the group. They provided me with the means to get involved - and it’s thanks to their friendly, welcoming and supportive atmosphere that I was encouraged to continue my involvement in school life.”
“When we’re thinking about how best we can support the school community, one of my good friends has said it’s important to ask yourself, what is your super power and how best can you use it? Could it be put to good use in the school setting or at an extra-curricular club?”