Two years ago Fraser Primary Principal, Sue Norton, was looking for ways to involve more of the parent community in the school. Her new initiative – one that is still going strong today – was ‘Fraser Friends’.
“Fraser Friends is basically a fun version of the P&C meeting,” explains Alois Tusch, the school’s P&C President, “without the reports and formalities.”
“The Friends meet on the same day as the P&C meeting. Sue gives her Principal’s report, just as she would at a regular P&C meeting, and then there is a chance for parents and carers to flag issues, raise problems and ask questions.”
Council’s surveys of P&Cs in the past have shown that what people value most about being on the P&C is being informed about what happens at school and connecting to school staff, especially the principal. In effect, the Friends meetings make these most valuable aspects of the Fraser P&C meetings available to a greater number of people.
“Toddlers and babies are welcome and toys are available for them to play with. The meetings are held around 9am, straight after school drop-off, so it suits different people to those who come to our evening meetings,” says Alois.
“It’s a beautiful addition to our P&C and a lot of good ideas come out of it! As P&C President, I try to get along as often as I can and often matters raised at the Friends meetings are then brought to the P&C.”
For Sue, the meetings are a valuable way of capturing the input of as many people and as many points of view as possible. “It’s a place to talk about the vision of the school and a forum for ideas, a way for parents to know what is happening and to get involved in decision making at the school.”
“I get feedback on initiatives that we are considering and a lot of new ideas too. Because of the informal setting, parents don’t feel bashful about asking what might feel like a silly question – questions they might not feel they can ask at a formal P&C meeting.”
According to Sue, attendance at Fraser Friends varies from as few as three to as many as 20 people. “It is about building confidence. After a while, the people who came started to run things. One parent ran a movie night, another organised school celebrations of World Teacher Day.”
When asked if effectively having two P&C meetings was a valuable use of her time, Sue says a definite ‘yes’.
“Many of the school’s best new initiatives have come from our discussions at Fraser Friends. I value our conversations and those parents feel valued.”
This article appeared in ParentACTion, Term 1, 2017.
It is part of a series of articles sharing expertise across our P&Cs.