At Chapman Primary School there’s an additional, and very important, role on the P&C committee – the Class Carer Coordinator. Their role is to oversee the school’s Class Carer Program which is set up to provide communication and support to all families in the school community.
Each class has a designated Class Carer and anyone can nominate for these roles at the start of each year. Each year, parents provide their Class Carer with their email address and hey presto – instant communication network.
“The network has been running for years,” P&C President, Alison Callaway, told us. “For both the school and the P&C, it is an essential way of getting messages to parents.”
Apart from the most official of school communications – like the newsletter and student reports – almost all school messages use the Class Carer Network. That includes whole-school notices about upcoming events and announcements, reminders and information from classroom teachers, and P&C news and happenings.
“The message to be sent out from the school or P&C goes to the Class Carer Coordinator. They send it on to the relevant Class Carers, and they pass it onto their class list. The Class Carers are also in direct contact with their class teacher for class-specific information,” Alison explained.
“For me and other P&C volunteers, it’s a great way to very quickly get the message out without having to fiddle around with problems with email addresses. I can send a quick one-line email to the Coodinator and she makes that a nice message that gets propagated down the network.”
An important component for making it work is having clear guidelines and processes.
“An initial get together with all the Class Carers, the Coordinator and the school Principal at the beginning of the year has been very effective in making sure everyone understands the protocols and what the role is about.”
The Program is not just a handy tool for busy presidents and teachers. It is an important linkage for the school community.
“When you are new to a school, you can get overwhelmed by the whole school community or by the whole P&C. The formality of an email from the Principal can be daunting,” said Alison. “The beauty of the Class Carer Program is that it promotes a small community within the larger community. It is on a more relatable scale.”
“We don’t use it for social messages – like kids’ birthday parties – but there is that social element. The messages are kept informal. It’s useful information to parents but the delivery is personal and more relaxed than it might be if it came direct from the school.”
Although the network is for important school messages, not social ones, the network does become a social contact.
“Each year the network puts families in contact who may not have crossed paths before. It assists with quickly linking immediate class families.”
“At the very least, people get to know their class carer. When you chat, you can say ‘I’m the one that sends those emails’. It’s an important point of contact.”
The network also makes it easier for parents to send queries 'back up the chain'. Parents can ask questions, in a more face to face manner, of their class carer, who is in contact with their teacher.
Some Class Carers even organise an end of year dinner for the parents and carers of that class, which, Alison says, is particularly popular with the more junior classes.
The network is also a great way to spread the volunteer load and being a Class Carer is a way in which parents can contribute to the P&C without having to make it to meetings.
“We are building on the idea of each Class Carer co-ordinating a stall at our annual fete,” said Alison. “The kindies might do a plant stall and the year fives the BBQ. From that sub-community of parents, can you organsise and run that stall? It’s a different level on which to get people involved.”
When asked for tips for others who might like to run a similar system, Alison says once you have clear guidelines and roles, the essential elements are timing, trust and tone.
“You’ve got to start as soon as possible at the beginning of the year. Get out the note early to invite people to be their Class Carer and parents to opt in to the network and supply their email addresses. We leave last year’s network in place until the new one is up and running and that helps.”
“You have to encourage people to sign up. They have to know that you won’t be sending lots of emails or things that aren’t relevant – it is important to maintain that all year. And keep the emails friendly and informal.”
“Once it is really part of the school, it is a really worthwhile program.”
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 3, 2019.