There are many roles a P&C can take in a school and we see a huge diversity across Canberra. Once your committee is formed and you’re strapped in for the ride, where is it you most wish to go? How does the P&C fit in? What do others do and what are the options?
Is your P&C a social, educational, advisory, service-providing or fundraising body?
Here at Council, we encourage P&Cs to facilitate parent involvement in the school, support the school and community, and provide a forum for parents to discuss and debate school and education issues.
That is a very broad remit and it’s crucial for each P&C to pinpoint, within that, their most important role(s). Last year, we saw that P&Cs with a clear idea of their role could more easily re-assess their plans when events and interactions were restricted due to COVID-19. They could redirect their activities to fulfil that role in other ways.
So, is your P&C a social, educational, advisory or fundraising body? Is it a means for involving parents in the school or a service provider for families?
If you decide that social interactions are your main focus, you could try morning coffee sessions, consider ‘stay and play’ picnics after school hours, run discos which encourage parents to join in, or arrange a whole-school picnic (see also story on page 10).
If your role as an educational body is foremost, you could share parent expertise with community cooking lessons, hold sessions to help parents understand primary school ‘readers’, or run forums for parents on topics such as cybersafety, drug and alcohol awareness or understanding their teens!
Your P&C might consider itself primarily an advisory body, acting as a sounding board for the principal and providing parent feedback on school operations, in which case you could look at changes to your meetings and communications to help more parents get involved.
For other P&Cs, providing services to the community – such as the canteen or uniform shop – will be a major focus.
Fundraising may not be your major role, but should always have a purpose so that people know what the funds will be used for.
Shared goals - your committee
P&Cs work best when there are clear, shared goals – a well understood sense of what you are there for and what you are trying to achieve. It’s important that your committee talk about this. Sometimes, within a committee, people have different underlying ideas about what the main focus should be and this can lead to conflict. It is a good idea to discuss it openly, either in a general sense or event by event so that differences can be accommodated and compromises reached. A quick way to do this? At a P&C meeting, get everyone to jot down on a post-it note why it is they come to meetings. The responses will point the way to what you care about and what you want. You may even find there is already consensus!
The school community
It’s obviously important that the P&C’s goals align with the aims of the school and the wishes of families. Discussions with your principal and good communication with the School Board are crucial. Asking for input from the school’s student group or surveying families to find out what is most important can also be useful.
What is it for?
With goals set, you’ll find it easier to plan. You’ll know where to direct your resources and time. The goal will also guide what an event looks like. For example, if your disco focuses on community fun rather than fundraising, you might add a lip-sync competition, family dance, or a game of musical statues and provide sought-after prizes. You can agree to only break-even and adjust the entry fee accordingly so more people can come. Another activity might focus on fundraising for a much-needed new resource. If you let people know what you are fundraising for and how the school benefits they’re more likely to participate.
The community is much more likely to support your events and efforts if you can articulate a clear aim. If the focus is on fundraising, be very clear about what you are fundraising for. Businesses are more likely to donate prizes, and parents are more likely to promote a fundraiser and encourage others to purchase or participate if there is a clear need or benefit.
Volunteers like clear purpose too
Being clear about your goals also helps get volunteer parents on board. They can see why they are needed and what it will lead to. Our surveys of volunteers show how much volunteers value a sense of achievement and being part of something bigger, so make it clear what the time they are giving contributes to.
Learn from others
There are many ways that P&Cs can direct their enthusiasm and time to support their school. You can check out what other P&Cs do on the ‘Sharing expertise’ section of our website or by joining our P&C Leaders’ Group on Facebook.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2021.