Help and support
Now that you are on the Parent Council you may feel that you've taken on a big task - but you are not on your own and there are plenty of people to help and offer support. You or other members of the Parent Council may have been members of the previous School Board or the PTA and this experience will be useful. The Parent Council is a new body, however, and new ideas will be welcome as you work out together what you want to do and how you are going to work. Your school and local authority are there to support you and there are other people and organisations who may also be able to help.
The headteacher will be a key contact and it will be important to work together and support each other. There are more details of the headteacher's role in the 'Getting the most from your Parent Council' leaflet.
Local authority responsibilities
Each local authority will have a member of staff who has responsibility for parental involvement and who can discuss with you what your Parent Council needs. Your local authority must provide support to enable you to carry out your functions effectively. This might include:
- Support with administration which may also involve the appointment of a clerk, accommodation or other services, e.g. photocopying
- Training - particularly in relation to involvement in recruiting senior staff
- Reasonable financial support to help you carry out your functions.
The authority will consult Parent Councils on their strategy outlining what they are doing to promote parental involvement.
One way authorities can help is by supporting Parent Councils to come together and share ideas and experiences. Meetings like this can also help to provide feedback to local authorities on their policies and services.
Who else in the authority can help?
These services may vary from authority to authority but ask about what is available in your area.
- Community Learning and Development teams have knowledge and experience of supporting community groups and how they run. They may be able to put you in touch with training opportunities that are available in your area that will help you run your Council - e.g. Holding Effective Meetings or The Role of the Chairperson.
- Family Learning or Home Link teams are skilled at working with adults as learners and with families. They can support you in reaching out to parents who may not find it easy to be involved in school activities and suggest activities for parents and children to have fun and learn together.
- Libraries can be a useful resource in the community to help you publicise your events and also support specific activities, e.g. a reading club or Family Reading Week.
- Sports and leisure facilities often have family activities that can provide opportunities for children and parents. There is usually a Sports Development Officer or Active Schools Coordinator in each local authority who may have ideas for Parent Council activities. They may hold events or activities that you can encourage parents and children to participate in as part of the Health Promoting Schools initiative.
Every community contains a range of services and resources that you may be able to draw on. Most people are very pleased to be asked and can be very creative in their ideas for how they can help.
- Local businesses and shops may be interested in supporting you in a variety of ways - donating raffle prizes or sponsoring activities. They often employ local parents who can share information and encourage their employers to get involved.
- There may also be opportunities for firms/businesses to offer practical help or donations to support activities - e.g. donations of tools or plants from a garden centre to support the creation of an eco area in the school grounds.
- The links that parents have with their workplace can often be useful in developing contacts that can help children's learning by providing work experience or arranging visits.
- Local faith groups are often in touch with parents and can support you by involving a wider group of people.
You may want to consider using community venues for some of your meetings as they may be more accessible and parents may feel more comfortable there. This may be a useful approach too if you are a secondary school with a catchment area covering a number of communities or neighbourhoods.
How can the Toolkit help?
The Toolkit offers advice and activities to help with a number of areas in this leaflet.
Wider community - section 5 (pages 54 to 61) give further ideas on how the wider community can support your work.
Strategy for parental involvement - section 6 of the Toolkit gives more information and a checklist to use when considering the local authority strategy for parental involvement.