When you’re a kid, starting a new school year is simple – new pencils, new shoes, new haircut. But for parents and committee members who have been enjoying the hands-off relaxation of holidays, getting back into swing of attending P&C/P&T meetings and volunteering can be a little more difficult.
Here are some top tips for making sure you start the year right:
Make your first meeting a no-work zone
This should definitely be the official line, although if people start brainstorming and coming up with great ideas while the pressure is off, there is no reason you can’t be writing it down. But start your year with a welcome meeting – especially if there are new members on the committee. Make it within a week or two of school starting, bake a cake and bring a bottle of wine. Make it short – just a chance to catch up and thank everyone in advance for a great year before all the work starts at the next meeting. This is also a great way of reminding (and thanking) everyone of all the incredible things you did the previous year and start everyone on a positive note.
The lead-up to the first meeting of the year is also a great time to debunk some of the myths surrounding ‘school mums’ and ‘P&C cliques’ – some people may avoid joining up because they are worried about getting sucked into a vortex of never-ending drudgery. Check out my article on P&C Myths and feel free to cut and paste to make posters for your own school.
Plan your whole year in one go
If you didn’t already do it last year, make your first work meeting dedicated to planning all your fundraising and community events for the whole of the year. Get a whiteboard and the calendar and start mapping school holidays, public holidays, special events like Mothers’ Day and Book Week and school events such as camp or NAPLAN. Find out if there will be any state or federal elections or if there are any other major events in your local area that you could piggy back on (or need to avoid). For example, if you’re planning a major fete, call other schools in the local community to make sure you don’t double book the same weekend.
Then start allocating your events, finding organisers as you go. Over the school year you should aim for a mix of fundraising and community events (community events can raise money, but it shouldn’t be the primary goal), plus a mix of events for kids, parents-only and the whole family. If your school has a major event such as a fete or market day, start here and then fill out the other terms around it. Don’t forget your passive or background fundraisers.
Having a full calendar that you can share with the whole school early in Term 1, means there will be no surprises later on when you need to ask for volunteers and helpers. Click here for a whole year of fundraising ideas.
Find new volunteers
You can be as upfront about this as you like, but an event early in the year where you welcome new families and expose them to how awesome your school committee is, could be a great way of finding new helpers. It might be a morning tea for parents or sausage sizzle for the whole family but this is a great time to start a register of parents’ skills and talents. Remember, you’re not asking for them to commit to anything immediately, just to determine what they might be able to offer when the time comes.
Don’t just focus on the new families either, there are probably plenty of families in the school who rarely or never put their hands up. Spend a bit of time finding out why – it could be that they have just never been asked or they are a bit shy or are afraid they will be asked to over-commit. Click here for some practical strategies on how to get the hardcore non-helpers involved at your school.
Does your P&C have any traditions to starting a new school year?
Related articles: How to start a register of parents skills and talents