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How can working parents get involved at school


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When your child starts primary school they join a new community, one they’ll be part of for the next seven years. And while it’s important that it be ‘theirs’, it’s also beneficial if you can have a relationship with that community that goes beyond rocking up at the school gates on time (mostly!) and turning up for the occasional parents’ evening. Yes, you can sign up to the newsletter, and read every note that comes home in your child’s school bag to keep yourself informed, but that’s one-way traffic. Most schools are crying out for families to step up and help to make the school more successful, more effective and more vibrant. So how can working  parents get involved at school?

Parent Teacher Association

The most obvious and formal route is to join the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), and get stuck into running the summer fete, organising fundraising drives and arranging social occasions. Rewarding of course, but it’s not for the feint-hearted – it can be a lot of work, and might just prove a commitment too far for the average working parent. So try scaling it down a notch. Volunteer to man the coconut-shy at the fair, bake a cake for the fundraiser or help out at the school disco, and you can still give some much-needed support without over-stretching yourself.

Reading support

wp helping at schoolIf you work part-time, and have childcare for your younger kids, then consider going in to hear your child’s classmates read, or help out with swimming lessons once a week. It’s an hour or so out of your ‘free’ time, of course, but it’s the kind of help that schools rely on. And don’t rule out getting involved at school even if you work full-time. As part of their social responsibility policies, some employers offer their staff time off to do voluntary work. Could you make use of that to help out at your child’s school either as a regular arrangement, or for a one-off event? Alternatively, if you can spare some annual leave, you might take a day off to go on your child’s school trip – but check with the school in advance whether you’ll need to be CRB-checked first.

Being a working parent could actually be a plus for the school. If your job lends itself, how about volunteering to go in and talk to pupils about your work? Schools are often keen to hear from police officers, fire fighters or medical workers – or speak to your child’s teacher about how your particular role might fit into the curriculum.

Weekend and evening help

There may also be ways to help out at weekends or in the evenings. Get to know your class rep, or talk to fellow parents who have more time than you to get involved, so that you know what opportunities are coming up, and so they know when you’re ready, willing and able to help out. Then you can grab your spade and get digging at a grounds volunteering day, and help the school build that new veggie patch or nature trail.  Or turn a weekend walk around your neighbourhood into a leaflet drop to advertise the latest fundraising event.

Fundraising and donations

If you really can’t manage to give your time, then have a think about other ways to support the school. Perhaps your employer could donate a prize for the raffle, take out an advert in the brochure or provide services in kind – for example web hosting, or printing. You could even ask your non-parent colleagues to collect supermarket school vouchers and donate them to your child’s school – every little helps.

You might feel your efforts are a drop in the ocean compared to what other parents do. It might even seem like a pointless struggle to make such a small contribution. But remember it’s not a competition, and everyone’s circumstances are different. The important thing is not how much time you give or how much money you raise. What really counts is making the effort to be a part of your child’s new community, and to support their school’s endeavours – and their education –  in whatever way you can.

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About Alison McKay

About Alison McKay

Alison McKay is a charity PR professional with over 15 years' experience in full-time, part-time and jobshare roles. Since being made redundant while on maternity leave, she has divided her time between working for a local museum, freelance and volunteer writing, and being chief wrangler to a two-year-old mud-magnet and an almost-seven-year-old wannabe dog-care worker with a penchant for hair accessories. Alison's hobbies include yoga, reading cookery books and putting away just enough clean laundry to keep the pile below 3ft tall.

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