Friday 4 January 2019

6 ways to support your kids' school

Inside - 6 ways to help your school community, without always buying something.

It's no secret that I love volunteering. Being of service to others is my primary love language, which often manifests as helping people my kids are involved with.

I've been a P&C volunteer, Scout leader, family support worker, and classroom reader over the years.

And this year I've stepped into the treasurer's role with the P&C Executive for our primary school.

But one thing I've realised again is that, unless they're involved, lots of parents don't really understand what the P&C is, and how they support schools, or the many ways parents can help.

** Throughout this post, I'll be using my P&C as an example. Your school may do things differently, but the ideas still help.

What is a P&C?

Parents & Citizens Association (or perhaps your school calls it Parents & Friends) is the organisation name for what may have been the Mothers Club if you're a child of the 80s like me.

It's the group of parents and community members (any interested community member over 18 may join) who fundraise for school resources, and support students, parents and teachers to provide the best opportunities to learn.

But what does a P&C do?

There are several arms to most P&Cs - providing cafe/tuckshop services, selling uniforms and/or stationery, fundraising for resources, supporting programs within the school like banking, and for some schools Outside School Hours Care

What parents see the most is the fundraising events most P&Cs run. At our school we run the Mothers Day and Fathers Day stalls, we've hosted trivia nights and fetes, produced a cookbook and run raffles, sold products like pies and cookie dough, and run disco BBQs for students, and sold democracy sausages to the wider community on election day. We also run the school banking program, the book club program, and support the school chappy with the Breakfast Club program.

How can I help the P&C?

These days, many families have two working parents or young children who can make it seem difficult to contribute to the school community.

But there's plenty of ways to help your school, even if you can't make it to the once-a-month P&C meetings (although your support at a meeting will always be welcome!)

Support your school and P&C by donating supplies.

Whether it's to create hampers for a raffle, bake for a cake stall, or to top up supplies in the cafe, if your P&C asks for a donation, and you can afford it, send something to school. 

Just like when book lists specify a brand, if you're asked to donate a particular brand then please know that there's a reason for the request. Cheap glue sticks don't always last the year, and cafes often cater for dietary requirements or have worked out the nutritional value based on a particular ingredient.

Support your school and P&C by volunteering a skill you've learnt.

Are you a graphic designer? Volunteer to create an event flyer. Have some food or drink service experience? Volunteer to help with an event. Have digital marketing or public relations experience? Volunteer some ideas or mentor the team.

Support your school and P&C by offering your physical resources.

Running an event at any time of year takes a lot of work for the whole P&C team. But while you say to yourself "they know lots of people, they've got plenty of helpers", chances are your team is saying "gee, I wish more people were actually here helping."

And for the love of all things, if you offer to help, TURN UP, or at least let someone know if you won't be there (and please make the excuse decent, they were counting on you!)

Support your school and P&C by commenting on surveys, social media or emails.

We all know what it feels like to be "talking into the void." If you see a post on social media, drop a comment to amplify the reach. If the school send a survey, take some time to answer the questions, they're a vital part of the planning schools need to do (a feedback survey sent by our school last year received less than 50 responses, and over 60% of those were from ESL families. In a school with over 500 families, I was a little surprised.)

Support your school and P&C by volunteering for the cafe/tuckshop.

While most tuckshops have a convenor, whether a paid employee or a volunteer, for continuity of supply, volunteers are still needed to make the actual food and distribute it. Even an hour on the busiest weekday will make a significant difference to getting all the orders out on time. Ask someone what the busiest day is (for our school it's Friday), then see how you can help.

Support your school and P&C by attending a meeting.

Our monthly meetings are at 7pm on the first Wednesday of the month in the staff room. At our last meeting we had just 7 people, from a regular cohort of 12 (but it was a December meeting, which historically they haven't done.)

Meetings are a vital part of the process of P&Cs supporting the school community. Despite how it may look that the executive of your P&C is "in charge", it's actually the committee members that attend meetings that make the decisions, the executive and any other volunteers who do the work. (Our P&C has a core group of five, our executive and the fundraising organiser, who do a lot of the work.)

If you ever feel that something should be changed or done differently, the monthly meeting is the place to have your say. From deciding the sale price of school uniforms to determining how funds will be spent within the school, all decisions are made through the meeting.

And if all else fails, send an email and ask how you can help, it will be most appreciated!

Do you volunteer at your school?

Do you do any other volunteer work?


  1. I used to be on the school committee when my kids were at primary school so I know exactly what you are talking about. It relies on volunteers so much and it's a shame when people can't or won't give some free time. Fund raising events take a lot of organising and it's often relying on far too few people. I don't think people realise how much schools rely on fundraising to provide some of the things that people assume are basic provisions. They are lucky to have you on board!
    I don't do volunteer work at the moment, but my husband does one day a week at our local country park. He loves it! A day in the outdoors learning new practical skills, and making new friends with similar interests.

    1. Your husband's role sounds like fun, maybe one day when the kids are out of school I'll do some volunteer work like that.


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