The short answer is gently. Parents of children who are just starting school for the first time have a lot going on. The transition from nursery can be challenging, and the family quickly has to learn a new routine. Parents will have already met the head and their child’s teacher, and they will have a whole new group of other parents to get to know too. It can be overwhelming – and you don’t want to add too much to that.
PTAs need new members, and new parents are a fresh resource. But rather than diving straight into a recruitment drive, instead initially focus on helping build their involvement with the class and school community. PTA messaging can be subtly incorporated.
Jenny Brown of Stanton Road Primary PTA on The Wirral says they organise pre-owned uniform sales and introduce themselves at the welcome meetings. ‘But we’ve also had a few volunteers outside the school as the parents pick up on their first half days – just as a friendly face.’ She continues: ‘On the first full day, we encourage the parents to stay for a chat and to set up a class WhatsApp group – it’s a community action that enables them to know other parents who are PTA volunteers.’
Other alternatives involve getting people together by sharing food, and any meal can work. ‘We’ve done a few welcome breakfasts, usually in the first week the children start school, as they’re still on half days, so working parents are more likely to be around,’ says Rachel Khan, chair at Friends of Culvers House Primary School, Mitcham.
Picnics are a great option too. They’re relatively easy to organise, can take place in various locations and the PTA can even sell drinks or ice creams. Such events introduce an element of fundraising, something that’s central to any PTA – as any new recruits will soon find out.
Alternatively, approach a local restaurant to run a set menu for an evening meal for the parents. Ask if profits from the food can go to the PTA while the restaurant benefits from the publicity and makes money on alcohol.
Chatting about the work of the PTA and how the children benefit can be seamlessly integrated into informal get-togethers and events with new parents. You’re unlikely to find a new secretary or treasurer straight away, but with children who will benefit from PTA fundraising for years to come, those new recruits might help motivate everyone.