Does the PTA have to be a registered charity?
A PTA can operate as an unincorporated charitable association or registered charity, each with a different legal structure. Unincorporated charitable associations are less formal, with no legal distinction between the charity and its members. They are easy to set up, and you can still open a bank account, register for Gift Aid and apply for certain grants.
If your PTA’s income is over £5,000 per year, you must register with the Charity Commission. It comes with benefits such as access to more grant funding but carries additional responsibilities and reporting requirements.
Can a member of school staff or a governor also be PTA chair, secretary or treasurer?
Refer to your governing document to determine who can be a member of your PTA. If all parents, carers and school staff are members with equal rights, they can participate in the AGM and be elected as committee members. Even a senior staff member would require nomination, seconding and voting. For a Friends Association, individuals who wish to support your charity’s objectives can also be members and run for committee positions.
Are there any restrictions on how a PTA can spend its funds?
PTAs must always act according to their constitution. While they have some flexibility in deciding how to allocate funds, they must ensure that all purchases fall within the scope of their charitable objectives. For example, if all purchases must enrich the pupils’ education, buying school equipment or educational resources would be acceptable, but paying a teacher’s salary would not.
If your PTA receives donations or fundraises for a specific project, it must spend that money as intended. However, the Charities Act 2022 made it easier for a charity to spend money raised for an appeal that doesn’t raise enough money or raises too much. As long as the original appeal states a secondary purpose, the PTA is free to reallocate funds to that project instead.
Can a PTA apply to trusts and foundations for grants?
PTAs can access grants to support their projects in the same way as other charities. They can often apply for funds that are not available to the school directly.
Look for funders whose charitable aims align with the PTA’s goals. Every grant has specific eligibility criteria, such as area of interest, location and target beneficiaries. Make sure your project is a good fit, apply on time and be prepared to engage in any follow-up reporting required by the funder.
In your bid, clearly outline your objectives and explain how you will spend the funds. Describe the expected impact on the pupils. You may need to source additional documents such as bank statements, budgets or quotes.
Ask your communications or grants officer to stay up to date with any grant funders that may be suitable for future bids. Sign up to a searchable grants database such as funded.org.uk.
Does the PTA need a licence to run a raffle?
If you intend to run the kind of raffle where all tickets are sold at an event, such as a fair, this is known as an incidental lottery and there’s no need to register or obtain a licence.
But if you plan to sell raffle tickets before an event or run a stand-alone raffle, you will need to register with your local authority and pay a small fee. This is called a small society lottery. The application will require details about your organisation, the objective of the lottery, intended use of funds and some financial information. You must also provide entrants with tickets that display the name and address of the PTA, purpose of the raffle, ticket price and the draw date. Check our easy to follow PDF, does your raffle need a licence?
Can the school tell the PTA what to buy?
Some schools still view the PTA as an informal group of parents who fundraise, rather than a charity governed by a legal constitution. The PTA and the school are two separate entities, so the school can’t tell you what to do or buy. They can’t demand your money or your Charity Commission login details. The PTA and school should never share the same bank account.
But it does make sense to foster a good relationship. Headteachers can make life difficult by refusing to allow the PTA access to the school premises, staff, equipment and communications.
The school can request funding for a project from the PTA, but the PTA isn’t obligated to agree. If the school doesn’t want what the PTA is offering, they too have the right to decline.
It’s best to define expectations from both sides to avoid unwelcome surprises. For example, if the PTA usually agrees to pay for workshops, the school could expect them to approve a request for a Year 6 science workshop. But it wouldn’t expect them to pay for everyday items such as exercise books. If the school normally allows the PTA free use of the hall for events, the PTA should not expect them to suddenly charge a hire fee.
Can the PTA sell alcohol at an event?
Yes. You will need a Temporary Event Notice (TEN), a licence supplied by your local authority that covers the supply of alcohol to fewer than 499 people at a specific location for a short time. Whether you’re running a bar or offering a free drink as part of the ticket price, you’ll still need a TEN. You don’t need a TEN to run a bottle tombola with alcoholic prizes.
The PTA should apply online to the local licensing authority at least ten working days before the event. You must ensure that alcohol is sold and consumed responsibly and take steps to prevent selling it to anyone underage.
Events with 500 or more attendees (which includes children and any school staff attending) are generally classified as ‘large events’ and require a premises licence instead. Designating a smaller ‘bar area’ isn’t an acceptable workaround. If you aren’t sure if a TEN will cover your event, contact your local licensing authority.
What can we do if an elected officer, such as the chair, treasurer or secretary, resigns and no one is willing to take on the role?
Your constitution should specify the minimum number of committee members required. As long as you have enough – sometimes as few as two – you can continue to operate while you search for additional help. The committee can decide among themselves how to split up the tasks.
Some constitutions designate specific roles that the group must fill. If you are struggling to find volunteers for these critical positions, there are some options. First, ask the committee member if they’d be willing to continue in their role with a reduced workload for a short time. The PTA may have to cancel some activities while you recruit but can continue to operate. Alternatively, find someone to fill the role temporarily. For example, if you need a treasurer, try asking the school bursar.
If you have only two committee members and one wishes to resign, your group will be forced to dissolve. Write to the parents and explain what the children will miss out on. PTAs often find the threat of closure is enough to spark new interest.
Does the PTA need to have its own insurance?
It’s advisable to take out public liability and personal accident insurance to cover meetings, activities and committee members/trustees.
PTAs should obtain appropriate insurance coverage to protect against unexpected incidents or accidents at events. Insurance would help cover costs associated with property damage, public liability claims or injuries to individuals attending PTA events. It will also reassure members and participants that appropriate measures are in place to manage potential risks. PTAs should look at insurance providers or brokers who specialise in providing coverage for voluntary organisations. Insurance should align with their activities and potential risks. Check the small print in case the activity you want to run isn’t covered.
How can the PTA maximise its fundraising?
PTAs and charities engage in many different types of fundraising. Here are some suggestions to help bring in more funds:
Communication: Making sure everyone knows your goals will help people understand the difference you make and why they should support you. Reach a wider audience by sharing stories, images and videos on social media.
Engagement: Building relationships with your local community creates a sense of belonging and involvement. Show appreciation to your donors by sending personalised thank you notes, updates and invitations to special events.
Go digital: Signing up to fundraising platforms such as GoFundMe, JustGiving and InvestMyCommunity provides an easy way for people to donate and share your campaign with their contacts.
Create a community event: We all love a school fair, but attendance can be limited to families from the school. Research your local area – would a Christmas craft fair or community firework night be a more profitable alternative?
Peer-to-peer fundraising: Encourage your supporters to fundraise on your behalf by attempting a walking, cycling or skydiving challenge.
Corporate donors and grants: Research and approach companies, trusts and foundations that offer grants or sponsorships to support charitable causes.
More options: Provide different ways for people to donate, including one-time contributions, monthly giving programmes and in-kind donations. Make the process simple and user-friendly.
The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.