1 The Parents Association Contents Page 1. What is a Parents Association? 2 2. Why have a Parents Association? 2 3. What are the Functions of a Parents Association? 3 4. Forming a new Parents association 4 5. Parents Association suggested membership 4 6. Parents Association Role Structure 4 7. Do Parents Association really make a difference? 5 8. Rights and responsibilities of parents at a school 6 9. Why have meetings? 7 10. Sample meeting agenda 8 11. Your Associations relationship with us 9 2 What is a Parents Association? All parents of children attending a school are part of the parent body. A Parents Association is an organisation that provides the formal structure necessary in any school community to ensure effective organisation and action. Frequently membership also includes supporters who have no children at the school but belong to another body whether religious or local community who have a deep interest in the well being of the school. It is an integral part of the school community representing all parents of the school and sharing responsibility for the school with the principal, teachers or board. The P&F provides an opportunity for parents to meet formally and regularly with the Principal or school representative in order to ensure that everything necessary is being done for the school and its community and, most importantly the students. In this way the parents and school staff are able to assist each other greatly and contribute significantly to the life and the welfare of the school. It has as its main purpose to facilitate involvement, contributions and networking between parents and parents and the school. Why have a Parents Association? Parents are the primary educators of their children. They continue to influence their children’s learning and development during their school years and long afterwards. Schools have an important responsibility in helping to nurture and teach these children. Because families want the best for their children they must trust schools to provide educational foundations for their future. At the same time schools need to recognise the primary role of the family in education. Therefore families and schools need to work together. Research also shows that effective schools have high levels of parental and community involvement and this involvement is strongly related to improved student learning and attendance as well as behaviour. Family involvement in schools is therefore central to high quality education; it is part of the core business of schools. It is a very different environment from previous generational practices where the gates were locked after the last student arrived and parents were not welcome to open it. Parents only dared to enter, at their own peril, when summoned by the Principal. How far we have come! The parent vehicle for today’s parent/school partnerships and the conduit for family involvement in most schools is The Parents Association. 3 What are the functions of a Parents Association? The functions of a Parents Association are as diverse as the children within it. However, as a guideline they may; • To Participate in/or provide opportunity for consultation and collaboration between all groups within the school community. • To undertake fundraising activities either to meet agreed financial commitments and/or provide facilities for the students and school. • To promote a sense of community spirit within the school through the organising of parent and community functions and events. • To publicise role, activities, membership of the Association through regular lines of communication. • Liaise and co‐operate with other groups (eg the school board) involved in maintenance of the school buildings and grounds through working bees, rosters etc. • Assist the Principal, in any manner that may be mutually decided upon in the Association, with the day to day running of the school • Share responsibility, where appropriate, for the management of secondary school functions such as uniform shop, second‐hand text books or canteen in collaboration with the school administration and the school board. • To provide a support network that offers help with events like Work Experience Week, Guest Speaker nights • To liaise with the NSW Parents Council and communicate to the school community relevant information supplied by the Council. • Contribute, as and if requested to by the school board or Principal, to policies of the school including, Finance, Uniform, Curriculum, Education and Sport. • To support new families or families in crisis. • Offer support to new families or families in crisis. • Participate in or provide the opportunity for consultation and collaboration between all groups within the school community. • Look for ways to improve, from the parents view, the family/school partnership. 4 Forming a new Parents Association The NSW Parents Council has suggested Constitutions available on the website www.parentscouncil.nsw.edu.au or through our office, please call (02)9955 8276. The first suggested steps in forming a new Parents Association are to: • Call a public meeting of parents and supporters within the community to form a provisional committee in order to draft by‐laws to interested parents and friends to accompany your constitution. • Circulate the constitution and by‐laws to interested parents and friends. • Call a meeting for the formal adoption of the constitution and establishment of the association and for the election of office bearers. • Register the Association with the Office of Fair Trading. Although not compulsory, becoming incorporated provides your Association with a simple and inexpensive means of becoming a legal entity and helps protect members in legal transactions. Information regarding how to apply for incorporation, together with the necessary forms is set out at ‐ http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/Cooperatives_and_associations/Associations/Steps_to_incorporation.html Parents Association suggested membership Membership should be open to all parents and interested persons by either; child’s enrolment in the school, formal registration or by attendance at meetings. It is also open to ex‐officio such as the School Principal and staff representative. Parents Association Role Structure The Chairperson‐ whose responsibilities are to run the meeting effectively and to carry out any other tasks as requested by the Association. The Secretary‐ whose responsibilities include the taking and distribution of minutes and agendas, and any other tasks as requested by the Association. The Treasurer‐ who takes charge of monies of the Association draws cheques and banks money within 2 working days of request/receipt as the Association determines and reports regularly to the Association on its financial position. Committee Members‐ the committee should comprise the Office Bearers as above, ex‐officio members and at least 6 elected members. For further details on the responsibilities of the Office Bearers refer to additional information available through the NSW Parents Council. 5 Do Parents Associations really make a difference? Parents and Parent’s Associations can add much value to their children’s school community. They offer‐ • Advocacy • Passion and commitment through devotion and dedication. • Tireless effort‐ when there is high input from parent volunteers, research shows that the benefits to their children are increased. • Trades and Services from the parent body • Local knowledge • Professional advise • An outside perspective (freedom from organisational constraints) • Community Outreach to organisation such as The Parents Council, even further supporting the school community. • An opportunity to build a unique community reflecting the values of a particular school community. The Associations provide an opportunity for parents to connect, make friends, learn more about what is going on at their child’s school, raise funds for school projects, support families in crisis or new families, just to name some of their responsibilities. It is a proven fact that when there is a high level of parental involvement in a school, the student’s results are better. Building a strong community requires a ‘hub’ and a Parents Association is well placed to take on this role. Parents also have a responsibility to partner with their chosen school in the education of their children. Involvement in the school is crucial to this responsibility. 6 Rights and Responsibilities of parents A school community that clearly states what is expected of parents will benefit from its clear and positive communication strategy. Once implemented key statements may be communicated to parents in several ways via‐ • the Registrar on enrolment • the Principal and School Board • the Parents Association in conjunction with school. The rationale of articulating such information is to promote the benefits of positive parental engagement in education and parents as life long learners with non government school communities. Clearly stating expectations also fosters‐ • A sense of connection and belonging for parents in the school community • Positive and constructive working relationship between parents and the school • An appreciation of parents as integral members of the school community • An appreciation of teachers as professional and knowledgeable partners in the education of children A start to this process is to write as a P&F, key statements relating to how parents as partners in your school community can relate to other parents and to the staff and management of the school. Only by implementing such a document, and in conjunction with the Principal and School Board, will each section of a school community (teachers, staff and parents) truly be able to form a positive strong working relationship where all parties understand their role. The important Family/ School partnership is recognised nationally in Australia and encouraged by Governments, educators, academics and parents. For some school communities it may be a challenge to come to a point where all parties actively acknowledge each others importance as stated in the Australian Government’s Family‐School Partnership Framework (2008)‐ “ Family‐School Partnerships are collaborative relationships and activities involving school staff, parents and other family members of students at a school. Effective partnerships are based on mutual trust and respect, and shared responsibility for the education of children and young people at the school”. 7 Why have meetings? To facilitate the achieving of the aims and objectives of your Parents Association people must come together‐ • To discuss and consult, • Plan • Share information • Decide • Act • Work Therefore meetings are unavoidable. They can be interesting, effective and rewarding or they can easily be dull, boring and a waste of people’s time. Taking the time and effort to ensure that your Parent’s Association meetings are productive and successful will not only save time but will bring great personal satisfaction to all involved. It is not a difficult task. The regular meetings of the Association are the life blood of the organisation, central to its operation. It should flow smoothly and respect the rules and other people. It should have minimal interference from the referee (The Chairperson) but it still needs a referee. Ensure the meetings are well advertised in the school newsletter and perhaps even provide a light supper/morning tea if funds or the school caterer can allow. Your meeting should provide an outcome and follow a set procedure of protocol to ensure your outcomes can be followed through and well documented for future reference. MINUTES It is important that accurate minutes are kept and that all decisions adopted are identified, it is not necessary to include general discussion in body of minutes but merely pertinent points in reaching any decision. Every decision of the Association and committees within the minutes should then form part of a formal minutes register developed by the Association and maintained by the Secretary. The minutes may also list actions to be taken and by whom. It is beneficial for decisions to be numbered and referenced to the minute register e.g. Decision 101/03/04: Mrs A Smith/Mr B Walker:‐“That ABC School Association adopt the uniform policy as presented by the Committee”. CARRIED Smith/Wilson ‐First name always mover and therefore second name – seconder to motion. 101 – Reflects numerical decision i.e. 101st decision of School Association. 03 – Relates to month in which meeting held. 04 ‐ Relates to year decision adopted. You will note the decision started with ‘That’. All motions (proposals to be decided on) should be put to a meeting this way by the ‘proposer’ and ‘seconder’. Once this has been noted, the Chairperson opens the matter for discussion. Then, in due course and after a discussion, it must be noted as either, carried, replaced by an amendment, defeated or deferred in the minutes. 8 Sample Meeting Agenda It is essential prior to the meeting that a Notice of Meeting is prepared and circulated to all members. An agenda forms the structure of the meeting. The agenda states where and when the meeting will take place and what matters will be listed for discussion (items of business) together with any relevant material (which members should read prior to the meeting) as well as a draft copy of the minutes of the previous meeting. In most instances the main headings of an agenda will remain unchanged. The number of items under each heading may vary given the matters being considered by the Association. The agenda ultimately becomes a historical record of business addressed for that particular meeting for future reference. For your meeting to run smoothly the adoption of a standard agenda is recommended. An example follows. Sample Agenda 1. Opening and welcome of current and new members by the Chairperson. New members should be introduced. 2. Record of attendance and apologies by Secretary. 3. Minutes of previous meeting confirmed by Secretary. 4. Business arising from minutes (complete any unfinished business arising from previous minutes) 5. Outward and Inward correspondence. Read and Discuss. 6. Business arising from correspondence. 7. Reports from committee. For example‐ • Treasurer • Fund‐raising committee • Principal or other school representative. • Canteen or Uniform shop representative • NSW Parents Council Representative • Other 8. General Business 9. Vote of Thanks 10. Supper. This provides further interaction and discussion within the group and provides an opportunity to get to know your committee members better. A small supper after your meeting aids this process considerably. Items also to be included but not generally in the agenda are details of the next meeting and the time of meeting closure. When meetings run on time and stick to the agreed agenda people feel they are achieving something as a group and are able to feel rewarded. It also means there is time to socialise afterwards or for people to return to their families. Generally parents attending these meetings 9 do enjoy the opportunity to talk with other like minded involved parents when given the opportunity, further reinforcing the positive feeling surrounding their involvement. Parents Association and Parents Council partnership After reading this document you will understand more about forming good relationships through a Parents Association at your child’s school. Similarly the NSW Parents Council is your voice on a higher platform representing all our views as non government school parents in NSW. These views are communicated to politicians and educators on a State level through us and on a national level through our affiliation with the Australian Parents Council. The Parents Council has been representing parents of children at non‐government schools since 1962 and has been constantly evolving. It has progressed from its small beginnings in Goulburn into one that effectively advocates the needs of parents of non‐government school children in the State and Federal arenas. It essentially exists to: • Support and inform non‐government school parents and Parents Associations through the facilitation of Parent Forums and conferences The provision of communication via NSWPC newsletters, website and email also provides a regular stream of supporting material to be used by schools, P&F’s and parents. We act as a conduit of professional advice specifically relating to educating and nurturing school students. Our support offers all in educational process an opportunity to improve their Family/School Partnerships. • Advocate on behalf of parents in the Federal (through our parent body, APC) and State political arenas. Where the comments of our parents are taken seriously. We also advocate to relevant bureaucrats and educationalists. We act as a counter to the anti‐ non‐government school groups. Issues that we are currently advocating for include: - Funding for non‐government schools - Resources and funding for students with special needs. - Extending the regulation of Coaching Colleges and tutors. - Support for Rural students and their families. - Unjust cost differentials for TAFE courses for non‐government students - Parents rights to have the choice in schooling for their children. - Improving safety for our children including cybersafety, school transport, and emotionally. • Represent non‐government school parents. We are ‘parents representing parents’ working for your children. There are numerous committees and advisory boards that the volunteer Parents Council Executives participate in representing our voice and views. Our Executives are parents from a variety of rural, regional and metropolitan non government schools who meet regularly to constructively formulate and action the required directions as directed through consultation with all parents. As parental involvement is necessary at a school level to create positive change, involvement at a state level is also required by parents to create change. The Council effectively partners with 10 educators through its association with the Association of Independent Schools, the various Principal organisations and schools to create a better educational environment for our children.
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