One month ago, I wrote a blog piece about the Parent Ambassador programme – you can read that here. We are discussing the ideas with parents and headteachers further this month, and the opportunity to volunteer will stay open until the end of July. That will permit us to reach as many of our existing parents though conversation and email as possible, and a September forum for those interested in taking up the challenge will be called for Friday 11 September – more on that to follow shortly.
In many ways, I don’t have to look far into our community to find parents fully engaged in promoting the school. Yesterday, an extraordinary vision outside Claires Court Junior Boys rose from the grass on the back lawn, courtesy of Carters Tents of course, but inspired by the College PTA chair, Gill Towell, committee members Gail Wheeler and Annette Allanson, ably supported by CCSB members Felipe Foy and Tina Webster. Their hard work in aid of our Fundraising Arabian Nights Summer Ball is quite inspiring, so much so that our Electrician Keith Trower and I were tramping the grounds late last night to ensure the lights around did the event justice. I have had many a challenge over the years to justify running a PTA fund raising ball; after all as a fee paying school, some would argue ‘aren’t parents paying enough?’
The answer of course is yes, but that’s not the point of further fund raising, because the proceeds raised are not directed by the school to spend, by the parent lobby whose very strength in this independent school ensures they have a significant voice in the school’s affairs. Many in our school know my own PA, Rosemary Barker, who chaired the PTA back in the 1980s when her own children were passing through the school, and who first brought PTA marquee ‘Balls’ to Ridgeway. Most memorable was the very first, the focus of the funds raised to buy the very Marquee in thich the event was being held. That Yellow and White ‘tent’ kept many of our events well covered for the next 20 years, hosted winter indoor skiing as well as mass DofE training sessions at Taplow. I remember vividly in 1998 when the summer weather was so bad that the Girls DofE group I was leading all pitched their small tents inside the ‘Big Top’, when no other facility was sufficiently watertight!
The legacy of successful donation is every where in our school; the halls and drama spaces are built, lit and acoustically supported by equipment acquired through donation. Rowing and Sailing could not have started without the same magnificent ‘seedcorn’, and of course pretty much every prize, medal and reward presented by the school and worn by the deserving award winners are funded by the PTA. Libraries, Departments, indeed Pupil Voice activities themselves are all enhanced by the proceeds of the very hard work of the PTA members and their supporters, our parents and teachers. Over the last few weeks, these parent volunteers have worked stunningly hard, creating newsletters, brochures, collecting auction gifts and borrowing memorabilia to suitable dress and stage their forthcoming events.
Because of course it is no just the Summer Ball we are looking forward to this weekend but the Summer Fete in 8 days time, as big and bubbly an event as any we have ever held in the school’s history. Emma Robertson, Justin Spanswick and their PTA team at CCJB will be decorating the very same Lawn occupied by this week’s Ball with smaller marquees, gazebos, bouncy castles and ‘fairground’ pupil stalls, all assisting in engaging the whole school in a community activity promoting well-being and a strong sense of family coming together to share thoughts, friendship, activity and a not unattractively scrumptious barbecue burger and glass of Pimms or cup of tea. I have no doubt the Fete ‘workers’ will be completely exhausted come 5pm on Saturday 20 June, but how often do you get to organise a party that big – 1500 or so attendees aged 0 months through to those great grandparents into their ’90s?
If ever there was a way by which an adult could polish their known skills, uncover new talents and manage logistical challenges beyond compare, it is through joining and working with one of our PTA committees. I never have any sense that these groups are complacent about the calendar of activity that they set up and steer for 12 months. As the author of this week’s title, Nielson spots the reason for our PTA’s success really well; hard work, coupled to a dedicated plan, not set in stone but certainly grounded in a real sense of purpose, and guess what – great things happen. All we need is for the weather to hold good – now that’s the truth too, but worth a blog all of its own.