Some schools have truly amazing PTAs. Combining the resources, dedication and commitment of parents, a school PTA can work wonders in terms of organizing school events, fundraising for additional resources and volunteering specialist skills.
Cavendish Community Primary School in Manchester is one of those schools. The Cavendish PTA raised an impressive £12,000 last week at their one-day music festival – called CavFest (www.cavfest.org.uk).
We asked Cavendish PTA Chair Clare McCarron, how they pulled it off.
What was the big idea?
The idea to do a music festival came about two years ago. Our Site Manager, Steve Hanley used to be guitarist in The Fall. He and another teacher had the idea to host a family-friendly music festival to raise money to buy musical instruments for kids at school. We are quite a musical school with a lot of musical parents (past and present) including Paul Heaton from the Housemartins and DJ David Haslam. When Steve suggested doing something musical as a fundraiser, it just seemed logical.
What about logistics?
We are an unusually large school, with around 550 pupils, and a very large field. So the location wasn’t a problem. Our Head Janet Marland and chair of governors, Suzannah Reeves were very supportive. Another teacher helped us organize and navigate the minefield that is involved in terms of permissions and licences. The festival was organized mainly by the parents. The bar was run by a parent, who owns a local restaurant. Our amazing school cook made all the food herself and then parents served on the day. Most children’s activities were included in the price of the ticket and we had three marquees full of things to do including laughing yoga, harmonica workshops and vast amounts of craft activities.
How did you get the parents involved?
There are a small core of very dedicated parents who worked very hard to get the event marketed, organized and to make it run smoothly on the day. It turned out we had parents who are sound engineers, marketeers, event managers and pr gurus. We discovered a fantastic skill set within our own school! With some persuasion and lots of enthusiasm, we managed to get lots of parents to volunteer on the day to run bouncy castles, the climbing wall and help in the canteen. With school budgets being cut all the time, everyone decided to help out.
So the first year was a success?
The first year of the festival we had (through contacts) the band JAMES headlining. On the day we had 1,500 people and we raised around £9,000 for the school. It was an amazing success and so we decided it would be worth doing it again to see if we could raise a similar amount.
Who was headlining this year?
This year we had the band Badly Drawn Boy (BDB) together with Rainband and The Suns. We also had the DJ Clint Boon along with The Minx (the new face of doc martins). All the musicians gave up their time for free to help the school.
What about other entertainment?
Of course, we tried to cater for everyone – especially the younger children. As well as the music we had loads of free activities, from bouncy castles to a huge climbing wall, drumming workshops and craft workshops. Again, all donated for free from the Manchester area.
Was it safe and suitable for children?
The whole point of the festival was to raise money for the school so naturally we wanted the children to be part of that. The festival took place on the school field from 12 noon to 10.30pm. Parents and teachers were around, and the school cook was dishing out food. So we hope it was a comfortable and familiar setting for the children. If some stayed up later than usual then it was in a good cause!
Where does the money go?
Every penny that is raised is put to use in the school to support music and the arts. Last year we bought a class set of classical guitars, enabling every year 5 to learn to play. We have also bought a new kiln, costing nearly £4000, for pottery lessons and a sculpture club. We have set up an enrichment fund and continue to fund ad hoc music based activities in the school.
It’s an incredible achievement – do you have any advice for other PTAs?
We have been very lucky with a small but very active and involved set of parents at Cavendish. I know other school PTAs can struggle. Without willing parents however, there is no PTA. Ultimately every parent wants their child to enjoy school, and have opportunities to try new things. By putting yourself out there and joining the PTA, even the smallest contribution can make a collective difference. It would be great if our festival can inspire other PTAs to put on an event and help enrich their schools with things they struggle to fund themselves.
For more information on CavFest see www.cavfest.org.uk