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Published February 24th 2020
Help make your children's school a welcoming community
You'll see them in lots of early childhood, primary and secondary schools across Canberra. They're sizzling hundreds of sausages and selling cakes at school community events. They're running school canteens, school uniform shops, school banking programs, and before and after school care programs; they're helping out at sports and swimming carnivals, organising Mother's Day Stalls, Father's Day stalls, fetes and fair days, special morning teas, school Easter Hat parades, Colour Run events, trivia nights, school raffles, walkathons, fun runs and school discos. And by the end of the year, especially if it's an election year, they would have barbecued even more sausages and plenty of bacon and egg rolls as well.
They are the Parents & Citizens association or group (P&C or PCA for short) of your school. And they play an enormous role in making your school community a better place.
P&C groups exist in early childhood schools, primary schools and high schools across the ACT. Essentially they provide volunteer support for their school, raise funds for school infrastructure and resources and other expenses, and assist in the administration of the school. A large part of many P&C activities is the provision of subsidies to school excursions and other supplemental and extracurricular activities such as after school soccer and AFL sports programs, music programs and language programs.
What does the P&C look like? The P&C holds an Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the beginning of each year to vote on the office bearers of the P&C executive or management committee. Technically every parent/carer of the school is a member of the P&C. However, several parents/carers may hold particular offices, and together they form the executive committee of the broader P&C group. These officers usually include those of President, Vice President, Secretary (responsible for recording meeting minutes), Treasurer (in charge of the group's finances) and general Committee Members.
In some large schools, sub-committees within the P&C are formed to look after each of the services the P&C provides. So for example, there might be a sub-committee that oversees the canteen, or a sub-committee for after school sports programs.
The school principal is also often invited to attend P&C meetings and work closely with the P&C. Other members of staff and members of the School's Board may also attend meetings and work with P&C.
How often does the P&C meet? Next to the AGM, P&C groups usually meet regularly during each school term. They may also hold extra meetings when a special school event is being planned.
Are P&C members paid? NO. A very important thing to remember about P&C's is that they are run entirely by VOLUNTEERS. Parents/carers of the P&C do not get paid.
My P&C story
When my son started preschool last year, I decided to join the school's P&C. I wanted to make a difference and offer whatever help and skills and talents I had to the school. I was a stay at home mum and so I had lots of extra time to help out wherever and whenever I could. At the P&C's AGM, I was voted in as a general committee member. Our first major task as a P&C was the 2019 Federal Election. Like many other schools in Canberra, our school was a polling place and so we hosted a sausage sizzle and cake stall. I volunteered to precook 200 sausages and 2kg of onions on the night before the election so they were ready for the sizzle the next day! On election day itself, I mainly helped out at the cake stall. For the rest of the year, I also helped out at the school disco, Colour Run event, thank you dinner for teachers, and also with organising sponsors for the school's Christmas Raffle. But my main roles (and the ones I enjoyed the most) were managing the P&C's Facebook page, as well as writing P&C items for the fortnightly school newsletter and creating a P&C 'Community Corner' in the school hall.
Why you should join your school's P&C. I absolutely enjoyed my time on the P&C last year. By being part of the P&C, I helped contribute to the community life of my son's school and did my bit to help make the school a warm and welcoming place.
Here are other important reasons for joining your school's P&C:
1. You get to meet other parents/carers. This is especially important if you are new to a school.
2. By working closely with the Principal as a P&C group, you learn more about the school and its teaching and learning. You develop a good sense of what's going on.
3. You feel like a part of the school community.
4. You can contribute your skills and talents and feel that they are being put to good use.
5. You also learn and develop new skills and talents. For example, the more seasoned P&C committee members can help you write up meeting minutes if you've never written them before, or they can help you with applying for community grants.
If you're keen to be more involved in your children's school or if you would like to find out more about how you can help, then contact your school's P&C. Your school's P&C are always looking for more parent/carer volunteers and helpers! You can also go to the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations website for more information. The ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations is the peak body of ACT public school P&C associations. They promote the interests of parents and other school community members to government, and they also help P&Cs to operate effectively.