How to Approach Your School to Start a Club or Project … and Win At It!
Do you have a great idea about starting a new club or project at your school? Maybe a book, art or gardening club, a new playground, an extra-curricular science or language class, a new debating team, spelling bee, or a Big Band Bash? So exciting! Have you already set up your meeting with the School Principal / Head Teacher? Well stop right there! Taking your idea straight to the top usually isn’t the best tactic.
Give your idea the biggest chance of getting off the ground by making it easy for them to say yes – by FIRST tackling as many potential barriers as possible:
1. Is your project legal? It might not be as obviously illegal as the Chicago charter school who ran a licensed nightclub in the school cafeteria on weekends, but you might have planning laws, traffic rules or even school operating hours to consider.
2. Ask your children how they think the other kids at school will respond to the new club/project idea. Your kids are pretty astute – they know their peers' interests (and failings), you might be surprised how well they can gauge their reactions. They can probably tell you a list of kids names who’d like or might benefit from your idea – and you can approach their parents for support.
3. Talk to other parents at school and gauge their interest – and whether you have the numbers to get it going. Have at least a few parents ready to support your idea and be interested in sending their kids to participate (or participating themselves) in the project/club for when the time comes to approach the Principal.
4. Have you done a budget? Be prepared with the costs (plus any potential monetary and social benefits). Gather a list of potential donors or fundraising activities to meet the cost.
5. Where is it going to be located, and when? If you need a room, do you know if there are any free during the proposed time of your club/project? Is it an appropriate room (for example, you will need access to sinks for an art club)? What is the maximum number of students and teachers allowed to use the room? This may limit the number of participants of your club.
6. Insurance requirements? Will it be run under the school’s insurance, or under your PTA / PTO / P&C / P&F’s insurance? Will it comply with existing insurance conditions, or will you need to file paperwork and/or pay a premium for an insurance extension? Do any adults involved need external insurance?
7. List all the possible benefits of running your new club/project, and how many students it will benefit. If you can link this to tackling a school issue (such as absenteeism, bullying, low reading average, cultural inclusion) all the better.
8. Prepare a list of adults (parents, teachers or an external group) suitable to run the new project or club and a written description of the activity/project to be run. If it’s parents or teachers, be sure to have their agreement first; if it’s an external group, have their brochure or website address plus costings. This includes putting your own name on the list – if you want your idea to get going, be prepared to run it.
9. Book a meeting with your PTA/PTO/P&C/P&F President or Executive Member and discuss your idea with them. Armed with all your information above, they’ll probably support you – you might even be solving a problem that’s been sitting on their backburner.
Okay, now you’re ready to see your Principal / Head Teacher – almost.
If it’s an easy to understand, straight-forward kind of idea, you might feel confident to trust the PTA Executive to raise it (armed with your written information) with the Principal at their next monthly meeting. If it’s a more complicated or controversial sort of idea, or needs a speedier start date, I’d recommend booking a meeting to see the Principal yourself, with a support person (either the PTA President, or a supportive parent) with you to help you talk and show your idea is broadly wanted and welcomed.
Good luck! And if you have any great ideas for a school club, please share your ideas in the comments below.
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