When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, they learn more, do well in school and behave better. Even when fathers do not live with their children, by being proactively involved in their school life they can have a long-lasting and constructive impact on their child’s future. “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home,” says Dr David Popenoe, one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fatherhood.
There are many ways a father can become part of their child’s school parent teacher association (PTA). This engagement has many benefits for both the child and father and isn’t limited to just the dads; fathers, grandfathers, uncles and mentors can all get involved, demonstrating support for both the child and the school.
I have been a regional adviser with PTA-UK since 2012 and have seen a noticeable interest from men enquiring about joining a PTA. In fact, The Dads’ Choir – a PTA from South Wales – were recent winners at the PTA-UK Gold Star awards, which was rewarding publicity for male PTAs. As part of your PTA’s communications strategy, you should also aim to target fathers, grandfathers, uncles and mentors. There are many ways to encourage fathers to join a PTA and show their child how important their school life is to them.
Many PTAs organise a welcome evening when schools return after the summer holidays and this is the perfect opportunity to attract any new members, including dads. At these evenings, PTAs will often give talks on how you can become a member, outlining the many benefits of joining your school’s PTA. In fact, you can do this at any PTA event, such as the annual summer barbeque, fete or school concert. A good suggestion would be to organise a stall with some dads on hand who could speak to other men about becoming members and share their experiences. Likewise, you could distribute posters in the school and the local area asking for male members or send out a ‘save the date’ text to as many contacts as possible advertising a meeting with a talk from current male members on the benefits of being in a PTA and what’s involved.
You could also put your dads’ PTA on the road. This could involve a male PTA attending fundraising events whilst wearing brightly coloured T-shirts with their PTA logo printed on the front. This is a great visual reminder to all the men out there who might be thinking of becoming a member.
Questionnaires are another very useful tool. Send a well-drafted email to fathers and mentors in your area asking them to give feedback on their thoughts about joining a PTA. This should give you some useful information and ideas on how to get more men involved. It could be a case that they just didn’t know about its existence and creating this awareness is another way of gaining new recruits. It’s important to highlight that parents don’t just organise fundraising events, they are very much involved with the child’s education too. When fathers engage with children’s school activities, they perform better, will show more interest in school work and extracurricular activities and are more likely to have a better school experience. According to the Department of Children, Schools and Families, the quality and content of fathers’ involvement matter more for children’s outcomes than the quantity of time that fathers spend with their children.
Let’s remind the dads out there how important they are and that it’s not just mummy’s chocolate brownies that the children want to bring to the next school cake sale. The key message? Fathers, grandfathers, uncles and mentors have an equally important part to play in the school’s PTA.
Geeta Parekh is the regional adviser for PTA-UK East Midlands