Different schools will have different names and duties for this position, but a parent rep (or class rep) is basically a link between the teacher or school and the parents in that class. I reviewed dozens of available documents from schools across the country to get an idea of the roles and expectations of the class rep.
It is increasingly common for one parent in each class to volunteer to become a parent rep for the school year. You can usually tell when volunteers are being sought, because this is when everyone starts looking at their watch or receiving very important phone calls and leaving the room. Being a parent rep shouldn’t be considered scary or overwhelming though, as long as you understand what is required of you.
Every school will have different expectations and many may provide you with a formal list of duties, but this is a general idea of what you may be asked to do.
Remember that as class rep you are well within your rights to (try) and delegate some of these responsibilities, or at least ask for other parents to assist where possible. Many schools encourage the role to be split between two or more parents to lighten the workload, but this would entail good communication and delegation between the different reps.
It also seems to be true that the workload seems to be highest in the younger year groups, dropping off in middle primary, and then increasing again as the kids graduate from primary school (ie Year 6).
The primary purpose of the rep is to pass on communications from the teacher/school to the class group. This is often just a matter of forwarding or writing emails to other parents in your class.
Actually getting that list of emails is often the most difficult thing, with growing concerns over privacy leading to many schools being unable to pass on contact details of parents to third parties (ie the parent rep). Many schools will ask parents to sign a waiver, allowing the school to pass on their contact details to authorised delegates such as parent reps, but if your school hasn’t arranged this it will be your responsibility to collect the details of everyone in your class. At a minimum you will need the first and last name of the parent, their child’s name and their email address.
You may also be asked to communicate news or other information about your class back to the teacher/school, or have the opportunity to advertise class events or updates in the school newsletter.
Facebook is increasingly being used by schools as a way of communicating with parents and their local community either with official and public pages, or closed and private groups. You should check your school’s policy on Facebook and remember that if you use Facebook to set up a closed group for your class, you should delete it at the end of the year, remain respectful and use it just to discuss topics such as upcoming excursions, lost and found and other school issues. It’s not a place to complain about the teacher or other parents.
A parent rep might also be asked to welcome new families and act as an informal reference point. This may be as simple as literally welcoming a new family in person, or you may choose to introduce them via email to the class (with permission) or organise a class event, morning tea or play after school for younger years so they can meet other families. Check out my article on fun ways to welcome new families throughout the year.
As parent rep you may be asked to walk new families around the school, showing where relevant things are (canteen, library, bike racks etc) and explaining how things work.
A number of schools mention in their published policy that Reps are encouraged to do things like organise food rosters for families who have just had a new baby. While this is a lovely thing to do, it could hardly be considered key duty of the role. There are a number of free online sites that make organising meals easy, check out my article here.
Farewelling families who are leaving the school can also be a duty of the parent rep, often fulfilled with a card from the class or an after-school play for the kids to say goodbye.
Parents reps are often asked to help find volunteers from within the class for school events and activities including (but not limited to) helping in the school canteen or library, assisting in class/excursions, school banking and volunteering at major school events. You may also be asked to schedule a roster for parents to help in class with reading or spelling.
Depending on your school policies, the student rep may be expected to take on final responsibility for this, meaning if you cannot find a volunteer from your class or someone pulls out at the last minute, you are responsible for filling in.
Your school culture will play a large part in how involved this part of your job will be. There will always be some parents who can’t or won’t help, but here are some top tips on encouraging other people to help as volunteers.
Organise Social Events
School culture will play a big role in this, but at our school parent reps are expected to organise at least one or two social events each year. This isn’t formalised, but it has become common for reps to schedule at least one family event where kids are included such as an after school play or a family dinner, as well as a parents-only dinner/drinks in a local restaurant.
The after-school plays obviously drop off as the children get older, but one event that has become popular in our school is a ‘senior school BBQ’ where all the classes from years three to six are invited to a local park after school, we organise a few volunteers to bring (lots of) sausages, a few loaves of bread, a bottle or two of tomato sauce and some paper serviettes. If the kids are lucky, someone will turn up with a tub full of juice boxes or frozen icypoles.
Family dinners are also common in our school, with the most common destination being a local food hall which is very popular with families, you can BYO wine and there is a small indoor play area. Places like this are convenient because families can order and pay for their own meals as they arrive, saving the headache of splitting the bill.
This often varies with different schools but it is not uncommon for parent reps to be expected to organise gifts for teachers at the end of the year, although some schools actively discourage this. You can absolve yourself of responsibility by simply telling people to organise their own, or ask people to donate cash with which you will purchase a gift on behalf of the class. For younger year groups where there is a teacher assistant, or if you have teachers who job-share, remember that you will need to stretch your money further. Check out my article on Group Together, which makes collecting money from groups of people really simple.
Different schools will have different expectations about attending meetings, but some you may be requested to attend include:
– P&C/P&F meetings
– meetings with other class reps
– meetings with the teacher
– fundraising/event meetings
The class rep needs to respect the privacy of other families and ensure that complaints or other issues are directed through the correct channels. Some families may not want their email or phone numbers distributed to the entire class, in these cases an alternative method needs to be agreed upon so they can still remain in the loop (it is common practice to use the BCC method [blind copy] anyway for large group emails).
Author: Shannon Meyerkort
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