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7 September, 2021
P&Cs operating in lockdown
Decision making in uncertain times

OK, so this is really tough - you signed up for the P&C and now you are making complex decisions in uncertain times. It is up to you - your executive committee - as an independent incorporated association, to make decisions for your organisation and members. So, what can make this easier? Well, here are some tips we put together last year that are still true!
  • Go back to your goals and values. That meeting/event you are cancelling, what was it really about? What was the aim? Is there another way to fulfil the same aim? Another way to raise funds for the playground now your fete is cancelled? Another way to build community in the absence of your community picnic? Read more on setting your direction, and P&C roles.
  • Uncertain times are a great time to innovate, but do minimise the risks you take.
  • Be prepared. Think through scenarios ahead of time and get as much information as you can on critical points so that knowledge is there when you need it. Note our advice below about financial planning.
  • Learn as much as possible about options. This will help you feel less anxious.
  • Don't think too far ahead - reduce the time frame decisions. As one business website put it "Build a bridge to the future by taking smaller steps." That event in December may not go ahead, but you don't have decide yet (see also 'how far ahead shall we cancel' below).
  • Determine the worst case scenario. It may seem scary, but understanding the worst is survivable can ease fear.
  • Don't expect perfection - go with the best combined judgement of your executive committee at the time and don't beat yourself up with hindsight.
  • As always, P&Cs work best when they work with the school so keep in touch with your principal.
  • Remind your community how to get in touch.
You may also find this article helpful.
What does the P&C do now?

At out last General Meeting, it was clear that many P&C volunteers are - understandably - struggling to see what the P&C's role might be at the moment, so we consulted our experts for some pointers.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don't feel obliged or pressured to do more than you are able. There are so many other things calling for our attention right now. Most people will have no expectation of their P&C.
  • One P&C role that makes sense right now is representing parent views to the school - particularly on school-home communication and how remote learning is going.  Are parents getting the information from the school that they need? Has communication to parents been clear? Frequent enough?
  • Many P&Cs are looking to help people stay connected with community and building social capital while keeping people's spirits up. This is so important but also hard right now. Ideas from our team and volunteers below.
Building community

P&C delegates have requested information about approaches to community building, especially during the pandemic.Here are some ideas our team and volunteers shared:

-   We had a drive-through father's day stall, no one got to select what they got, we had varying-priced bags and it was very random. And popular!
-  We have encouraged people to put up Where's Wally posters for kids to go walking to find Wally.
-   How about a rock painting competition? Rock painting has become  very popular. We could create a garden bed when we get back to school using all the rocks.
-   Our canteen is hoping to remain viable by things like a drive-through lunch orders and maybe drive-through collection of meals for the wider community.
-  How about a 'Whinge and Wine' session online for parents who need to offload? It could be by year group. Just open up a virtual meeting room and send around the link and invitation to 'attend'. BYO wine!

We are gathering more ideas - tell us yours on this Facebook post - and hope to gather practical resources in the coming weeks.
P&C-led parent networks (& closed FB groups)

P&C delegates have requested information about supporting and facilitating parent networks at the moment. We recommend our 30 minute workshop on setting up a closed Facebook Group.  If you're interested, contact Marina to arrange a session for your P&C.A fe
Pivot to online

A few articles from last year look at pivoting to online: 
Cancelling events

Sadly, those bold enough to have planned face-to-face events are now looking at cancelling. When cancelling, be sure to tell everyone through the same mechanisms you used to advertise the event.

Note that losses due to cancellation of events are, unfortunately, not covered by the standard P&C insurance.

How far ahead shall we cancel?  It will be up to each individual P&C to make the call about cancelling events. At present there is no way of knowing when events can recommence. We suggest a useful approach will be to take it on a month by month basis. For large events, three weeks ahead of the scheduled date is a good time frame to cancel, with time to tell everyone. If you need certainty, err on the side of caution and cancel or postpone.
Financial impacts

Some P&Cs, especially those employing staff or who have made outlays on large events, could be severely financially affected. Council suggests all parent associations look carefully at their financial position and budget, to understand the possible impacts of the pandemic. It would be a good idea to calculate the financial impact on your P&C under a range of scenarios so that you can be prepared, and understand what your association can bear. For example, you could consider school closures of different lengths and calculate any wages impacts; or, the inability to hold events this term, versus for 2 terms and impacts on fundraising needed to cover essential expenditure.

Make sure you know what costs your association will be able to bear given your current financial resources.

If, after examining your financial position and various scenarios, you are worried about your finances or that your P&C could run out of funds to meet your obligations, please contact us to arrange a time to discuss. Your P&C may need to consider alternative ways to raise funds or cost-saving measures. 

At the request of members, we have pulled together some fundraising ideas which might work in lockdown.
Member services

Our Hackett office is closed but we are still here for all your enquiries.  Contact us via email: Feel free to give us a time that suits and we can give you a call back if the issue is more complex.

Our work on assisting our members running canteens has continued. Please note the following updates, which have been emailed to relevant P&C members.

Canteen deed variation

Council sought a variation to the canteen deed to clarify that the current closure of canteens has been imposed by circumstances beyond the P&C's control. An email was sent to presidents of P&Cs which operate canteens. Please ensure you retain a copy for future reference (contact us if you didn't receive this).

Disaster payments

We have received confirmation advice that canteen workers can access the COVID-19 Disaster Payment if they meet the minimum required work hours lost per week and the other eligibility criteria.

Staff vaccination

As workers in schools with daily contact with students, canteen staff are eligible fo priority vaccination in the weeks following Sunday 5 September. We have emailed canteens and P&Cs  with details about this.
ACT Business assistance

Some P&Cs may be able to apply for business support payments. Terry, Council's EO, attended a webinar on the payments and has looked into the application process. So if you'd like to know more, contact Terry.

The COVID-19 Business Support Grants provide up to $10,000 over the three-week lockdown period if your turnover has declined by 30 per cent or more. To be eligible your P&C must have an ABN, an annual turnover of more than $75,000 and be registered for GST. Unfortunately, this last criteria will exclude many P&Cs and the ACT Government is not in a position to Council remove it, as we requested.

As the lockdown unfolds we will endeavour to update our COVID Information Page for P&Cs to provide our members with current information and assistance.

Please check the page as needed.
A bit of light reading
ParentACTion Magazine

Our Term 3 printed magazine arrived in our office, ready for distribution to schools, the day we went into lockdown 😆 🙄  You can now read it in your spare time 😆 🤣

There are some great stories:
  • how Aranda Primary P&C have been tackling waste
  • the lovely things you say about us 😊
  • a gorgeous prize we won!
  • what we've been asking government for, on your behalf
  • plus a look at some of our amazing volunteers!
Read it here!
Council happenings
Representative input session

P&C presidents and delegates to Council should check their email (junk/spam folder?) for an important notice of a session we are running with the Education Directorate. It's a unique opportunity for parent input into planning for returning to school.
We have had to limit places to one per P&C so that we can get through the topics and have a thorough discussion.  If you did not get the email, please let us know.
Drop in session

Council is hosting a drop-in session for parents and carers of students with disability and complex needs.

Drop by anytime from 2-3:30pm on Friday 17 September so you can connect and chat about home learning and your current challenges. Use this Zoom meeting link to drop in for as long as you like during that time frame.
P&C guide to polls and surveys

Council is working on a resource for P&Cs to assist with conducting polls and surveys. We'll include some customisable templates for different P&C related topics. Let us know if there's a particular survey topic of interest at your P&C, or if you have a template to share with others.
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Comment authorised by Terry L Sanders for the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations

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