That's enough fairies, I'm hanging up my wand : OPINION

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The Independent Culture
This autumn I will be stepping down after three years as chair of my son's school parent teacher association when he moves on to pastures new.

I'll do it with a mixture of regret and relief. Regret at saying goodbye to some great people and a lot of laughs but relief at having one less thing to cram into a packed life.

We've raised thousands over these past three years. We've held bonfire parties, quiz nights, dances, jumble sales, fetes and what are laughingly called crazy nights - obstacle courses for the insane.

We've bought a fiction library, construction kits, play equipment, an alarm system, musical instruments and subsidised days of school trips.

I've haggled over prices, chased someone we thought had nicked a dinner service from our jumble sale, translated for Mr Crayola when no one could hear him through his breathing mesh when he opened the school fete, and dressed up as a fairy to open it myself when we couldn't get anyone else.

I've spent whole days with others collecting stuff from houses for the school bonfire and my back has creaked throughout November. I've blanched at the sight of unwashed underwear donated to one of our jumbles.

Our committee has grown to 17 in number, 16 of them women. As support has increased, we've reformulated our constitution and registered with the Charities Commission.

But should I have been doing it? My little boy goes to a school where a lot of the parents have the money, time, energy and, thankfully, the desire, to help at or buy tickets for the PTA events.

In the big town 10 miles away there are schools that don't even have PTAs. Most of the pupils are Asian and many of their mothers are not culturally programmed to run hot dog discos.

In other schools, much bigger than ours, PTAs struggle to make anything like we do because parents and the wider local population are unemployed or on low incomes.

Which means the haves receive more and the have nots less. Not fair is it? Poorer schools like that get a bit more from government standard spending assessments than we probably do, but then they need it. They have problems we don't.

Our school can squeak through this year's budget cuts because all those little "extras" - such as blinds to make the new mobile classroom tolerable on a bright summer's day, or new books for the library, or cash to hire the coaches to take children on trips directly connected to the national curriculum - will be supplied by the PTA.

In other schools, where financial support from parents is thin on the ground, at least some of the money will have to come out of the school budget or the things won't get bought or happen.

It is, of course, illegal for us to raise money for any item that by law should be funded by the school via the budget delegated by the local authority, and we don't. But plenty of the things we pay for lead to an enrichment of the national curriculum that is delivered to our children.

All of which leads us to the inescapable fact that as long as we fund education at a level which means that too many classes are overcrowded, too many buildings neglected and too many children with special needs made to wait too long for too little, there will be people who will dress up as fairies and smile as they serve hot dogs in the rain so that their kids' schools can get that little bit more.