Parent volunteers make a difference to their child's experience of school in many different ways. Some may be able to visit school and provide help and support in the classroom, while others may accompany the class on a school trip. However, behind the scenes is a frequently unrecognised group of dedicated parent volunteers who run the school Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

Across the country PTAs provide funds for schools to improve the resources available and the children's experience of education. The majority of PTAs are members of the National Association of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA) where recent member research has found that the total financial contribution of NCPTA members is some £65m; an average of £4,000 profit per year. This would suggest a total contribution of around £130m from all PTAs across the UK.

However, fundraising success is only made possible by the involvement of parents and it is PTAs that are also working to increase the level of parental involvement. Research has shown that the effect of parents and what they do at home to support learning can account for 80 per cent of a child's academic success. This compares to schooling being directly responsible for around 20 per cent of factors leading to academic achievement.

Established in 1956, the NCPTA has over 50 years' experience of supporting PTAs. In 2006, the NCPTA launched two award schemes in recognition and acknowledgement of the achievements of PTAs. The NCPTA Gold Star Rewards recognise the achievements of PTAs and other home school associations and highlight good practice with a £1,000 award. A total of six rewards were awarded in three categories: PTA fundraising achievement, changing the life of a school and achievement in parental involvement.

Commenting at the presentation event for the 2007 winners, Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools and 14-19 Learners, said: "Parent Teacher Associations make an enormous contribution to the wellbeing of our schools. By creating exciting fundraising ideas, developing extracurricular opportunities and fostering greater parental involvement in school life, they play an essential role in shaping the character of schools."

For those PTAs with aspirations to make a new parental involvement project idea a reality, the NCPTA LEAPP (Learning, Education And Parental Partnership) Awards provide six awards of £1,000 as start-up funding for new projects that aim to get more parents involved with their child's school and engaged in their learning. "Parents and the home environment they create are vitally important to children's wellbeing, achievements and prospects," Knight said.

According to Annette Wiles, policy and research manager at NCPTA, the standard of applications received are "very high and the ideas inspiring. Other PTAs can also benefit from this success, as many of the ideas can be replicated and are great examples of good practice." A few examples of this good practice are:

Allanson Street Primary School, Merseyside

This PTA lead project aims to engage with hard-to-reach parents by working in partnership with the biggest local landlord - the Helena Housing Association - and providing opportunities to learn alongside children in a community setting. Friends of Allanson Street already have further plans to use the knowledge and skills of the local community to benefit children through reminiscence and traditional crafts projects.

Bowbridge Primary School, Nottinghamshire

The Bowbridge United project will take the form of a club run for parents by other parents. This will place parents at the heart of efforts to engage the very hardest to reach. The aim is to appeal to parents who have had no involvement with the school through "parent champions" who have benefited enormously from becoming involved with the school.

Hartshill Secondary School, Warwickshire

Through this project, Hartshill School will develop the healthy eating agenda and make it relevant to its pupils and their parents. The aim is to improve behaviour and readiness to learn by demonstrating that it is possible to make healthy and enjoyable family meals on a budget, and encourage pupils to cook at home. It is hoped that this will help to break down some of the barriers to participation which prevent many of the parents at Hartshill from getting involved in their children's education.

The NCPTA Gold Star Reward and LEAPP Awards for 2008 are now underway; visit for further information