Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

And our survey says...


In the spirit of 'practise what you preach', over the summer we at SHA embarked on our own self-evaluation. We sent a survey to a sample of 3,000 members asking how SHA was measuring up to their expectations and how we could better meet their needs.

Overall the results of our membership survey were very reassuring but they also provided useful feedback for improvement.

The postal survey took place in June and we were pleased with a return rate of nearly 30 per cent. The responses were collated by a professional research company, EdComms, and were presented at the September Council meeting.

The good news is that nearly all respondents (92 per cent) said they get good value for money from their membership; 92 per cent also said that SHA has met or exceeded their expectations upon joining.

Top three services

The telephone hotline was seen as the most important service (74 per cent), followed by guidance and policy papers (60 per cent) and personal field officer support (51 per cent). Of these, 70 per cent were satisfied with the hotline, 79 per cent with guidance papers and 66 per cent with personal support.

While these satisfaction ratings are good, we would, of course, like them to be higher. Over the next few months we will be looking at ways to improve these areas.

Conferences and training courses also received satisfaction ratings of 83 and 75 per cent respectively. Areas that were rated lower were discounts on products, professional insurance and legal cover (around the 50 per cent mark).

Members said the most important benefit is receiving quality advice and guidance and for 84 per cent SHA is successful in providing this. However while 62 per cent believed the influence SHA has on government policy is important, only 52 per cent believed SHA has been successful recently in this regard.

This is certainly an area we need to address and we are already working to raise concerns with ministers over the issues that matter most to members - foremost senior leadership team workload and pay and conditions.

We fully acknowledge that areas such as the workforce agreement have required compromise among all parties, but in future we will do more to communicate the small victories we have won on behalf of members.

Many members said they would like to be more active in SHA but, for 87 per cent, a lack of time means they cannot. Increasing local activity and improving networking opportunities could encourage some members to get more involved.

Local activity

About 40 per cent of members said they would like more activity at a local level, with 45 per cent of those saying they would like meetings with local representatives. Networking also appears to be important, with 35 per cent saying they would like to be able to visit other schools.

As a matter of priority, Council's association committee is reviewing the current branch structure and branch secretary role to see how we can improve local representation and support, and increase opportunities to engage with colleagues.

There may be other ways we can help members to be more actively involved, such as online discussion groups or regional working groups on, for example, behaviour or schools forums.

Some members said that in some aspects, the 'old boy network' has not completely disappeared and that the makeup of Council does not reflect the membership as a whole.

Council make up

We realise that representation on Council currently is skewed toward headteachers and we would very much welcome more deputy and assistant heads, bursars, principals and vice-principals to stand for Council. As of the September meeting, we formed a Council committee of bursars to look at resources specifically for this group.

While we have always welcomed college members, we have not done enough of late to address their specific concerns and issues. Both the association committee and an HQ group are looking at ways to better support college members.

There is also more we can be doing to support independent school members and members in the north-east, south-west and Ireland, and we will address these in the months ahead.

As you can see, the membership survey has given us much to think about and to do, and we are grateful to everyone who participated.

We plan to make the survey an annual event so that we can track progress and see how well we've addressed your concerns. As schools and colleges well know, it's not where we start, but how much we improve that's the real measure of success.

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