Friday, 21 February 2014

New People and Fresh Starts

'Shaun Reason is to become the new Chief Executive of The Association for Science Education. Shaun, who was recently the Chief Executive of a Group Charity and a former headteacher, comments on taking on the exciting new role, 

“I'm very much looking forward to starting at the ASE and helping to have a positive impact on supporting science education in the UK. I'm keen to meet up with all those connected with the Association and to encourage those who are not members to join and to appreciate the benefits that can be found as a member.”
Shaun will take over the role as CEO at ASE from 1 May.'

I have to say I am encouraged and hopeful at the comments our soon-to-be CEO has made about the ASE. For several years now we have known the ASE is in trouble. It has been losing members fast and cost-savings have not been able to keep up with this loss in revenue. 

However, I would say to Shaun that making ASE into an organisation that has sufficient benefits teachers, other educators and companies will want to join in significant numbers it is not going to be an easy journey. 

I am chair of the West of England region, my committee and I are expected to recruit new members within the region. How can we do that when I have no way of advertising our events outside of our current regional members? It is my understanding that the regions are directly answerable to the CEO, so I would appreciate his support with this issue.  

Still with regions, I feel there are conflicting ideas about what the purpose of regions is. I have been informally told that regions should be generating revenue for the ASE as a whole, yet of the £86 membership fee my region only see £1 per local member. How can our region provide value for money on a local level, raise enough money to sustain our own activities and expenses as well as raise significant revenue for ASE nationally? I see the role of the region as one of supporting members, and using the revenue we have to do this. Perhaps there is a balance to be found and I hope Shaun can work with regions on this.

I have been a regional committee member for three years. For the first two of those I know we felt adrift and cut off from HQ. Emails going unanswered and confusion over issues with bank accounts. This situation had been present for at least 7 years prior to that, my fellow committee members tell me. I would like to see Shaun develop a good working relationship with the regional officers in order to help us feel valued. 

My last request related to regions. I want to see higher expectations and better sharing of practice between regional committees. We put on regional conferences and there is the opportunity to use these to raise the profile of ASE as well as a little revenue. However, there are many issues to be addressed. Cost: how much does each region charge, should we be consistent across the organisation and if so how, should payment be organised via eventbrite, the ASE website or through another organisation such as a former science learning centre? Venue, location, scheduling, catering, partners, branding, advertising, paying speakers' expenses, and finding speakers to talk about relevant issues are all areas that would benefit from being discussed and monitored. I would like to see Shaun attend regional events and experience them so he can help to share best practice and support the volunteers in regional committees to improve their offering. 

Apart from being a regional officer for the ASE, I am a teacher. As a head of department and science teacher I would ask Shaun to review the member benefits as I am concerned they do not offer value for money. We (teachers) are struggling under the pressures of the changes the government are bringing in and we are looking to ASE for advice and leadership. It is not forthcoming. I know why, I understand why. However, if science education and supporting members is not the first and biggest priority of the ASE then how can we hope to hang onto members and how can we hope to bring through talented and enthusiastic volunteers to continue the work of the ASE?

I hope that Shaun can lessen the pressures on council and assembly to look at internal politics and help to focus the Chair Trio and the committees they run onto education. I am of the strong opinion that until the national ASE committees and post-holders can concentrate on our core business of supporting members then the ASE membership figures cannot recover. 

I think that the benefits of ASE membership are worth £20/quarter, but I am an active member, making connections and boosting the helenrogerson80 brand on the back of the ASE. What about those who are not doing that, what do they get from the ASE. I hope that Shaun can help sell the ASE to potential member and make it into an organisation that is growing rather than shrinking. 

The ASE is important to science education national and internationally and for the sake of the education of our children it must survive. I wish Shaun all the best in his new role and offer him my support where it is needed. 

1 comment:

  1. I wrote my open letter to the ASE quite a while ago and whilst I think there has been some progress, I had considered writing a follow up because I have picked up on some of the issues that you have. Unfortunately most of the people like us are also busy professionals (I'm 2nd in the school and teach for three days a week). It's hard for the ASE to show an impact when it depends on volunteers like us to do all the work - I stood down from assembly because of my frustration with the rate of progress/change. I do hope the new CEO has the strength to move us forward :)