An open letter to the ASE
I’m a member of the ASE, and I joined because I am passionate about science education. I’m also active on the region 16 committee, again because I want to make a difference to the quality of our science education. I’m writing to you because I’m concerned about the lack of direction shown by the ASE at the moment, and I’m sure if I have concerns about the ASE then members with less attachment to the ASE will also be having concerns (and the membership figures I’ve seen would seem to back me up!).
With the scaling back of the role of the local authorities, the ASE was handed the perfect opportunity to make itself heard as the authoritative voice of science education in the UK (and beyond). Instead I’ve seen a couple of attempts at high profile media campaigns but very little of real day to day value to the teacher in the classroom, the very same teachers that keep the ASE afloat with their membership fees. What teachers want is practical advice, ideas and guidance that will inform and improve their day to day practice, not the hot air and bureaucracy that the ASE has moved towards. Given that members are the lifeblood of the ASE, scant attention has been paid to recruiting new ones and providing the service that they want. In fact with the scaling back of the role of field officer, it’s more important than ever that the work of the ASE speaks for itself through its actions and media profile.
I am not confident in the ability of the ASE to change direction and bring in fresh blood (and fresh money). It has come to my attention that there are several internal obstacles WITHIN the ASE, who seem resistant to positive change, and seem to think that the current stumbling around the dark is the way to go. I’ve got news for those people – the ASE is at a turning point. It’s make or break time and simply doing the same old thing will lead to the collapse of the ASE and their end of their cushy jobs or power trip.
What I want to see is more listening to members and what they want. At the moment there is little incentive for science teachers to join and part with their cash. The website offers very little distinction between members and non-members, and with the exception of a couple of periodicals that’s all you get. Supporting resources and materials that are distributed by the ASE have been funded by industry and so must be available to all – whether you’ve paid or not. I believe the comments in this thread on the TES website (http://fcr.me.uk/eVaNC1) sum it up perfectly! The recent café ASE events in London are an excellent step in the right direction – but what about members across the country? It is a simple job to stream or even simply video these events and to bring this dialogue to members through the website but again there has been some internal resistance to this (hopefully due to change soon).
So where do we go from here? My membership is due for renewal and I’ve thought long and hard about renewing. My opinion of the ASE has dropped to the point where I do not think it is reasonable for my school to cover my membership fees as it has done so in the past. I am going to stay a member of the ASE and pay the membership fee myself, but if there isn’t a significant change of ethos over the next year I will begrudgingly sever my links with the ASE.
Please ASE stop burying your head in the sand! You need to change, consult your members and think about how you can best serve them and at the same time bring in new members. The time for change is now before the ASE reaches the point where the diehard members like me can no longer keep it afloat.
I’d be interested in hearing from readers of my blog how their perceptions of the ASE, and what (if anything) they feel should change.