Back to school shout the news headlines, as children in England prepare to start a new Autumn term. But if our experience is anything to go by, many teachers and school leaders have been working throughout August. Red Potato have been working with secondary (high) schools in Hertfordshire on a follow up to the East and North Herts NHS AGM and also the next Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge -more on both these initiatives in the next few weeks.
This post is about a school consultation we conducted with Presdales School. We undertook a survey of staff at the Secondary School in Hertfordshire on behalf of the school Governors. The survey consisted of online and paper based questionnaires which were completed by members of staff. We worked with the school to make sure the questions followed a natural sequence and were not open to misinterpretation. We were pleased to have secured a near 100% response rate. Following the survey we produced Executive level reports which the school has used to inform future business strategy.
Here is what the School Governors said about this project:
“We liked the way in which Red Potato worked with us to make sure we achieved our aims and objectives. Red Potato worked with us to ensure the survey and consultation effectively contributed to the overall business strategy”.
We’d like to thank all the teachers, staff and school leadership teams who have worked with Red Potato during this summer and we wish you all good luck with next term!
Well the original idea was a good one, but I think the phrase “focus group” has become debased such that sometimes it can be code for getting a group of people together to legitimise a decision – policy based evidence.
Effective engagement takes time, needs to be authentic and use different methods to attract different views. Think again about “Hard to Reach”. How well represented are white men, aged between 30 and 50 who are in work in consultation meetings, how do make your services relevant to a single working mother juggling work, school and home? Not easy questions, but authentic engagement is not a quick fix either.
The Consultation Institute provides a useful glossary entry on “consultation”
It says consultation is “The dynamic process of dialogue between individuals or groups, based upon a genuine exchange of views and with the objective of influencing decisions, policies or programmes of action”
The quote says “genuine exchange” – how often have we been involved in consultation where there has been a “genuine exchange”. One area where we could improve the relationship with local residents is by making that extra effort to go back and inform local people about the results of the consultation. This goes beyond a “you said, we did” press release; it requires time and patience, but the benefit is that local people will feel their voice is being heard.
Well in the private sector, it would be called something like market research or customer relationship management, account based marketing or maybe all of these things and probably others I’ve missed out. The point being that the methods used are with one aim in mind – building a relationship with the customer which will lead to more business.
The public sector is different; we’re not a profit making business and I don’t think we should be run as a profit making business. That doesn’t mean that the sector shouldn’t strive to be efficient and effective.
This is where community insight comes in: by regularly checking what are the issues that are important to local people, services and priorties can be adjusted and reconfigured to meet the needs local residents.