Merger as a way of reaching new audiences (education)

Judith Mudd, British Sociological Association

1. Summary of the development/change and who led it

The Association of the Teaching of the Social Sciences had approached the British Sociological Association for administrative support in 2010 as its paid member of staff had resigned and it was struggling with the administration. The BSA was keen to support the association recognising it had represented the interest of the teachers of sociology at secondary schools for over forty years and it is they who nurture and grow sociologists of the future. After 12 months of support following conversations with BSA Chief Executive it was felt a merger with the BSA to ensure the continued support and networking of Sociology Teachers was appropriate.

2. Drivers for the development/change

  • Maintain a member association for those involved in teaching in secondary and further education
  • Natural home as the BSA already supports all individuals with an interest in sociology post A Level; Undergraduates, Postgraduates, Early Career and Professors
  • Increase membership of the BSA through the introduction of the Teaching sub group and enable a broader engagement with constituencies
  • The Association of the Teaching of the Social Sciences was unable to financially fund the appointment of staff and rental of office space and without the merger it would have been forced to cease all activities and no longer provide

3. Date implementation started and stage reached by December 2015

Discussions commenced re a merger in Summer 2011 and a proposal was taken to the British Sociological Association trustees in September 2011.

The merger was communicated with the Association of the Teaching of the Social Sciences members in December 2011 and administration of the membership and the website commenced in 2012. The AtSS website continued for a further year before it was incorporated with the main BSA website.

Membership of the group has been administered since 2013 per the other interest groups via online subscriptions. An online “journal” continues to be produced three times a year.

4. Outcomes to date

  • 2012 was the last 2 day conference held by the group with just over 50 delegates – planning had commenced as the Association of the Teaching of the Social Sciences
  • Regional events were introduced in 2013 to engage with more teachers around the country. At each of these events between 30 and 40 people attend demonstrating the reach has increased since the annual conference. Three events have been held each year around the country since 2013. Feedback from every event has been excellent demonstrating this opportunity to network is highly valued by this community.
  • A prize is awarded each year for the best article or film produced by A level students. The college is awarded a cheque and the pupil receives an ipad. This has generated engagement and presence of the Association within schools around the country.
  • A database has been developed detailing individual contact details of sociology teachers at the 2000+ secondary schools / colleges that teach sociology A/ Higher level in the UK
  • A satellite website is near to completion aimed to provide resources for teachers and students within schools and FE colleges. This is to be launched in 2016.
  • Membership of the group in 2015 was 90 members. This is higher than paying members when the group first merged with the BSA

5. Main challenges /barriers that had to be overcome and how this was achieved

  • Maintaining engagement of a governing committee. As the long standing members retire it has been difficult to recruit new generation teachers. Due to the changing demands placed on teachers it has proved difficult to find volunteers who have free time and availability to carry out tasks and attend meetings
  • The administrators in the office are often left to drive the organisation and planning of activities. Feedback for all the events is very positive from those who attend however it does require significant effort from the office
  • Continually trying to increase membership of the group and promote the benefits of networking as with less than 5% of potential membership from over 2000 schools there is a pool from which more members can be recruited

6. Lessons learned/ advice to others considering similar developments

  • Ensure membership statistics quoted include only paid up members, as members quoted and paid members may differ
  • The British Sociological Association has no regrets re the decision of merging and continues to believe it was in the best interests of both associations. The Teaching Group continues to assist the British Sociological Association achieve its primary objective of promoting sociology and engaging with as wide an audience as possible.
  • Recognise the amount of effort required from staff to administer dual systems and IT systems  to bring two organisations together