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Effective local groups – your voice

If you want to change things, you need to make your voice heard.

If your area has a local group please get involved, if it doesn’t then get one started.  We can help get things up and running.  Contact head office or your AHDS Area Officer to discuss how we can do this.

Why local participation is important
AHDS is a trade union.  Our influence is directly related to how many members we have – that is true nationally and at the local authority level.  In Scotland as a whole we have over 70% of primary HTs in membership and around 50% of DHTs (DHTs and PTs are the main potential growth areas for the Association) which is a strong membership and can reasonably be taken to be representative of the perspective of school leadership teams in general.  This is useful to local authorities and at the national level.

Where members are engaged in their local group there are two clear positive impacts.  The first is that all members have a clearer understanding of what AHDS offers them and what it can do to help them deliver positive change.  The second impact is engagement with peers in a set-up separate from LEA systems helps members build and maintain personal professional networks.  These factors lead to members recommending membership to others and in turn increasing our membership, resulting in greater capacity to influence change.

Effective local participation also means that messages from the local group can be communicated to the national level of AHDS and help shape the approach taken in meetings with the Deputy First Minister, Education Scotland, Government Officials, CoSLA, ADES, GTCS and the media.

Getting started
If there isn’t already a local group in your area then it can seem daunting to try to encourage busy heads, deputes and PTs to attend meetings and to engage as an AHDS group.  It is important to bear in mind that the issues members feel ‘under the cosh’ with are the very issues that a local group can actively work to address.

Three simple steps to getting up and running as a local group:
1.    Identify key issues affecting members locally and use this as an invitation and agenda for a meeting.  
2.    Discuss the need for a local group and seek nominations for local positions – and be willing to take on a role yourself.
3.    Set a forward programme of meeting dates.

Sustaining an active group
The reality is that not everyone will engage with the local group but to be effective it is important for a local group to have a number of activists.  These people can take on the roles of local President, Secretary, Treasurer, AHDS National Council representative, etc.  

It is crucially important for that ‘committee’ to engage in succession planning – it is important to bring in people from all sectors and denominations and support them to take an active role in the group. Shared leadership is imperative for the group to remain strong.

Recruitment and retention of members plays a major part in sustaining an active group.  Key to this is using the power of recommendation to encourage non-members to join and valuing the members you already have.  Simple strategies to increase local membership are 1) Take opportunities to talk up membership. 2) Spot those new to your area or new to leadership and encourage them to come on board.  

Making a difference (…otherwise what is the point!)
If you follow the suggestions above you should have a system which: delivers increasing membership; allows the local committee to understand and act on the concerns of the local group; and, have clear messages to pass to the national level of AHDS for consideration and action.  

Of course, talking amongst ourselves is not enough.  To make a difference, local groups need to distil the key issues facing members and make representations to their Directorate.  As a group you should seek regular meetings with the Director and/or other key officials.  Most directorates will welcome this opportunity – particularly where the group maintains the AHDS approach of seeking to be solution focussed as far as possible.

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