School Opinion Surveys are conducted in Semester 2 so that most respondents have had sufficient experience of the school to provide considered opinions and so that all parents/caregivers have had the opportunity to experience school-based reporting. Term 3 is selected because if the School Opinion Surveys were conducted later it would not be possible to provide results back to schools during this school year. Unfortunately, these constraints on the timing of the survey mean that it is conducted at a similar time to the RNA Show Day and the Years 3, 5 and 7 Tests.
One purpose of the School Opinion Surveys is to provide information to schools that can be used in planning and accountability processes. These processes have been outlined in the School Planning, Reviewing and Reporting Framework. As this includes annual processes, it is desirable that the School Opinion Surveys are also conducted on an annual basis.
The results from the School Opinion Surveys are also used by schools in a variety of other ways, such as informing the school and its community, providing a focus for reflection and evaluation and making judgments about aspects of the school in which there could be scope for improvement. Given the typical pace of change in schools, conducting the School Opinion Surveys only every two years may not be sufficient to provide meaningful data for tracking changes over time. However, for some schools where there is stability amongst students and staff and their views of the school there may be little change in their results over time.
Where there are a large number of parents/caregivers or students in the school, a representative sample which has been properly selected and yields a high return rate will give a more accurate picture than including everyone in the survey and achieving a lower return rate. For parents/caregivers, selecting a sample also reduces the chance of surveying the same parents/caregivers every year.
In terms of the resources available in schools for administration and follow-up procedures, schools are asked to streamline the expenditure of their energy into getting a high return rate from a small number of respondents rather than dispersing their energy and achieving a lower rate from the larger population.
Taking a sample costs considerably less than including everyone in the survey. As the number of forms that need to be processed is reduced, the turnaround time to provide the results to schools is faster.
A sample of 40 parents/caregivers for each school is more than sufficient. Care has been taken with the sampling procedures to devise a selection process that is reasonably simple to administer and has a high probability of generating a representative sample. The number of completed parent/caregiver surveys returned from most schools is sufficient to ensure that the sample approaches the normal distribution, no matter what the distribution of parent opinions is. More accurate information will be achieved by intensively following-up a small sample than would be achieved by less intensively following-up a large sample. For example, if 34 questionnaires were returned out of 40, this would be more representative than a return of 200 questionnaires out of 500.