I am surprised that schools and colleges dont use surveys more often. They represent a quick and relatively cheap way of getting instant (when conducted online) feedback from staff, parents, pupils and the wider school community about the work of the school.
They aren't the only way of obtaining feedback ofcourse. Methods such as focus groups can be used. But this does rely upon being able to gather a target group of people together in one place at a convenient time for both parties. If you have ever tried to do that it's a bit like 'herding cats'!! Alternatively phone interviews could be conducted, but again you run into the same difficulties of availability to talk as you would for focus groups. Unless you have a large number of staff available to conduct the interviews this is very time consuming. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of surveys:-
Keep it short - 3 minutes ideally. Longer than that and people give up. Remember to complete it yourself and see how long it takes.
Keep it Simple (Stupid) - use a maximum of 12 questions. If you are going to give multiple answer options use no more than 6. Too much choice is confusing!
Avoid Jargon - are at least if you feel you have to use it give an explanation of what it means e.g. KS4 = Key Stage 4 years 10 and 11
Online - there are various software applications which can be used for free or low cost. They offer convenience for the person completing and also for you in terms of reviewing the answers. Paper surveys can get lost in the school bag!
Give something back - in return for completion. Its nice to offer a prize, but i think people are more interested in seeing a summary of the results and knowing what will be done with them!
School Business Partner offer a survey service as well with a 40% response rate! Not bad eh? See www.schoolbusinesspartner.co.uk