Your vote will modernise our member grades and governance

Katherine Carpenter writes, in a letter to go out to members with the February issue of The Psychologist.

Dear Member,

As I’m sure you’ll have noticed, over the past four years the society has been working with members on a number of reviews, consultations and discussions relating to our member grades and governance structures.

This has all been with a view to modernising these parts of the society, many of which have gone without any significant changes or updates for years and, in some cases, decades.

We’ve done our best to make this a collaborative process at all stages, and I want to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to each of you who have got involved, whether by responding to one of the surveys, joining a focus group or in any other way. We really wouldn’t have been able to reach this stage without you.

As we have a royal charter, the proposed changes to our charter and statutes have to be approved by the Privy Council. Our proposals have recently been considered and approved by the advisors to the Privy Council, which include the Charity Commission.

The next step is to ask BPS members to approve the proposals by agreeing to four resolutions. The outcome of this member vote will be announced at a Special General Meeting on Thursday 17 February. Subject to approval by members, we will then seek final approval from the Privy Council in March.

As society President and Chair of the Division of Neuropsychology, I’ve been involved in some of the discussions around these issues at close quarters, and have seen the proposals develop and become more refined as members have given us your suggestions and comments.

With the issues now coming to a member vote, I thought it would be useful if I laid out what I see as the significant benefits of the proposed changes, and why it’s vitally important for the society’s future that you vote in favour of them.

I mentioned that it has been decades since some of these areas have been properly looked at. This was mainly referring to our member grades, which haven’t been looked at in any significant detail for 30 years. Psychological professions have changed dramatically during this time and so it’s no surprise that our current grades don’t accurately reflect the make-up of modern psychology.

They are unnecessarily complex, and in many cases, they don’t recognise the skills and experience gathered by psychologists during their careers. They also exclude many potential members from the society because they don’t fit neatly into any of the current grades.

Our proposed changes to the grades include creating a new ‘full’ member grade for those who would currently have to remain a ‘graduate’ member for their entire careers, and a new ‘associate’ grade to welcome into our community many of those people who are currently not eligible for membership despite using psychology in their day-to-day roles.

We want to open up a pathway to student membership for those on all BPS-accredited courses, not just undergraduate ones, and create new routes to chartered membership that take into account skills and experience rather than solely academic qualifications.

It was clear from our conversations with members throughout this process that everyone was in agreement that we needed to modernise our grades to reflect the modern-day psychological community, but to do so in a way that protects our robust standards. I think the proposals have achieved this, and I really hope you will vote for them.

Alongside the proposals on grades, we are also suggesting a number of changes that will bring our governance structures up to modern standards and ensure that we are meeting best practice.

We have been working on these proposals since 2017, and a number of new proposals have emerged that will help us to strengthen the society’s governance procedures.

Some of the key proposals include creating a new Chair of the Board of Trustees role, separating it out from the presidential position, and bringing in enhanced member representation at board level by making the Chair of the Senate a trustee.

We are suggesting that two further directly elected trustee roles are created, and that up to three independent trustees from outside the BPS membership are brought on board to provide specific expertise on issues such as human resources and finance.

There is also a proposal to extend the term of office for the President from one to two years, to allow greater continuity in the role. As I know from experience, serving in this role for just one year can be frustrating, and it can end up feeling as though your term is about to come to an end just as you’ve built the relationships and understanding that you need to achieve real progress.

The changes to both grades and governance structures that I’ve outlined are by no means all of our proposals, just some of those that I feel are going to be the most important. You can read full explanations of the proposals on the society website www.bps.org.uk/member-vote-2022.

Voting is now open, and will close at 12 noon on Friday 11 February. I would encourage you to have a read of the full proposals and to think about how they might affect the society’s future, but I firmly believe that they are crucial to making the BPS a modern organisation that is able to be the home that the whole psychological community deserves.

You will have received a unique voting code via Mi-Voice to cast your vote – when you’re ready to do so, just visit www.mi-voice.com. If you’re having any trouble voting, you can contact Mi-Voice at [email protected] or by calling +44 (0)23 8076 3987.

We’ll be announcing the results at a Special General Meeting on 17 February, held at our office in Leicester.

This could go down as a significant day in the society’s history and a springboard for the future, but we need you to make it happen. So please do exercise your vote!

Katherine Carpenter
BPS President 2021–22

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