SAPA was formed in 1995 at a launching conference in the Western Cape. It is based on the principles of non-alignment to any political party or organization, or to any other educator body or union. This paves the way for individuals to be members of the major teacher unions in South Africa and also be members of SAPA. While SAPA is the national umbrella body, the association effectively functions at a provincial level. Each province elects its own executive committee to organize activities within the province, such as conferences, local seminars, newsletters, negotiations with provincial education departments in the interests of members etc.
Members carry out all the work of the association on a voluntary basis and no official is remunerated for his/her work. The main source of funding is the annual membership fee, currently R200, payable to the provincial treasurer. A percentage of this subscription (currently R70.00) is disbursed to the treasurer of SAPA for utilization by the national executive.