Stratford-upon-Avon was a hive of education activity this October as headteachers from across the UK poured through the doors of the Crown Plaza Hotel to share their thoughts on the future of independent education at this year’s HMC annual conference.
In total, around 375 delegates gathered to discuss a hugely diverse range of topics from ‘Should #Headteachers tweet?’ to developing an independent curriculum, assessments, examinations and accountability. Further highlights included Duncan Piper, The Unreasonables who chaired the Young Creative Leaders panel, looking at what young professionals are looking for in their lives and how we can prepare them. Claire Harvey, Paralympian and Diversity Champion at KPMG also delivered a session entitled: ‘How inclusive are you? Look at what you are missing!’
With huge question marks for school leaders who are considering the adoption and integration of new technology in education, Jose Picardo, Assistant Principal and Modern Foreign Languages Teacher at Surbiton High School, explained how the team at Surbiton have experienced benefits in student engagement by harnessing technology to compliment and enhance their existing teaching methods.
Students at Surbiton now benefit from access to iPads which have been supplied by the school and deployed to the entire cohort. Aware of the common security and ownership challenges that may be questioned with BYOD solutions, Surbiton High School has opted for a walled-garden approach that supplies the devices with preloaded software to securely standardise the experience for both staff and student alike.
All change for education
At this year’s conference, HMC Chairman and Headmaster of Ashford School Mike Buchanan, delivered the first public response to the government’s controversial grammar schools Green Paper: “Schools that work for everyone” on behalf of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.
In the recently launched consultation, the Prime Minister praised top independent schools for their “world-wide reputation for excellence” but argued, “there is much more they should be doing so that children from a wider variety of backgrounds truly benefit from the excellent education they can deliver.”
She has suggested that if schools do not meet new “exacting requirements” set by the government – including sponsoring under-performing state schools and being responsible for their performance – a change to the law would be considered to remove the benefits which independent schools have as part of their current charitable status.
Mike Buchanan pledged to support the Government’s aims to improve state sector education and offer more places in independent schools to those who cannot afford full fees. However, he stressed that huge amounts of good work already went on behind the scenes, good collaboration could not happen “with a gun pointing at our heads”, and using charitable status as a “stick to beat us with” would be ill advised.
His key points included:
- The Prime Minister is “knocking at an open door”. HMC schools share much of her vision for better education for all and are already delivering substantial programmes of work.
- HMC schools pledge to continue to help creating places for less affluent pupils in their schools, and to help improve education in state schools.
- Regarding tax ‘breaks’, the money our schools put back into the economy is much more than what we receive (£150m in tax relief, against £3.6bn just in tax revenue and triple that in overall contribution to GDP).