Looking forward

Looking to the future and pushing boundaries

Mike Buchanan (HMC Executive Director) offers a call to action.

What is the future for HMC? What is its purpose? For some while now, we have been thinking hard about these questions. I’d like to say that the white smoke of decisiveness has emanated from the consultative conclave, but I think the smoke is somewhat tinged.

Yes, we have agreed a framework that ensures the individual Head is the primary focus of the Association. Yes, we’ve agreed our collective vision for a world where a rational, open-minded and tolerant education is the norm for all young people and where independence from state control is cherished. Yes, we’ve begun to describe the values and behaviours we collectively hold dear. Yes, we’ve affirmed our desire for HMC to be an influential, high-profile organisation in the UK. This is all necessary but is it enough to enable members to flourish in a world that is currently aligned against them? I suggest we must make the political cost of attacking us too high a price for any party to pay.

HMC members’ schools are not the primary cause of inequality, but they are used as a symbol of this unfairness. Our future depends on meaningfully integrating with others and showing our positive social as well as economic impact. With governors, heads of all independent schools are well advised to spend a good proportion of their time addressing this issue locally and jointly with other schools as a core activity. By seeking to intertwine HMC members with organisations working across the range of state-funded provision I hope that our future can be assured.

Certainly, HMC members must demonstrate value to society over and above providing an excellent education to those who use our schools; in other words, to those who do not. This includes demonstrating the social compact of an elite education to society through the positive action and contribution of our students throughout their lives, the sharing of expert teaching and school leadership, and the promotion of wellbeing alongside academic attainment. This is neither the time for parochialism nor the narrow pursuit of competitive advantage over each other.

I am aware that the demands on HMC members are ever-increasing. At a time of pressure on school admissions, it is also necessary for schools to deliver increased collaboration. At the same time, there is pressure to provide more free places to children from households with incomes below the national average. Momentum is increasing yet the key challenge remains: “What is the impact of the charity you lead on the wider community you serve?”.

Every head of an independent school I know wishes to increase access to her or his school. This is impossible to do at scale without a combination of affluent parents willing to have an increasing proportion of their fees used to support the most disadvantaged, and additional government funding.

In the future we will need to see the world differently and to be seen differently. And, the future has arrived!