Private schools 'can help UK through crippling uncertainty'

HMC chair says independent schools have a part to play as country stands on the brink of change

Tes Reporter

Shaun Fenton

The UK's independent schools have a part to play as the country stands on the brink of change at a time of "crippling political uncertainty", private school heads have been told.

Writing to 291 members of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), its chairman expressed his hope for a united front in supporting one of the UK's strengths - its independent schools.

Shaun Fenton sent the letter ahead of the HMC's annual autumn conference beginning in Manchester today.

He wrote: "At a time of crippling political uncertainty, the UK's great independent schools have remained trusted and consistent, preparing young people brilliantly for the future whilst respecting what has held true in education for hundreds of years.

"I hope that, whatever our political perspectives, we can pull together and support the strengths of the UK, and our independent schools are one of those strengths.

"As a country, we stand on the brink of great change and our schools have a part to play."

Mr Fenton said no child should leave school feeling education has been "little more than life's longest to-do list".

He added that all young people should leave school feeling prepared for the future.

The new HMC chairman said: "To get this right we need to give those who live and breathe education to have a voice, away from politicians, policymakers, inspection and accountability regimes."

"We need to listen more to students, parents, teachers, school leaders and governors.

"Working with Geoff Barton of ASCL, I have started talking to representatives of these groups, rarely assembled as one group with shared interests."

In the letter, he listed his top 10 ingredients for a great education that will last a lifetime: joy, curiosity, good mental health, knowledge, physical health and happiness, focus and aspiration, creativity, moral and ethical purpose, flexibility and emotional literacy.

"I hope that with these core skills and values in place, our schools can teach children to travel the path from knowledge to understanding to wisdom - and do much better in that way than previous generations," said Mr Fenton.

"To build these foundations, schooling in Britain needs a huge dose of authentic common sense, a sure touch from those who respond to and think about children every day at school and at home.

"This will be far more likely to succeed than a truth that starts in Westminster and is the result of policy initiatives or accountability metrics."

In the letter, Mr Fenton also highlighted the rate of growth in top independent schools opening abroad – providing influence abroad and income at home.

In the last decade, 63 British independent schools – including 36 in HMC – have opened sister schools or partnered with an international school.

Eleven international British independent schools opened their doors to students in the last academic year (2017-2018), and British independent schools – including 10 in HMC – are due to open in the next two years, mainly in China but also in Singapore, Egypt, Oman and India.


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