Birmingham - Men-only heads' club calls it a day

18th September 2009 at 01:00
A historic Birmingham headteachers' club, renowned for blackballing unwelcome teachers and prohibiting female members, is to close after more than a century

The Arnold Club was founded by a group of Birmingham heads in 1869 ahead of the 1870 Education Act, which formalised education for children aged five to 13. It served as a forerunner to headteachers' unions, acting collectively to preserve heads' interests.

The club was named after two prominent 19th-century educationist: Thomas Arnold, renowned head of Rugby School, and writerschool inspector Matthew Arnold.

Membership was strictly limited to 50 heads and upstart newcomers were regularly blackballed. More recently, deputy heads were allowed entry, but women were not similarly privileged.

Hugh Heaven, the club's honorary secretary, acknowledges that his club was a "male bastion", but attributes this to the shortage of female teachers in the 1870s. But in recent years, interest declined.

"It's pretty sad that this moment has come," Mr Heaven said. "But there were only a handful of us left, so we said, `Let's call it a day'."

The club's regalia and records will be donated to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, to be stored in the city's archives.

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