Storm warning

24th January 2003 at 00:00
THE unaccustomed media spotlight thrown on what the press usually refers to as one of Scotland's "top" schools (when it is independent, that is) must have led to some rubbing of gleeful hands. The picture portrayed of Hutchesons' Grammar with a relatively new headteacher apparently at loggerheads with some staff and parents, the alleged victim of a whispering campaign by detractors, will have been grist to the mill for many opposed to the private sector.

But the evidence seemed eccentric to say the least. Girls have taken to wearing make-up and jewellery and boys to sporting long hair: if that is the sum total of a new reign of indiscipline at the revered institution, it does not seem to have much to worry about. Worse, it "plunged" in the independent school exam league table from among the top three to seventh: this would hardly be noticed in an education authority school where the changing nature of a school's intake is a well-known and accepted phenomenon.

Of course, life is different in the competitive world of private schooling and what we seem to be witnessing here, even in that world, is our old friend inclusion. Any rector who tries to make changes in a school by broadening its intake, not least as a result in Hutchesons' case of the fraught merger with Laurel Park girls' school, is almost bound to offend somebody. The more venerable the institution, the stiffer the opposition.

In that respect at least John Knowles, the rector of Hutchesons' Grammar, ought to have known what to expect.

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