Values come before targets

16th October 1998 at 01:00
PATRICK TOBIN, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and principal of Stewart's Melville College and Mary Erskine School, struck two sensitive notes in his speech last week to fellow heads. He raised the problems that children from broken and single-parent families are prone to, not all children of course but a higher proportion than from the general population. And he touched on the difficulties nowadays of getting the best results from boys, especially when they sit alongside higher-performing girls.

Since many independent schools owe their reputations to motivating boys, in the exam room or on the sports field, and since the independent sector rescues significant numbers of children from the immediate effects of marital breakdown, Mr Tobin cannot be accused of lack of boldness or of speaking from ignorance. Whether his analysis and prescriptions are generally accepted is less important than that his long experience in independent education led him to address standards through values rather than audits.

No independent head can afford to ignore academic results. Therefore close attention to the disparate needs of pupils - a characteristic of local authority schools as well - is prudent as well as desirable. Government targets and performance indicators mask individual strivings and successes (or failures). Mr Tobin did well to echo Matthew Arnold in challenging utilitarianism while addressing a conference whose theme, almost incredibly these days, was "education into goodness".

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today