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".