The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference is an association of some two hundred and fifty of the countries leading independent schools, of which Colston’s is one.
This year’s conference was held in Dublin and enabled members to listen to eminent speakers as well as discussing the latest educational ideas and networking amongst themselves.
The Chairman Mr. Graham Able, Master of Dulwich College opened proceedings by reflecting on a wide range of issues which had affected schools this year. The press picked up on his comments about single parent families and the effects of family breakdowns on children.
After dinner Sir Peter Lampl the founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust spoke about the need to get the best out of children from disadvantaged homes and the manner in which the Sutton Trust was helping to make a difference by funding pupils in independent schools with high academic standards.
The following day Lord Butler of Brockwell considered matters of governance in independent schools and the future of university education. He was followed by Caroline Gipps – Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University who spoke about strategies to improve the examination performance of boys and girls.
After lunch a visiting speaker from Australia, Dr. Tim Hawkes discussed the question of leadership and how it could be developed in schools and then Ken Spours and Ann Hodgson from the Institute of Education reported back to the conference on the curriculum research they had been carrying out during the past year.
There then followed some marvelous poetry reading by Frank Ormsby and Michael Longley which put delegates into an excellent frame of mind before going onto what proved to be a sumptuous buffet supper at the Allied Irish Bank.
On the last day most of the morning was taken up with discussions about the model curriculum for the future; and then Sir Anthony O’Reilly ex- Irish international rugby player, ex- chief executive of Heinz and now Executive Chairman of Independent News and Media plc gave an inspired address about his native land. Did you know that Ireland is set to be the third richest country in the European Union in the next five years?
The conference service was held in the magnificent Christchurch Cathedral with the address being given by Wesley Carr the Dean of Westminster who had previously been Dean of Bristol Cathedral.
The annual dinner was followed by a Ceilidh and then departure
the next morning back to the nitty gritty of school life in the shape of the
Sixth Form Open Evening.
So what were the benefits of attending the conference? The first was being able to keep up to date with the latest educational thinking by talking to those at the heart of the action. The second was being able to discuss problems and bounce ideas off one’s peers, and the third was to enjoy some spiritual and physical refreshment in convivial surroundings.
The conference wasn’t all work and it wasn’t all play but it did enable me to add to Colston’s winning reputation in the shape of a magnificent piece of Caithness glass for winning the golf championship.