How we found our voice

10 December 2014
Posted by Heidi Salmons
Insight (p6), November 2014, HMC Chairman Richard Harman (Uppingham School) reflects on the immediate – and wider – reverberations of the 2014 HMC Annual Conference

In inviting members of HMC to this year’s Annual Conference I painted a picture of Heads singing, reciting poetry, debating, discussing, speaking, eulogising and, I hoped, laughing. All this came to pass, not just for the members but for their spouses, partners and guests. When I chose the theme of “Finding A Voice” I meant it as a metaphor for our professional calling, of course. But I also hoped it would enable us to consider and renew our central educational task of helping young people to find their voice.

We were concerned as well that our voice should be heard in the public square, especially in an election year. Even though we clashed with the Tory Party Conference (an annual challenge) there was a broad range of media coverage for our event. Many of our key messages were heard and commented upon. Responding to the clear will of the membership last year, we have committed ourselves to putting further resources into our public relations and public affairs effort and the evidence suggests this is beginning to pay off. Naturally, when our voice gets louder and more assertive, so others might raise theirs and push back in opposition against some of our comments; this is inevitable. The engagement is the thing. Overall I was pleased to see the attention our conversations attracted; we must now build on this momentum in a targeted way.

Since returning from Celtic Manor, I’ve been struck by how many people have noticed and commented on the coverage we achieved. Parents, Governors, pupils, members of Common Room, other partners and stakeholders, including friends and colleagues in the maintained sector and in Higher Education; all have had something to say and cause for reflection about our discussions. I think they are hearing not only our individual voices but also a strong and increasingly clear tune from HMC as a whole. I trust other Heads have also felt part of the broader educational debate as a result.
I am sure we will hear more responses in the course of this year, on social media as well as through traditional channels, especially as a General Election draws near. Our tone and register in this ongoing discourse will be varied: challenge to the status quo where appropriate; applause for best practice or where there is evidence of an improving system; enquiry into the truth on behalf of all pupils and schools, especially when ‘the isle is full of noises’; agreement with initiatives that promote excellence; insistence that ours is a voice for quality and diversity, not privilege; repetition that we want to work together for the good of all.

Read more in issue 3 of Insight (p6)