HMC goes back to the future

Chairmen-elect represent cutting edge and historic roots of independent school education in Britain – and of HMC itself

HMC (Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference) announces today that it has elected Richard Harman, Headmaster of Uppingham School, Rutland, to be its Chairman in 2014/15, serving the year after Dr Tim Hands, Master of Magdalen College School, Oxford, who will be Chairman during 2013/14.

Dr Hands and Mr Harman lead two of HMC’s most outstanding and illustrious schools.  Both leaders are major forces in contemporary independent school education and both run schools that have important histories and reflect key strengths, respectively, in day and boarding education today.

Dr Tim Hands and Magdalen College School, Oxford

  • A prolific spokesman for independent education in the broadsheet press over the last decade, especially on university matters.
  • The 65th Master of Magdalen College School – a day school of medieval foundation with an unbroken history since 1480.
  • Magdalen College School was confirmed in January 2013 by the DfE as the leading school in England in terms of the proportion of sixth-formers who achieve top grades in the main A level subjects.  

Richard Harman and Uppingham School, Rutland

  • The first school head to become both Chairman of the Boarding Schools’ Association and Chairman of HMC.
  • The 31st Headmaster of Uppingham School, founded in 1584 and, since the headship of Edward Thring in the mid-nineteenth century, a leading force in boarding school education.
  • The first Chairman of HMC from Uppingham since Thring, who founded the Association in 1869 and hosted at the school its first annual conference of heads.

Both of these senior figures intend to use their year as HMC Chairman to champion the vital contemporary significance for Britain of a strong, vibrant and varied sector of independent school education, including boarding and day provision.

Speaking of his forthcoming year as Chairman in 2013/14, Tim Hands said:

It’s true that I sometimes ask myself, as a state school educated Cambridge reject, why the devil I should wish to become Chairman of HMC.  But over the years I’ve seen the importance of independence from government interference as beneficial to young people’s welfare, whatever the sector.  HMC, in origin, is about suspicion of the effect of the long arm and dead hand of government.  That’s a key part of its tradition and worth.”

Looking forward to his year as Chairman in 2014/15, Richard Harman said:

“I will be honoured to serve as Chairman of HMC for 2014/15 and I greatly look forward to the challenge.  As the first HMC Conference was held at Uppingham in 1869, I am keenly aware of the sense of history and continuity this represents.  At the same time, there will be every reason to look forward and celebrate the unique contribution of our leading independent schools to UK education in the 21st Century, especially so in what will be an election year.”

Notes for Editors:

Historic HMC

HMC was founded in 1869 by Edward Thring, Headmaster of Uppingham, who convened the first annual conference of its heads at his school on 21-22 December, 1869.  Thirteen heads were in attendance.  Richard Harman is the first head of Uppingham since Thring to be elected HMC Chairman. 

Today, there are 253 members of HMC spread across the UK representing, day, boarding, single-sex and co-educational schools.

A number of HMC schools have their origins in grammar schools established in the Tudor period, including Uppingham founded in 1584.  Others have records to show that they have been in continuous operation since the medieval period.  These include Magdalen College School which was established in 1480 by William Waynflete, founder of the college of the same name within the University of Oxford.

Two outstanding contemporary independent schools 

Magdalen College School, Oxford:

  • Head: Dr Tim Hands:
    • Comes from a family of teachers – an ancestor was schoolmaster on HMS Victory in Napoleonic times.
    • Father and mother both teachers.
    • Father left teaching in the independent sector in the end to head up one of the country’s largest comprehensives.
    • His sister won a scholarship to an independent school, then spent all her life as a teacher in the maintained sector, recently retiring as an Assistant Head.
    • Educated “between the railway lines at Clapham Junction” and studied music at the Guildhall before reading English at London and Oxford, where he ended up a College Lecturer.
    • Author of several books on Victorian literature, and still writing about it.
    • Like Richard, he values boarding, having run a boarding house at The King’s School, Canterbury, but is mostly experienced in the day sector, most recently at Portsmouth Grammar School, where the Good Schools Guide described him as “phenomenally successful”. 
    • Keen on sport and arts, as well as on community ventures – most notably The Portsmouth Festivities, which he set up in his first year there.
  • A day school in Oxford.  838 pupils age 7-18 (boys 7-16, and coeducational in the Sixth Form).
  • Consistently top of the tables, or not far off, and the highest achieving school in England in terms of traditional A level results.  In 2012 70% of those leaving aged 18 achieved top grades in three of the ten main subjects most favoured by the Russell Group Universities.

Uppingham School, Rutland

  • Head: Richard Harman:  Richard Harman has been Headmaster of Uppingham School since September 2006.  He was educated at The King’s School, Worcester, followed by Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read English.  Having spent two years working for an academic publisher, he decided his real vocation was in teaching.  After five years at Marlborough College teaching English and Drama, during which time he also completed his PGCE at Exeter University, he spent 12 years at Eastbourne College.  Progressing from Head of English to Housemaster of a Sixth Form girls’ house to member of the senior management team, he then became a member of HMC when he was appointed Headmaster of Aldenham in September 2000 and thence to Uppingham in 2006.  He has served on the HMC/GSA Universities Sub-Committee for four years and was Chairman of the Boarding Schools’ Association 2011-12.
  • A boarding school in Rutland.  780 pupils age 13-18, fully co-educational.  Of the 780 pupils, 768 are full boarders.
  • In addition to ongoing investment in scholarships and bursaries for pupils, able and dedicated staff and in boarding facilities, Uppingham has also invested heavily in recent years in state of the art facilities in Music, Drama, Sport and (currently) Science.  In so doing, the school is transforming the western campus of the school into a coherent and inspiring series of buildings.
  • Pupils are drawn from all over the UK and from 31 countries overseas and proceed to all of the leading universities in the UK and to many abroad.  Former pupils have gone on to an exceptionally wide range of careers (Politicians, Lawyers, Musicians, Writers, Actors/Directors, Property Developers, Servicemen/women, Scientists, Explorers, Sportsmen, Financiers, Broadcasters, Engineers, Charitable Fundraisers, Designers, Medics, Architects, Journalists, to name but a few).


Heidi Salmons, HMC Communications Manager, 07760 889 008 [email protected]
Richard Davison, HMC Press Officer, 07725 754 824 [email protected]