Private schools are not all about cold showers and spartan boarding

The Independent, 14.10.15, the HMC represents 273 other schools, not just Eton and Harrow. References the HMC Chairman Chris King, headmaster of Leicester Grammar School speaking at the 2015 HMC Annual Conference.

To St Andrews University in Scotland for the annual conference of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Association (or HMC, as it is better known).

It is a lovely venue for a conference, even though it is a long trek if you’re travelling from London. The golf, though, is apparently the finest you can get anywhere. Not that everyone had time to swing their clubs. (God forbid that I should – there’s no telling where the club might go!)

There’s a bit of a murmuring among the heads that we in the media too often give the wrong impression of HMC, describing it as representing 275 of the most elite independent schools, including Eton and Harrow. There are, of course 273 other schools represented. I am interviewing Christopher King, the chairman of HMC, and he asks me why we cannot say it represents Leicester Grammar School and the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – which it does.

So, philosophically, he has a point. The past few years have seen a shift away from the chairmanship being awarded to a representative of the traditional (or positively ancient) public schools, towards these newer institutions.

I suspect that Mr King’s exhortation won’t catch on, though – at least not until more news desks are staffed by alumni of these less illustrious schools.

By the way, did I hear the news editor of The Sun moaning, on this topic: “My goodness, next they’ll want us to stop writing about cold showers in the morning and spartan boarding conditions.” (Actually, I don’t think the words I heard were as polite as that.)

It would be difficult to stick to the old stereotypes, though, in describing Leicester Grammar School, where this year’s chairman comes from. It is a co-educational day school.

Meanwhile, I like the comment about £9,000 university fees made at the conference by Chris Ramsey, chairman of the HMC’s universities committee and head of King’s School, Chester, on hearing that undergraduates had precious little tuition time at university: “Fancy calling it a tuition fee when it clearly isn’t a tuition fee.”

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