Victorian England’s forgotten visionary

11 December 2014
Posted by Heidi Salmons
Nigel Richardson (HMC Chairman, 2007) assesses the life and work of the man who convened the first conference of headmasters

Edward Thring of Uppingham (1821-87) is the man most often credited with founding HMC in 1869. 150 years ago he published Education and School, a book which pleaded passionately for
filling young minds with “Life Power”, rather than merely cramming them with facts. In striking contrast to the stereotypical Victorian headmaster, he rejected a classics-only curriculum and
championed independent learning and a huge range of academic and technical subjects, music and sports, along with large play-areas and gardens.

Thring’s great mantra was that “everybody learning to use time well is the one secret of a good and healthy moral life”. His fear was of a world in which teachers had time only to teach lessons, thus becoming “ill-tempered machines”, too busy to “share in and promote [pupils’] joys and hear of their last new discovery”. His distinctive vision for a highly respected teaching profession inspired its
members and he championed the true nature of teaching and learning; the importance of the pupil’s perspective and the value of a broad education. For all this, we owe him much more than we have previously realised.

Read more in issue 3 of Insight (p28)