2 October 2023 - 4 October 2023
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
I am pleased to share with you the outline plans for this year’s autumn conference against a particularly challenging backdrop. I do not think I am alone in saying that over these last few years, I have sometimes felt as if I am just surviving rather than thriving. We have all faced our challenges, including and beyond COVID, and now we face the greatest challenge to our sector and the future of our schools. Yet for times such as these, we have been given the immensely privileged positions that we hold, to lead our schools and set the example to our pupils and staff, governors and families – and lead we must.
As such, the conference will not focus on the immediate pressures facing the sector. Quite appropriately, there are webinars and another day conference with AGBIS and ISBA in November to address these political and economic issues in more detail. Indeed, to encourage your attendance in November, we have slightly truncated the timings for this conference to avoid too much time out of school in the autumn term.
But our Autumn Conference is not time off, it is time well spent. In addition to a stimulating range of speakers and workshops, the times built in for collegiality are crucial and we have planned a conference that maximises its cosier Stratford location and takes into account member feedback. As such, we hope that the conference will be a time of refreshment and recharge, from the theatre on the Monday evening (The Merchant of Venice 1936) to dinner at Warwick Castle on the Tuesday (mind you, we are in a marquee so you might want to check the weather forecast before you pack!). We have an international conference on Sunday 1 October, optional RSC workshops on the Wednesday afternoon for those who want to make the most of the full final day, golf available on the Sunday afternoon and other moments of downtime built into a busy programme that aims to energise and encourage you in your role.
Contender Charlie’s Ben Walden will speak to us on Henry V’s lessons of leadership and David Olusoga, Jaz Ampaw-Farr and Prof Steve Munby will all address conference. Panels include a former Education Secretary, leading CEOs in their field and public affairs specialists – and I am particularly pleased that the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, will speak to us at the annual service, as the Warwick Foundation Schools Chamber Choir lead the music.
But all of this will be grounded in the Institute of Education feedback on their research into the changing nature of headship, which was recently commissioned by HMC. You all contributed to the survey and many of you are participating in the follow-up interviews. These findings will provide a real moment to pause, to reflect on the evidence before us about our changing role and so we can start to help one another to be the best leaders that we can be into the future, in the face of everything that it will throw at us.
Overall, the conference has been designed to be more relaxed in terms of style and approach, including dress code. There are no traditional, formal dinners and we want members to feel that they can contribute and enjoy the programme and each other’s company however they feel most comfortable. If Stratford provided the inspiration for one of our greatest writers, if Stratford remains a place of inspiration through history and drama to this day, then we also hope that it provides an inspiring time out for our members this October.
Finally, I have chosen the RSC Associate Schools Programme as the conference charity. I mention this now as the programme works with schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage, to bring Shakespeare to life, running workshops that raise aspiration and confidence, with the aim of developing a lifelong love of language and learning. If we can all give as generously as possible, it would be wonderful to be able to share after the conference just how many partner schools and pupils had benefitted from the support of HMC schools and our pupils.
I very much look forward to seeing you all: your company will be an essential ingredient in what I hope and expect will be a fantastic 48 hours in Stratford-upon-Avon. For now, I wish you a successful and fulfilling end to this academic year.
With warmest wishes