Conference Welcome | HMC Autumn Conference 2024

HMC Autumn Conference 2024

30 September 2024 - 2 October 2024

Europa Hotel, Belfast

Innovation and Impact: Independence for the Wider Good
Conference headline sponsor:

Innovation and Impact: Independence for the Wider Good

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I write to update you on plans for our Autumn Conference, which will take place in the wonderful and historic city of Belfast, over the few days spanning the end of September and the beginning of October 2024. Many of you who were members in 2017 (and before) have fed back to me what a wonderful venue Belfast is, a sentiment I share having visited the city earlier in the academic year. I am excited, both for the conference itself, and also for the opportunities Belfast will provide for us to re-charge and (re-)connect with each other. I am grateful, too, for the input of a number of the Heads of our Irish division, who hosted me so warmly on my visit, and who have given so freely of their time and knowledge as the conference has come together.

Our theme for this year is “Innovation and Impact: Independence for the Wider Good.” As independent schools, we are generally fortunate to have greater freedom and greater resource than most, to decide upon what we wish to deliver and how. Our conference will explore how we might use our independence more, and for the benefit of pupils (and others) beyond our immediate community. In language that our UK and Irish heads will recognise, we will ask how we can meaningfully and sustainably use our independence for the good of the 100% (rather than just the often – and wrongly – quoted 7%). I am pleased that our International Conference, held the day before the main conference begins, has adopted the same theme.

We will open with the brilliant futurist, Shivvy Jervis, talking to us about the world that awaits our children, and what we can do to help them prepare for this human-led digital future. Shivvy’s talk will touch on neuroscience, a link which will be taken up strongly by Christina Hinton of the Harvard Centre for Human Flourishing, who will share with us evidence-based practices to support pupils to flourish in our schools and beyond. We will hear from the celebrated educationalist Daisy Christodoulou, who will challenge us to think about our role as independent schools, and the ways in which we might provide innovation and leadership at a system level, particularly in the context of emerging technologies. We will hear from a panel of innovators, from within our sector and beyond, on the part our schools can play in bringing forward a curriculum which is better suited to the world our children find themselves entering, and which works better for all children. In what will almost certainly be a General Election year in the UK, we will also hear from leading figures in our sector about the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, and have the chance to discuss independence for the wider good in the context of potential future government policies. Our conference will close with Sir Clive Woodward sharing his thoughts on leadership, as we look to our own roles in creating positive change for all.

Around these sessions, we have an inspiring programme of sign-up workshops led by brilliant speakers, which I hope respond – in addition to the keynotes – to the feedback you have kindly given on what you would like to see at conference. The workshop programme will cover areas such as partnership and social impact, resilience and wellbeing, curriculum and assessment, school – parent partnership, the future of independent schools in the current climate, working with unions, sports and head injuries, post-Headship career opportunities, creativity in the curriculum, and more.

Of course, conference is so much more than the programme of talks and workshops. We all greatly value the opportunities to connect with each other, to share recent challenges and have informal conversations, to catch up with old friends, and to make new ones. Sue’s brilliant conference last year focussed so well on making sure that there was time and opportunity for such connection, and I would very much like this year for us to continue in the same vein. In particular, we know that some members do find attending conference a daunting experience, and I would like for us all to go out of our way to make newer members feel welcomed into our groups and into the HMC family. To that end, we will continue with a lunch for new members, reserved tables for new members at both dinners hosted by HMC’s Board and Committee, and opportunities to meet divisional chairs and senior HMC colleagues. Facilitated networking for all members will also be a key element of conference.

I am also delighted that, with the help of our Irish division colleagues and Visit Belfast, we have a wonderful array of “fringe” events to enrich our experience at conference – including sunrise yoga, Irish language lessons, tours of Belfast, the Titanic Museum, and plenty more. The Very Reverend Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast, will lead our Annual Service at Belfast Cathedral, and Holy Communion and Catholic Mass will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings of the Conference at the Europa Hotel. We will also be sharing details, in the conference brochure, of other places of worship and serenity across Belfast, for those members of different faiths and none who would like to take a moment for prayer, calm or reflection.

Our conference will take place at the famous Europa Hotel in central Belfast, and our conference dinner and drinks, on the evening of Tuesday 1 October, will take place at the beautiful Culloden Estate and Spa, in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Belfast Lough and the County Antrim coastline. It is a truly stunning venue where, after drinks and dinner, we will be entertained by the brilliant comedian, actor and author Hal Cruttenden, before returning to the Europa to enjoy a local Irish band (or to head to bed, if preferred!). I would very much like all delegates to attend the conference dinner – it is a unique occasion in our busy calendars when we might all get together for an evening of informal and relaxed conversation and camaraderie. To that end, I have asked sponsors and any others who wish to organise formal and informal gatherings to do so on the Monday night, to ensure we are all free for the conference dinner the next evening. For those delegates who will be travelling to Belfast on the Sunday night (29 September), there will also be accommodation, dinner and an opportunity to network available that evening (International Members will be having their conference dinner at that time at Campbell College).

As far as is possible, I would like the conference – in both its formal and less formal parts – to feel relaxed and welcoming for all; to that end, the dress code will be smart casual throughout. More than anything, I hope that conference is, for each of you, a chance to stop for a moment, to think bigger and bolder, to connect and re-connect, and to return to your school inspired and empowered to innovate and create impact. I am very much looking forward to it, and I hope that you are, too.






Jaideep Barot
HMC Chair Elect and Headmaster, Bristol Grammar School