Over half term I have had the enormous privilege of visiting two Canadian schools, whose heads have applied for international membership of HMC. Restrictions during the pandemic meant that the accreditation visits had to be postponed on several occasions and whilst the schools supplied copious amounts of information from regulatory and inspection bodies to detailed self-evaluations, there is ultimately no substitute for visiting the schools in person.
As with UK accreditations, international accreditation visits are normally conducted by a team of two and will always include at least one serving HMC member. The team spends two days in school, observing lessons and activities, interviewing staff, governors and often parents, and most importantly speaking with students. The objective is to gauge whether the school’s ethos and standards are aligned with those of HMC.
The outcome of the process is a short report, making a recommendation to the Membership Committee, which ultimately approves the application. The team will provide a brief pen portrait of the school, outline its key strengths and note any current or potential development areas, all of which will be fed back to the Head at the end of the visit.
As a school inspector, it has always struck me as remarkable how quickly experienced professionals can get the measure of a school. And it is always reassuring at the end of a visit to see the telling smile from a Head who recognises that complete strangers have ‘got’ their school so quickly, recognising strengths, but also appreciating the road that all schools are on.
International members bring something very important to HMC. They count amongst the very best schools in the world and as such HMC has much to learn from them as well as, I hope, to offer.
Of course, accreditations aren’t just about the applicant and the school. Whether in the UK or abroad, they’re a fabulous opportunity for professional development. Where better to reflect on one’s own school, to ‘borrow’ fresh ideas and forge personal and professional connections than in another excellent school? Successful schools around the world have much in common, but they are always outward-looking organisations keen to learn from others and to share their success.
Blog by HMC General Secretary, Dr Simon Hyde