Journeying with ready hope

I have been away for three days this week at my annual HMC Heads’ conference, this year in Stratford-upon-Avon. It is always useful training for me, and it also enables me to reflect with others and to consider priorities and developments both in education at large and in our Trust of schools.

Given the current coverage in the media, you will not be surprised that there was discussion of future challenges, including the potential imposition of VAT on school fees by a Labour government. We will write to you further in due course regarding this, but you should be assured that our umbrella bodies, ISC (Independent Schools Council) and HMC, are working hard to engage with Labour and that the Trust is giving very careful consideration to future financial planning, including our response if the proposals are implemented.

It was actually a very positive conference which focussed on the powerful impact of an independent education on our children’s lives. I sometimes ask parents to think how they would like their child to turn out when they leave school at the age of 18, but one speaker rightly suggested that we should be thinking much longer term, as the impact of education today will shape the future of our world – and many of our pupils are likely to be the leaders.

One of the most inspiring sessions was undoubtedly on lessons for leadership from Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’. Apart from sense of purpose, service, vision and character qualities, the engaging speaker also focussed on Henry’s ‘dark night’ before the Battle of Agincourt, where a depleted and battered English army defeated a superior French force. With the odds stacked massively against him, Henry traversed the different stages of: visible leadership, private truth, time alone, listening for feedback from the troops, unloading his burden, acknowledging his shadows, remembering his core values and then, with his mind at peace, inspiring his troops: “All things are ready, if our mind be so.” It is not often that many of us have to fight battles on such an epic scale, but how relevant the Bard remains to our everyday existence!

May we journey always with ready hope.

Best wishes,

John Watson