Senior Head's Blog: Leading in Changing Times

Following last week's article on the benefits of a Baccalaureate style education for the sixth form, it was very interesting to hear the Prime Minister's plan outlined in his party conference speech yesterday.  For those who are concerned that it is all change, it should be noted that the write up from the Department for Education talks about this ambitious plan taking a decade to fulfil, so the message for the moment is that we have time to adapt to any proposals that impact in the coming years.  I am sure that I will come back to this topic in a future newsletter.

Meanwhile, I spent the first part of this week at the HMC Conference for Heads.  The focus of the conference was on leading in changing times, looking at the challenges that the sector is facing, but also identifying many of the important traits of leadership that have remained true across the years.  Being in Stratford-Upon-Avon it was appropriate that we heard from the brilliant Ben Walden who gave us a workshop on the leadership shown by Henry V in Shakespeare's play of that name.  We were also fortunate enough to hear from Baroness Estelle Morris, who was education secretary under Tony Blair back in 2001-2.  Although questions tried to draw her on current Labour policy towards the independent sector, she was very careful in her responses, but her presence at the conference was encouraging.  David Olusoga was another speaker, who urged us to promote History that is wide-ranging in its content, something that I believe we are doing well at Felsted, and something that the IB in particular promotes.

There were also workshops and opportunities for networking, and it was particularly good to catch up with Sarah Capewell, who is enjoying her first term as Head at Stockport Grammar School.  These conversations are probably the most helpful part of any conference, sharing experiences and being able to gather some advice from others facing similar issues in their schools.  Nearly everyone has been putting much thought to the vexed issue of VAT on school fees.  This is a topic that I will return to in the next fortnight, as we put together details for our plan for Felsted.

Finally, we also looked at the new inspection framework for schools, particularly relevant to us at Felsted, as we are anticipating that our next inspection will come soon.  Although we had a brief inspection during Covid (to check on our boarding arrangements for students from Red List countries), our last proper inspection was back in March 2019, so we can expect to get a visit from ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) during the course of this academic year, and quite likely during this term.  If and when that happens, pupils, parents and staff will all be sent links to surveys with a request to complete them.  The turnaround is very quick, and I would ask that as many people as possible contribute to that process, in order to give inspectors as much detail as we can.

So, it was good to spend some time away, but better to be back, although I now need to catch up on what I have missed!

Enjoy the glorious October sunshine,

Chris Townsend,
Head, Felsted School