Community News

Over three days the country’s leading Heads met in Belfast for the annual HMC Conference and Rachel Dent was spared from the busy corridors of The Abbey to attend.

The new HMC Chair Chris King, Head of Leicester Grammar School, delivered the opening address and introduced the central theme for the conference – ‘Celebrate the Difference’. He described how private schools support state education and urged state and independent schools to work together for a stronger future for education across the board.

“It is urgent for state and independent schools to work together to put pupils, not politics, at the heart of education policy. The time for state versus independent education is gone, to be replaced perhaps by state education with renewed independence of spirit and independent education with a renewed sense of responsibility to society.”

This theme resonated with Rachel Dent who is a strong believer in developing our Abbey girls to understand their responsibility within the broader community.  

“As a not-for-profit institution The Abbey has a long history of partnering with the local community. I am proud to be leading a school that has such a strong body of teachers, pupils, parents and alumnae who continue to offer their expertise in a number of ways - from the girls who stay late for the Refugee Homework Support Group to the committed Sports department who work around complex timetables to be able to welcome so many state schools to use our facilities. I support Chris King fully in saying that, as a sector, we can and we will do more to work with our state partners to improve education within our local communities.”

The ‘Celebrate the Difference’ theme permeated through the other workshops and keynote speeches. Particular highlights included a talk from Blackadder creator John Lloyd who reminded everyone how important a tool humour is in providing a springboard for inspiring teaching in the classroom. It was also very important reminder – especially at a conference that we should not take ourselves too seriously and certainly not all of the time.

Barb Oakley, Professor of Engineering at Oakland University, gave an excellent talk on not just MOOCs but also the importance of considering how we learn and crucially the need for concentrated periods of time in which there are no disruptions, including and especially from our devices. 

Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff to Tony Blair and CEO and Founder of InterMediate presented a fascinating talk on conflict resolution and lessons learned from the Northern Ireland peace process. 

Finally the setting of Belfast and its incredible journey through many different challenges to where it sits today. The inspiring new Titanic museum with its spellbinding modern architecture sitting comfortably against the iconic city Hall is a reminder that out of great challenge can come inspiration - the same is true of education.

What is HMC?

The Abbey was recognised as an HMC school in 2016. HMC is a Kitemark of global quality, innovation and excellence in education. Standards in HMC independent schools are exceptionally high and parents can be assured that they are choosing the very best education for their child.

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