HMC, or the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference meets each year in a place with a hotel sufficiently big to handle us. This year we are in St Andrews where one of our oldest universities began early in the fifteenth century and where the curious game of golf also started.  It’s a bracing spot for the 270 or so heads of leading independent schools to meet. Our numbers have grown by about 10% over recent years as some of the stronger Girls’ School Association schools have joined.  Happily, although HMC still feels too much like a blokes’ gathering, the number of female heads is growing each year. My predecessor, Alison Willcocks, was the second.

What do we do then, perched scenically on the North Sea’s brink? Confer, yes: about exam marking (its unreliability), student wellbeing, higher education (the independent sector’s access to the most in demand universities) and broadening access to our schools (through financial assistance).

Alongside this, there are two other threads. An impressive range of speakers helps us reflect on what we do and how we could do it better: Rohit Talwar on what the future world of work might be like and how our schools might modify what we offer in order to avoid education’s usual trap of preparing students for a vanishing world; Monty Halls on leadership and how we can extend the quality of leadership both within and outside our schools; and Matthew Syed on the power of growth mindset.

The final thread is one of fellowship and sharing problems with colleagues whom we might have known for decades.