13-19 Education in Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference Schools (HMC)

Developing a curriculum for the future

Over the past 10 years, the Government has focused on the reform of 14-19 education and training through changes to qualifications.  While this has resulted in more choices for schools, attention has tended to focus on qualification products, with the result that curriculum aims and purposes and what and how young people learn have taken a back seat.

This research and development project, funded by the The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) which represents the Heads of over 250 of the leading independent schools in the United Kingdom, and, internationally, was designed to encourage its members to put the curriculum and quality of learning first and to focus on the capacities that young people need to succeed in a globalised and turbulent world. 

Four key questions formed the basis of the enquiry:

  1. What counts as an educated 19 year in this day and age?

  2. What aims and purposes underpin the approach to the 13-19 curriculum in HMC schools?

  3. How are HMC schools responding to recent curriculum and qualifications developments and to what extent are these meeting their aims and purposes?

  4. What future curricular options are there for HMC schools to support the development of educated 19 year olds capable of playing their full part in 21st century society?

Summary of activities

Directed by Professors Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours from the Post-14 Centre, this project was organized primarily through six one-day regional seminars, each hosted by an HMC school.  At each event, headteachers and curriculum managers were given the opportunity to:

  • reflect on their own institutional approaches and plans;

  • go back to first principles in terms of curriculum thinking, teaching and learning through facilitated discussion with others based around the key research questions;

  • highlight and disseminate areas of innovative and effective practice;

  • formulate ideas for future development in their own institution;

  • consider areas which need more sustained collective action.

Individuals attending the seminar completed two questionnaires during the course of the day to reflect the position in their own institutions in relation to the 13-19 curriculum and these are used as part of the research evidence.  Detailed notes were also made by the researchers during the seminar discussions to reflect the main ideas emerging from debate. In addition data were gathered from the headteacher, staff and students at the host school in order to provide a more textured picture of current developments and views about the future.  These 'case studies' also formed part of the evidence base.
Findings from the research were reported to various HMC committees and presented to the 2010 national HMC conference.


The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC)