Be careful what you wish for!

in News

My first visit to the East India Club was in 1986. Then deputy head of Wells Cathedral School I was ordered to 16 St James’s Square by the legendary Alan Quilter to collect his umbrella which he had left there. I did have other reasons for being in London but such was the lot of deputy heads in those halcyon days. The following year, having been appointed HM Wycliffe as a member of HMC I was given honorary membership of the EIC and have been there ever since. The warmth of welcome, helpfulness of staff, and quality of breakfast, have made it a natural part of my continuing involvement in education. It continues to be a hub for those involved in independent education. Boards meet there, interviews take place there and lively schools’ reunion dinners can keep the older members awake into the early hours! But a sinister secret has now been exposed. The EIC is a gentleman’s club, where ladies are always welcome, but in the whirlpool of radical reform HMC has decided that they no longer wish to have close relations with a single-sex institution. Even the school crests on the famous staircase are no longer safe from being “taken down”! In particular the J7 scheme, whereby younger members can enjoy hugely reduced subscriptions, is no longer to be promoted by the schools. Confidential emails have been leaked to the press, righteous handwringing is taking place and HMC is looking forward to a future unblemished by sexism. For that matter neither do I wish to be blemished! I like good schools, both single-sex and co-educational. I would also vote to expand EIC membership to include women. But that is a matter for the club’s internal democracy. What does strike me as odd is the apparent blindness to the issue of discrimination. Schools which remain single-sex and / or discriminate against those families unable to afford private fees really do need to be careful about what they wish for!

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