As a provider of the Engage school management software, Double First was pleased to attend the SHMIS annual conference at Wokefield Park, Berkshire, chaired by Toby Mullins Principal of Seaford College in Petworth, Surrey.

The Conference was entitled “Be all that you can”, a slogan from the US Army advertising campaigns of the 1980s, echoing the views that many Heads of SHMIS schools hope for every pupil in their care.

The keynote speakers at the conference covered a number of salient issues, including the current educational landscape, leadership, ICT innovation, creativity as a means of fostering excellence and the Post 16 Examination framework.

A series of workshops enabled smaller groups to enjoy topics such as “Marketing in a Cold Climate” led by mtmconsulting’s Melanie Tucker, and “Experience of School Inspections” chaired by Richard Walker of Portland Place School.

But perhaps most importantly was the common feeling of optimism at the conference, especially as most schools were experiencing an upturn in both applications and pupil numbers.

David Dunn, Headmaster at Yarm School believed the growth within his school was due to applying common sense and business professionalism to how the school is run.

“Our job is not just to run a school. We are here to serve the parents just as much as the children. A simple example would be that if a prospective parent wants to visit and see the school during school holidays, it will be arranged. And when the snow fell, staff, including myself, were out at 6.00 am each day to clear it to keep the school open. Others were closed,” said David.

“The result? Word spreads,” David explained. “And with the attitude of ‘we’re here and we’re open whenever and however’, we have seen growth from 0 to 1,100 pupils since we started in 1978, and there’s no indication this is slowing down. It’s so exciting.”

David continued, “We are building new architect designed, student focused facilities and demolishing the old. In fact, we have had a raffle and the winners will be able to sling the demolition ball on the old buildings. Not many pupils will ever be able to say they knocked their school down!”