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Lunch with Tony Little

Nicky Bicket (1973F) welcomed the 53 ODs and guests to the Carlton Club, making special mention of our guest of honour, Tony Little. And also of David Walsh (Chairman, Old Tonbridgians), Jane Everard (past Chairman and now secretary of the Old Haileyburians), Richard Boston (secretary of the Old Uppinghamians) and Jim Petit, representing the RBHS old boys. The UK ODU has fantastic relationships with these alumni associations who have been very supportive and encouraging of what we are trying to do up here. They are good friends of the ODU and Bishops. Eton is an iconic school and in the UK, arguably one of the best. It's extraordinarily long history, rich in politics, culture, privilege and influence makes it an institution, revered, envied and often vilified. But love it or hate it, one can't ignore the prominent place it has occupied, occupies and will continue to occupy in the British educational landscape and English society at large. Charles McGregor (F, 1969) introduced Tony Little. In doing so he underscored some of the links Bishops enjoys with Eton, the most important one being John Peake, a former housemaster at Eton who as Principal of Bishops in the 1980s, put the School on a trajectory properly setting it up for a very new and changed world. As a rule, a school is, like any institution, always bigger than an individual, and that includes the Head Master. Even good ones come and go while the school adapts and endures. Eton is no exception. Tony Little, said Charles, is almost an exception to that rule as he led Eton into the world of technology, neuroscience and entrepreneurship. Tony Little was Head Master of Eton from 2002 until the end of the 2015 academic year. He had been a boy at Eton, there on scholarship coming from anything but a privileged background. He is a teacher through and through and not one to flinch from change, while holding on to all that is good from the past. Tony's address to the UK ODs yesterday covered a broad canvas. He spoke of his own background and the fact that his entry into teaching took him by surprise - as it does most good teachers, he said - especially after he had managed to last two days of a Cambridge law degree and then, as he says, "read novels for the rest of my university time". But the legal world's loss was education's gain and his appointment as Eton's Head Master in 2001 (he started in the role in 2002) marked the pinnacle of his - can we say - school career. His first appointment as a Head Master was in 1989. This was a time when the world of school education was very different; little administration to speak of, no league tables, Health and Safety as a function was still to be invented and there was absolutely no hint of the spectre of the Human Resources department. How things have changed. While massive costs are incurred in support functions which have little or nothing to do with the quality of teaching, teaching itself has suffered from underfunding and an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy, distracting educators from their primary function of preparing young men and women to be a force for good - and success - in the world they enter after school. In fact, said Tony, there is an irony in the fact that while the relentless pursuit of "modernisation in education" is driving out what it means to be educated, there is - or should be - a return to the historical focus on values, spirituality and personal insight which, surprise!, was precisely what one gained in the learning of ancient Greek and Latin, for example. Looking forward, the big question is: What are schools preparing children for? The jobs that they will be doing don't in the main exist yet. So, having an open mind, preparedness and resilience must be the way to go if our children, their children and their children are to have a chance in a world becoming more and more dominated by not just artificial intelligence, but super-artificial intelligence. If schools were not preparing children for this, Tony said, t

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