The International Boys School Coalition is an organisation that exists to promote the better education of boys around the world, using research and collaboration to spread best practice amongst boys’ schools. Each year their conference attracts hundreds of delegates from around the world to hear the best educational speakers and to share experiences. Miss Kremer, who presented the research project which she has been working on this year, and I attended, representing Challoner’s at the pinnacle of education. This year’s conference, in Baltimore, focused on innovation and emotional intelligence, and the connection between the two. Powerful speakers, such as Wes Moore, Alec Ross & Joe Ehrmann, developed the point of view that technical innovation comes naturally to the current generation of boys and young men, but that technology can be most effectively utilised by leaders who also have the emotional intelligence and empathy to see ways to use innovations for the good of society.

Meanwhile, Andrew Reiner discussed the language of masculinity, asserting that the identity of young males is established by a mixture of culture and nurture. Family and friends provide the nurturing backdrop against which prevailing media images of masculinity are set. Many of the media influences portray unhealthy images of masculinity which inhibit the development of emotional intelligence, if left unchallenged. A key role of schools and parents, they argued, is to challenge young men to find their own identity amongst this complex background, and to develop the skills of empathy and emotional intelligence.

Baltimore was a fascinating city to host such a conference. Despite being home to one of the world’s leading research universities (Johns Hopkins) it also has some of the most deprived urban districts in the USA, and it was inspiring to discuss education with those leading schools in such challenging circumstances.

These ideas about masculinity, innovation and empathy chime well with the focus we have at Challoner’s to educate our students to make the most of their opportunities and to consider their role in society as a whole. The compassionate leaders we want to develop need a good grasp of the human condition in order to understand and empathise with a range of situations.