Posted on 12/07/2019
83. IMPOSSIBLE. DIFFICULT. DONE.
When we finish term on the 12th July, The Fulham Boys School will be 5 years old. Quite a milestone for many reasons:
- It’s the last time we break up for the summer without a set of external exams results;
- We come back in September to our inaugural Sixth Form;
- It’s the last time we’ll return after the summer holiday to our temporary site;
- It’s the half way mark to our pledge when we opened of becoming one of the best schools in the country – state or private – within ten years.
A good time to take stock:
- What has gone well?
- What could we have done better?
- What next?
- Are we half way to achieving our holy grail of being among the best?
What has gone well?
- We opened. No mean feat. It took a clear strategy, a never know when you’re beaten attitude, a refusal to lie down, nerves of steel, calmness under pressure and a real unity of purpose among us all. FBS’s ethos was forged that summer five years ago; it’s since been described by Ofsted as ‘Incredible’: http://player.vimeo.com/video/99912720 http://player.vimeo.com/video/99928050
- Self-managing and delivering a remarkable temporary site for our boys.
- Becoming the school of choice for many boys and their families from the full breadth of our community: pupil premium and privately educated alike. Our waiting list over the last four years has been huge. We’ve built a truly comprehensive school where postcode doesn’t matter and pupil premium boys’ progress is the same as the progress of our non-pupil premium boys.
- Two full inspections. In one we were ranked outstanding in all four areas and outstanding overall. In the other, ranked good, although the report itself reads outstanding. https://www.fulhamboysschool.org/site/assets/files/3833/h17-fulham-boys-school-hf-siams-final-report.pdf https://www.fulhamboysschool.org/site/assets/files/3833/fulham-boys-school-10030933-final-pdf.pdf
- Establishing high standards of behaviour, uniform and appearance: Ofsted described this as ‘outstanding’, ‘exemplary. And then holding the line and standing firm.
- Getting boys to sing, to dance, to perform! Ofsted, the DfE, and all our visitors are blown away by singing in assembly; many of our boys have taken LAMDA exams with two pupils on Grade 7. Every year we produce a school play, with this year’s cast working with a professional director from LAMDA. And everyone is encouraged by their peers to showcase their talent – however raw it may be – in the annual school Eisteddfod and Going Solo concerts.
- Putting on two Art exhibitions. One in a studio in Fulham where boys’ work sold, and another in Beaumont Avenue. Both first class.
- Refining our co-curricular programme to give all boys extra-ordinary opportunities to shine. Our clubs aren’t add-on or extras, but a critical and integral part of the school day.
- Triumphing in the London Debate Challenge: Overall Winners 2018, Grand Finalists in 2017, Borough Champions 2017, 2018, 2019, Regional Champions 2017, 2018; part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival 2015 (Macbeth).
- Visits to and from the good and the great: Authors including Chris Bradford, Tom Palmer, Bali Rai, and NM Browne. Sportsmen including, Tony Adams, Mark Hunter, Nick Auterac and the Paralympian Ian Rose. Journalists and presenters Huw Edwards, Dan Walker and Riz Latif. The Apprentice’s Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford. Actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Coleman and Noel Clarke. Three education secretaries, two cabinet ministers and one other government minister. Not to mention, HRH, Prince Edward.
- Language trips to Spain, Paris and Marseille. History trips to Hastings, Belgium and Berlin. Sports tours to Italy, Biarritz and Bilbao; a skiing trip to Claviere and a visit to the Calais Jungle.
- Encouraging individual enterprise – One of our pupils won 30 Chromebooks for the school; another was cast as one of the main characters in the CBBC production, Jamie Johnson. Some of our boys auditioned for Fantastic Beasts 2, others were finalists in Monologue Slam at the Theatre Royal Stratford East; a year 8 pupil secured a main role in the West End production ‘The School of Rock’; Our boys busked at the Southbank to raise money for charity; they’ve become individual champions in sports from sailing to Taikwondo to boxing; many have completed their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Awards and some are now going for their silver.
- Embedding teaching and learning at the heart of the school; having our SEN provision recognised as a strength by Ofsted; helping our most able boys fly through the Brilliant Club, working with PhD students on different research projects.
- RE department achieving the Silver Quality Mark.
- Staff wellbeing and development. According to the DfE, ‘Morale is high and the school is thriving’, while Ofsted noted, ‘Staff are very proud to work at the school and are fully committed to the aspirational ethos. They recognize the strong support from senior leaders in the development of their teaching and in recognition of their personal well-being’.
- Spreading word about FBS – we were part of the parliamentary review last year; we featured in a debate in the House of Commons in January.
- Showing that sport can be taken seriously in a state school. We have been the QPR Football League winners 10 times across all year groups and runners up on four other occasions. We have been the South London Rugby League Winners 4 times; KS3 Hammersmith and Fulham Badminton Champions 3 times; KS3 Hammersmith and Fulham Indoor Athletics Champions twice; KS3 Hammersmith and Fulham Indoor Rowing Champions; Year 8 Orleans Park Cup final runners-up; Year 8 Gunnersbury Cup winners; Year 9 Middlesex Rugby League Plate winners; Year 8 St. James Plate winners; Gunnersbury Cup Final Runners-up twice. In rowing, in the London Youth Games, FBS boys were Gold, Silver and Bronze medals winners; Year 10 rowers became Maidenhead Regatta Rowing Champions; KS3 and 4 Hammersmith and Fulham Indoor rowing Runners-up.
- All which is helping to develop well rounded and happy young men. The LA commented, ‘If there was ever a school whose ethos was embedded with students being happy, safe and well, The Fulham Boys School was a shining light in this element…’
What could have gone better?
- We need to get more of our parents fully engaged. Almost all of our parents are supportive but half need to get more actively involved, in all aspects of the life of the school and particularly in their son’s academic progress.
- It would great to see parents from different backgrounds really mixing and enjoying each other’s company at school events.
- We need to set up more activities and clubs for our boys at weekends and over the holidays.
- Ownwork needs to be more consistent and purposeful.
- We need to keep providing more and more challenge for our most able boys.
- As our boys get older, we need to find ways to encourage them to become more socially enterprising.
- The Business Forum and Foundation and Friends organisations are all still finding their feet and need real parental buy in to work as supportive parts of FBS.
- Issues around the permanent site have dragged on too long.
- Our Year 11 boys have been so fortunate. No year group will ever again be so well known and cared for. But, they have also been the first to do everything and we have learnt from our mistakes with them.
- Enterprise is one of our three pillars, yet we need to find new ways to make our boys more resilient and independent.
- There have been times when I could have been better. I haven’t always modelled the Christian values and high standards I have preached and advocated. For that, I apologies, and resolve to do better going forward.
- Rest and switch off. After 5 years, we are tired. Really tired.
- Year 11 GCSE results
- Ofsted. They will without doubt visit again in 2019-2020.
- We go again. Bigger, braver, better. And we will do it in six ways:
- FBS Goal: to transform our boys’ lives
- FBS Cooperative. Let’s get parents, staff, boys, governors and community fully bought in.
- FBS Services. We offer and share the things we do well with other schools, on our doorstep and beyond.
- FBS Multi Academy Trust: We continue to explore opportunities to set up more schools like FBS across England and possibly Wales, for the education we could provide to those communities and for the opportunities this gives us to retain and recruit the best staff.
- FBS Global: We explore the professional development opportunities for our staff in helping to train teachers in other countries.
- FBS View: We speak up and speak out about our distinctive approach and views on education. So far this year we have spoken at Cardiff University, Exeter University, Cambridge University and Eton College. Radio 4 are putting out a programme in September on our approach to education. We have written lots of articles, many of which have been published:
Are we half way to achieving our holy grail of becoming among the best?
So, having said all of this, do we really think we will become one of the best schools in the country – state or private – and influence the educational landscape in this country and beyond? If we do all of the above, unequivocally, yes! Of course it is a tall order and a massive ambition. But as Hudson Taylor said, ‘At first it seems impossible. Then it’s difficult. Then it’s done.’ We have already achieved what we were told was impossible. It is and will continue to be difficult. But one day we will look back and say it’s done.
Have a great summer.