Posted on 28/02/2016

A Changing of the Guard

Recent government figures show that pupils from fee paying schools are twice as likely to attend a Russell Group University and five times as likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge as pupils from state schools.

While some may argue the unfairness of it all and level the blame at the door of the universities in question, it could also be seen as a damning indictment of state schools. For this reason, at FBS we are determined to show what a non-fee paying independent school can achieve – not just in terms of Oxbridge places and league tables rankings, but in producing highly successful young men with great character.

We have pledged that in the next ten years we will be among the very best schools in this country – state or private. Some parents may raise an eyebrow – how can we without the extensive playing fields, performing arts centres or other pre-requisites of today’s ‘top’ schools? By placing huge emphasis on high standards, firm discipline and pastoral care, alongside academic rigour, enjoyment of the arts, sporting excellence and the development of enterprise skills. We want boys to understand the importance of what they are (their character) before what they do (their achievements and successes).

While other schools – private and state – may voice similar aspirations, I think FBS is uniquely placed to deliver this ethos. As a Free school we have had the freedom to design a boy-friendly curriculum – one that will excite, engage and enthuse our boys whilst preparing them for the demands of GCSEs, A Levels and Oxbridge/Russell Group Universities. We have appointed inspirational, committed and caring teachers and have put together a wide range of co-curricular activities.

And as a non-fee paying school, we are able to draw in a far wider cross section of boys than private schools. When it comes to preparing boys for life, this gives FBS boys a huge advantage. Fulham has a vibrant mix of cultures and some of the most expensive housing in London alongside pockets of significant deprivation.  FBS serves them all.  Our boys will learn valuable lessons from mixing with each other, crossing socio-economic divides, and learning from each other’s perspectives rather than falling back on ‘group think’. Furthermore, how can you learn to be resilient, solve problems and make the best of things if everything is always served on a silver plate? At FBS no boy will be allowed to use his upbringing or background as an excuse for not meeting our high standards, or as a barrier to achievement. FBS has been set up to provide for all Fulham boys, not for a particular type of Fulham boy.

As a free school meal boy who grew up in the Welsh valleys, I am very aware of all the untapped talent that is in this country; talent that will never cross the threshold of fee paying schools, regardless of bursaries or ‘needs blind’ admissions. Some of the most enterprising, creative, resilient people I ever met were at the top of the Rhondda valley and on the back streets of Ebbw Vale! I will never accept that the brightest minds, sharpest intellects, greatest leaders, statesmen, orators and captains of industry in this country just happen to all be from the upper classes. Up until now, they may have had the best opportunities and gone to the best schools. It is now the great chance and responsibility of The Fulham Boys School and the like to take the talent that is going to waste in this country, nurture it in an environment of high expectations and expose it to outstanding teaching – something I think FBS is already in position to outperform private schools.

By the time our boys are in the sixth form and applying to Oxbridge, private schools will be more than looking over their shoulders at FBS!

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