Posted on 12/12/2014

Culture, Culture, Culture!

In his annual report, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said that almost a third of England’s secondary schools are not good enough. He went on to say that improvement at secondary level is stalling and in some cases sliding backwards, with weak leadership and a culture which tolerates low level disruption are to blame. In response, Head teachers unions said most teachers work hard to improve standards.

Both viewpoints could very well be true. Teachers may well be working really hard, but there are still too many secondary schools in England that are not good enough.

At FBS, ‘good enough’ means outstanding. We have set out to be among the very best schools – state or private – within ten years.

So how will we deliver this?

Not just through hard work. Our teachers teach their lessons, run co-curricular clubs, supervise at breaktimes, sit down for food with the boys at lunchtimes, are on duty from 8.30am until 5pm every day and then spend a few hours each night planning lessons and marking books. They work hard, but I am sure that level of commitment is true of lots of teachers up and down the country – including teachers at schools which are stalling or sliding backwards. Hard work alone, although absolutely essential, is not the answer.

In a word, it’s culture. And the right culture is about expecting the highest standards in every area of the school by every member of the school community – governors, teachers, support staff, pupils and parents.

We have created such a culture at FBS and it is critical that this culture continues. Our boys have high aspirations and know that nothing other than their best is good enough. We have created a culture where poor behavior is just not ‘cool’ – whereas singing in assembly, taking a book out of the library to read, or handing in homework on time attracts just as much kudos as playing for the first XV. It’s a culture that transcends background – our comprehensive intake includes boys from all backgrounds including some boys who would have otherwise gone to private schools and others who would never dream of going private school in a million years. All rubbing shoulders with each other, knowing that no excuse will be accepted for not having the highest aspirations and standards.

Our teaching staff have high expectations of themselves and each other. Nothing but outstanding will do. The support staff are as much of school life as the teachers. We are all in this together and everyone plays a part in making us the best. Staff are tired after a busy term but importantly, not stressed. We laugh a lot together, and with the boys. Laughter and happiness are essential if a school is to have the right culture. As I’ve said before, education is too important to be taken seriously!

Our governors and founders play their part too. They demand much and are constantly monitoring and suggesting ideas to move the school forward. But staff feel appreciated by them and are supported to achieve the ambitious goals that are set. Parents are also crucial. They expect the best and rightly so. I have a son and what I want for him I should ensure I provide for other parents’ sons. I welcome the parents who phone up with their issues and suggestions of how we can improve. The culture we have created is one where parents feel they can do this, but equally trust and support us to do what is best.

Running through this culture is our unswerving commitment to boys, faith and enterprise. Everything – from lessons to food – is geared towards boys. FBS is a place where kindness, patience, self control, unselfishness, justice and forgiveness are nurtured. A place where boys are encouraged to think about the big things in life and question and challenge the society and world in which they live.

Too many schools are not good enough despite the efforts of hardworking teachers, because hard work is just even harder work in the wrong culture. The culture at FBS does mean hard work, but work that’s worth it and which will enable us, far from stalling or sliding, to become something really special.

This is my longest blog but will be the last one of 2014. If I don’t see you at the first FBS Christmas Carol Service at 7pm on Monday 15 December at All Saints Church, I would like to wish you a happy Christmas and new year. Thanks for reading through to the end – and for your continued support.


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