Posted on 24/09/2019

I STILL BELIEVE

I have lost count of the number of times I have said over the last six years, “FBS will become one of the best schools in this country – state or private - in the next ten years”. It has never been just a line, empty words or mere rhetoric. I have genuinely meant it. The question now is, after our first set of exam results, do I still believe? 

Absolutely. 100%. But the route to the top was never going to be a straight trajectory. Along the way there were always going to be ups and down, wins and losses, things that went better than expected and disappointments. We’ve seen this on the sports field: lots of trophies but unexpected and frustrating losses; in the saga over site: incredible temporary buildings demonstrating real enterprise, but still not ‘home’; our high standards and discipline: boys from troubled backgrounds and difficult home lives whose behaviour was really poor and unruly before they got here, now saying that FBS has transformed their lives, while others have fallen by the way and it hasn’t worked out. 

Then there are our exam results. Some departments smashed it out of the park this summer with their first GCSEs while a couple were disappointing. It was our first intake and they were wonderfully diverse in their talents and academic abilities; these boys were unsure whether FBS would be opening for them in Year 7 and were the ‘first’ to do everything.  Despite this, they secured 43 of the top level 9 grades. This first cohort showed that boys can achieve top grades regardless of their background with pupil premium boys performing better than non pupil premium boys in Maths and English in Level 5 and above. The English results were outstanding and positively reflect our whole school approach to literacy and our encouragement of a love for literature. So much so we are on Radio 4 on October 7th at 8pm. Tune in! Additionally, 13 boys from younger year groups sat GCSEs in French or Spanish. 100% gained a grade 9-8 with 70% getting the top grade 9s. All big successes. Yes, we also had some disappointing results. But we know what we need to do and have set about doing it. 

Our teachers are outstanding, the best I have ever worked with. Sitting in GCSE examination analysis meetings with them over the last few weeks I’ve heard them critically evaluate their department’s performance, tell us what they have learned and how they will improve further for next time. They all care; they are reflective practitioners, not defensive in the slightest and place high expectations on themselves.  This process has reconfirmed FBS’s drive for continual improvement: we’re not just a learning community for our students.So, as I reflect on the first five years, I still believe that FBS is on track to claim a place among the best. But how do we measure this? 

Yes, exam results matter.  But so does the quality of our music and drama productions; the orchestra, the choir, the sporting trophies and how fit, healthy and active our boys are. How many have had a go at playing a musical instrument, or trying a new sport, or picking up more challenging literature? Have they been enthused as cooks, or journalists or public speakers? What’s our reputation? How oversubscribed are we?  Are we nurturing essential life skills, producing young men who are enterprising and make things happen; make mistakes but learn from them and put things right?  Are FBS young men kind, do they think about the big questions of life or do they always run with the pack? Many of these things are not always easy to measure, but vital indicators of what it means to be among the best as a school. 

It will take time to know if we have achieved our goal of becoming one of the best. Perhaps 5-10 years after our 10 year target.  We’ll then be able to see what our boys are doing,the jobs they have, what they’ve achieved, their character, the difference they are making. 

FBS is not and never will be an exam factory. We will never teach to the test. I have taught in schools where pupils were trained/spoon fed for GCSEs then couldn’t cope with the critical thinking needed for A Levels; and even those who did well at A Level but couldn’t cope with the independence of university life and dropped out. We are about preparing boys for life. Not just to get to university but to graduate from it. To become captains of industry, business and enterprise, to be true sportsmen or  West End stars, to become  gentlemen, good citizens. All of which only time will tell.  

FBS is all about learning. Continuous improvement means tweaking some things, strengthening others and reviewing what needs changing altogether. 
As with everything, the disappointments and set backs are what really demonstrate what we are made of and how committed we are to achieving our holy grail. I still believe. Do you?

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