Posted on 20/01/2015

Really Throwing the Ball Around

The best, most exciting rugby teams to watch have big, strong forwards who work hard to secure good ball for their backs to use. Skilful backs then have a solid platform to really show their speed and flair; to properly turn the style on and throw the ball around. Think New Zealand, the best French teams and of course the Welsh!

At FBS we are committed to providing a rigorous, traditional academic curriculum and place a huge emphasis on high standards, firm discipline and a strong ethos and culture (like the best forwards securing good ball). With that in place, we embrace our free school status to be as enterprising, creative, visionary and trail blazing as we possibly can be (just like skilful backs who love nothing more than to really throw the ball around).

With that in mind we are considering doing something really exciting next year by creating, just for the 2015 intake, a ‘bulge year’.

FBS have set an upper limit of 120 places for every year, but we have decided to increase this to 140 for one year only. We’re a new school and know that some prospective parents only found out about our unique educational ethos quite late on in the applications process. We would hate for families that have decided they want our education for their sons to be disappointed, and as we’ve got room this year to increase numbers, we’ve notified our local authority that we are happy to accept an extra 20 boys.

This will not alter FBS’s pledge to keep class sizes small – no more than 24 – because the twenty most able boys will be taught in Year 8. This will give the opportunity to push some pupils on at a faster pace, something few secondary schools have the flexibility to do.

But this flexibility isn’t just good news for the twenty brightest boys in next year’s 2015 intake. It also means in the core subjects – English, Maths and Science – and possibly Modern Foreign Languages we will look to set across year 7 and 8. This would be great for pushing on all boys in year 7 and also giving extra support for those who need it in year 8. We could really tailor the teaching and learning to meet each boy’s individual needs. Year group boundaries in school are misleading. A boy born on August 31st is in a different year group to a boy born on September 1st, yet they are 1 day apart. On the other hand you can have a boy born on September 1st and one born on August 31st in the same year, but a year older. If we set in these subjects on pure ability, not on fake boundary lines, we’re much better positioned to give all our boys the necessary support or stretch they need.

We are also excited about the possibility this bulge year will provide further up the school. As I am sure many of you reading this blog are aware, there are significant changes to A Levels and AS Levels from September 2015. AS’ will no longer lead to A levels. Many schools, as reported in the Times Educational Supplement on Friday, are worried about the effect this will have on pupils wanting to study A Levels. They believe that AS’ were an important bridge between GCSEs and A Levels and that with AS’ no longer leading to A Levels, low self-esteem will put some pupils off studying the new A levels. I personally think the new approach is better, as not having to take so many exams throughout the two years of GCSE and the two years of A levels gives far more time for teaching; and our approach means we will have even more time. We will be able to engage our boys in deep learning, grasping the fundamental concepts of a subject rather that sitting through an endless treadmill of exams. For some, we can spend more time in KS4 getting them ready for the demands of A levels; for the most able more time can be spent at KS5 properly preparing them for the demands of Oxbridge and other top university entrance requirements and subsequent courses.

This approach will also allow time for our boys to be involved in enrichment activities. It will provide them with opportunities to gain experiences with businesses and universities, in this country and possibly abroad, all contributing to the FBS Enterprise diploma, which we are aiming to have recognised and valued by top universities.

The House system we have in place means that all boys will still have opportunity to spend significant periods of time with other boys of the same age, and have the same induction and pastoral care as all other 2015 starters.

The 2014 cohort had the unique privilege of being the first ever Fulham Boys, and the class of 2015 will have this experience. We have set ourselves the challenge of ensuring every year group joining FBS has something that is special and unique to them. Year on year, as standards and ethos become more and more embedded, we can really ‘throw that ball around’.

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