Once again it has been an incredibly busy half term at FBS. We have been visited by two sporting legends. Ex Chelsea captain Gavin Peacock came to promote his book, did a riveting interview and took questions from our boys and parents. The England and British Lions superstar Mako Vunipola was interviewed at our Awards Evening. He was inspirational, great banter and stayed around afterwards for photos with our rugby teams. Our boys have visited the theatre, paid their respects at a Remembrance Service, and voted for a new head boy in what turned out to be a fiercely contested campaign including interviews, speeches, canvassing and elections. To date our boys have received 65 million views on YouTube; not really for the way they eat Korean food, but because of how genuinely nice and funny they are. Attendance has been excellent, hovering around 97%, which is more than 5% above the national average. Our Sixth Form Open Evening was really well attended and applications are the highest they have ever been, internally and externally, no doubt down to our first set of outstanding A Level results and our new state of the art building. As for Year 7, nearly 500 boys have applied for 130 places from over 130 different primary schools – state and private. We have started a new tradition: an SLT meal with the outgoing student leadership team. They have been superb this year through choppy COVID-19 waters, have set a clear blueprint for the role going forward, will always be Fulham Boys, and we are now keen for them to really kick start our alumni. At the time of writing two boys have interviews at Cambridge, one at Oxford. I have been reminded again this half term just how committed and bought in so many of our parents are, in the way they put on a superb Christmas Fair, the excellent attendance at Parent Consultations and that nearly 100 of them came in for our Year 9 careers speed networking afternoon. The Carol Service, as always, was one of the highlights of the FBS year. We also say goodbye to two original members of staff this half term. Sam Burns and Ross Dimitriov, FBS owes you a great debt. We salute you. It now leaves just six originals left standing…
It has been a busy half term for me personally. I have been working on plans for a new alliance which we hope to launch in September 2022, to include teachers, schools, families, organisations and others involved in working with young people. We believe so passionately in our ethos and it seems many others do too. So we want to offer support, create a network, share resources, knowledge and expertise; provide career opportunities, run conferences, influence the educational landscape and support all who share our approach to education: bringing out the best in all young people irrespective of their postcode, promoting the spirit of enterprise and built on the Christian faith.
As well as being on the radio and TV responding to Ofsted’s latest report findings and talking about our approach to Covid, it has been my privilege to speak at three different conferences this half term: The Association of Christian Teachers 50th Anniversary, the 3000 strong Schools and Academies Show in Birmingham, and the Independent Schools conference in London. My topics have included ‘The changing cultural sands of the last 50 years’; ‘Extended school days: nice to have or necessary?’, and issues surrounding equality, including single sex schools and transgenderism. Some of the potatoes were hot (the discussions were lively to say the least!) and not everyone agreed with what I said. But all agreed with my right to say what I said and thought it should be listened to, which strengthened my resolve to continue doing what we are doing and the way we are doing it. True liberalism means all views should be heard. As I have said many times before, there is no place for extremism and indoctrination in education, including ‘aggressive liberalism’. I am glad to say this seems to be the general feeling, even though it may not always seem like it. But I guess some of those holding the mic on social media want to give the impression the way they think is the way we all think.
As I prepared my lecture on the changing cultural sands of the last 50 years it struck me how much has changed. There have been 24 education secretaries. From Mrs Thatcher ‘snatching milk’, to Michael Gove battling ‘the Blob’ to Gavin Williamson and COVID, to Nadhim Zahawi and who knows what. We’ve seen the introduction of GCSEs and the National Curriculum in 1988. There have been different types of schools – grant maintained in 1988, no more grammar schools after 1998, Academies in 2000, Free schools in 2010. And let’s not forget the arrival of Ofsted in 1992. Most significant of all, the Children’s Act in 1989 as well as Every Child Matters in 2003. As for cultural change, I identified ten themes: (1) How we view children, (2) Authority, (3) Mental Health, (4) The Family, (5) Sex and Relationships (6) Equality, (7) Religion and Beliefs, (8) Technology, (9) Our bodies/exercise/healthy eating, and (10) The Environment.
Our approach to education has something important to say about all these things. What cannot be allowed to happen is that education just becomes an echo chamber. What will the next generation look back on in 50 years time and ‘cancel’ us for? There have to be different voices, making each other think and question, iron sharpening iron, in a spirit of respect and kindness.
We are convinced that what we are doing at FBS needs to reach further and be an important influence nationally. As educationalists go about creating a new normal, now is the time. 2021 has been a huge year for FBS. 2022 could be even bigger. We are in the position we are in, with a responsibility to do what we need to do, at such a time as this.
Until then, thanks for all, rest up, spend time with your loved ones, enjoy good food, buy the Radio Times special Christmas edition, enjoy the Sound of Music and the Great Escape, remember those who are lonely and sad, and take time to consider the reason for the season.
I wish you a happy Christmas and look forward to seeing you in the new year. Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.