At the beginning of this term, it all caught up with me. I wasn’t very well, hadn’t had a break from FBS properly since February, was over tired; probably exhausted. It made me stop and take stock. What had we actually done? Was it what we thought it would be? Had we achieved what we set out to do? Was it all worth it? What about the future? Was it still the right thing for me and my family? Did I still believe?
It dawned on me just how mammoth a task it has been getting FBS off the ground to where it is now. In September 2013 there was nothing. No policies, procedures, curriculum, co-curriculum, teachers, pupils, building, sports teams, conduct cards or PSC! Nothing. We set up a school in an area where there was no need for school places, but believed that our distinctive vision and ethos would be in demand. By year 2 we were oversubscribed, and from year 3 had become a school of choice for boys in West London, including those with the means to go to the top independent schools in the country. Our standards of behaviour and attitude, uniform and appearance are outstanding, and our culture has been described as ‘incredible’, ‘beyond exceptional’, and is well known locally and nationally. Our spirit of enterprise and resilience has been well and truly stress tested over the years, and every time we have shown that we really do do what it says on the tin. Whether that is making the best of our accommodation, holding our nerve while protests take place about our policies outside the school gates, being under the media spotlight or going through a global pandemic.Above all, we have transformed the lives of so many boys and their families from all different backgrounds and cultures.
But we’ve also made mistakes and got things wrong. While the foundations (ethos, culture, standards) could not be stronger, we’ve had to rethink and rebuild parts of our structure. Our first set of GCSE results were mixed, some departments and parts of the curriculum needed overhauling, communication could have been better, we over promised in some areas, we tried to do too much at once, we ran before we could walk.
All that was the first five years. Phase one. The last year has been getting ready for phase 2. We have spent it pulling some things down, repairing other things, strengthening and restructuring. There are still things to do and sort out. Financially the school is going through choppy waters: a combination of delays to the permanent site and the Foundation not raising as much from parents as we had planned. We need to make the Enterprise Award more accessible, engaging and valuable. Our co-curriculum needs to be even more exciting and provide boys with a wider range of activities and opportunities, enabling them to be truly enterprising. We are re-thinking the way we do core sport and non-core sport to ensure all our boys are fit and healthy, can swim and cycle, and find at least one sport they enjoy. We have put a plan in place to go about conquering West London in our core sports first, then London and then to be serious contenders on the national stage. We just need Covid to go away so we can properly start.
Even so, as I took stock, I came to the conclusion that right now there is no better time to be a Fulham Boy. The character our boys, staff, governors and parents have shown during the last 7 or 8 months has been phenomenal. No wonder we have received so much media attention. Our attendance sits at around 96%. We are geared up for partial or total lockdowns. Our GCSE results in the summer were much more in line with the high academic standards we have set. The curriculum is looking good across all departments. Assessments are robust, and our first set of A-Level results promise to show we are a serious academic boys school that can get boys into the top universities. We are desperate for league tables to be re published so we can show the progress our boys are making.
Moreover, I was told it would take five years to build an excellent Sixth Form. Whilst we’ve work to do to get it as heavily oversubscribed as other year groups, two years in, it feels like a serious, academic sixth form. We have just appointed our Head Boy, Deputy Head Boys and Senior Prefects. Impressive young men from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Most importantly, our boys are happy and glad to be back in school. Even if they won’t actually say as much!
Despite going through a global pandemic, there really has never been a better time to be a Fulham Boy. The school feels ready for its homecoming on The Fulham Road.
So what next?
We begin phase 2. With a renewed determination to achieve our holy grail of becoming one of the best schools in the country – state or private. We also begin in earnest building the brand. Setting up more schools like FBS, providing services and using our profile to speak up and speak out on the issues facing schools, young people, their families and the community. The right structure is now in place.
We must take confidence from all that we have achieved, learn from our mistakes, re-engage if we have gone cold and become indifferent, settle differences where needs be, play our part, hold before us the greater good, and keep believing. The dream is very much alive.
But let me just end by saying this. We’d none of us be here today if it wasn’t for the boys and families who came with us and stayed with us during the hard days of phase one. I’m sorry that you will not have as much time on the permanent site as you should have had. But you are pioneers and whatever FBS becomes, we will never forget you and the part you played. There has never been a better time to be Fulham Boy. So thank you.