Chapter 1: Vision for Education
1. The Vision
To establish the best schools in the country built upon (1) The Christian Faith (2) Enterprise (3) Bringing out the Best in children.
2. The Executive Headmaster of The Fulham Boys School
2.1 Alun Ebenezer is the CEO/Executive Headmaster, and the founding Headmaster, of The Fulham Boys School (FBS). Together with the Founders, he set up FBS from scratch.
2.2 Alun has over 23 years’ experience gained in five secondary schools, including 13 years at senior leadership level. He has taught in tough inner city schools, deprived valley schools, a Haberdasher school, outstanding schools, single sex schools and co-ed schools. He has a proven track record of raising standards and school improvement, and has consistently delivered results. At Treorchy Comprehensive School he played a leading role in the school achieving 15 out of 15 excellent grades in an ESTYN inspection - the first school in Wales to achieve this.
2.3 He is experienced in leading INSET and speaks extensively at schools, churches, universities and conferences. He has written three books, as well as articles for The Times, Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and the Times Educational Supplement, as well as Evangelicals Now, Evangelical Times, Evangelical Magazine and the Banner of Truth. He writes a regular Headmaster’s blog and has featured on ITV, the BBC News and the Radio 4 Analysis programme about ‘The problem with boys.’
3. Our Vision
3.1 Proverbs 29.18 says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ If you want to achieve something special, get the best out of people, they must see ‘it’, buy into ‘it’’, be prepared to run through brick walls for ‘it’. So before telling people what you want them to do and how you want them to do it, you must show them why. According to Antoine de Sainte:
“If you want people to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work…but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
3.2 Our vision at Fulham Boys School has always been to become the best school in the country based on the three core pillars of (1) the Christian Faith (2) Enterprise and (3) Boys.
3.3 What we aim to do now is to partner with existing schools who share our vision in order to become a MultiAcademy Trust and to establish new schools founded on the same vision.
3.4 We want every pupil, parent, member of staff, school, local governor, trustee and supporter to understand and believe in the vision. So when the photocopier is not working, cover is heavy, ownwork (our term for homework) mounts up, there is a school fair to organise, meetings to attend, it is November and we all have colds, and are tired and fed up, we keep the vision before us. We believe it is the main reason why at FBS, our staff retention rates are incredible, nearly all our parents are supportive and most are fully engaged, governors are totally committed and the school is heavily oversubscribed.
4. What makes up the vision? 7 things:
3. Multi-Academy Trust
Our pledge, and unflinching resolve, is to establish some of the best schools in this country, state or private. They will be established on three pillars: (1) built upon the Christian faith (2) nurturing enterprise (personal, social and business) and (3) geared towards bringing out the best in every boy and girl; transforming their lives, irrespective of their postcode, culture, colour of their skin, how much their parents have in the bank or any particular need or characteristic they may have.
All our schools will be cooperatives, at the heart of their localities: pupils, parents, staff, local governors and the wider community. Everyone will be expected to buy in and invest - giving their time, sharing their talents, even their money - and be accountable to each other. Our schools will be more than just schools.
4.3 Multi-Academy Trust (MAT)
The aim is to set up many schools across the country - secondary and primary, single sex and mixed, private and state - as well as to bring schools into our MAT who share our vision and ethos.
We offer and share the things we do well and believe in with others. We want to help individual teachers working outside our Trust who share our vision and ethos, as well as schools who need our support.
In time, as we grow, we aim to provide a training programme for people who want to work at our schools, and for this training to be accredited.
In line with our Christian ethos and our commitment to social enterprise, we want to train and support teachers and schools with a similar ethos to ours in other countries. This will also provide exciting career opportunities and experiences for our staff.
We feel it is our duty to speak up and speak out about our distinctive approach to education. We believe passionately in our ethos and are determined for it to change, influence and impact education nationally.
Chapter 2: The Vision in Action
1. What is the point?
1.1 If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that there is, or there should be, more to life than exams. Anthony Seldon in The Sunday Times on 21st August 2020 commented:
“Is it surprising that so many young people have been distraught in the past fortnight, when we have been telling them all their lives that exams are all that matters? That their entire worth is to be judged by exam grades? Exams tell a truth about a young person. An important truth. But they do not tell the whole truth. They tell us little or nothing about the character of the young person, about who they are, or what they have to offer the world.”
1.2 Schools should not just be exam factories. Young people must know there is more to life than the 10 numbers and 3 grades they get at the end of their school career. Schools should be about preparing young people for life.
2. What should an 18 year old look like?
2.1 Schools should work backwards. Our starting point is always: What does an 18 year old need to know, be and have to make it in life? What do businesses, universities and industries require? In a global economy, we need to know what other countries are doing and how their students compare with ours when they leave school, because it is against these young people that our young people will compete. What do our communities, our country and the world want a young person to look like? Working backwards, we put everything in place to provide our pupils with what they need to go into the world and hopefully change it for the better.
2.2 To help students, staff and parents understand what we are trying to achieve, a ‘picture’ of what an 18 year old should ‘look’ like should be displayed: the skills, knowledge, experiences and character they should have when they leave school.
3.1 We believe that our young people should:
3.1.1 Have good knowledge of history and geography;
3.1.2 Be able to appreciate the arts, literature and music;
3.1.3 Be at the very least bi-lingual;
3.1.4 Be numerate, literate and be able to communicate;
3.1.5 Be able to understand technology and science and how things work;
3.1.6 Be able to understand what people believe and why they act in the way they do;
3.1.7 Be able to question these beliefs critically, including society’s values and culture, and know how to do that in the right way.
3.2 Every child, from whatever background, should have this knowledge so they can appreciate the world they live in. Therefore our pupils study history, geography, RE, science, English, maths, languages and computing. As they get older, they can choose to study politics, economics and business.
3.3 The approach to Art, Sport, Drama and Music should be different. These subjects bring the ‘feel good factor’ to the school and community, allow pupils to be creative, build up their confidence, develop their skills and give them the platform and opportunities to excel. We want to unearth real talent so that our young people can grace the West End and entertain us with their singing, dancing and acting and can make our country world beaters in sport.
3.4 Subject areas need to have curriculum maps in place with a clear rationale on the topics covered and when they are covered. To help pupils, curriculum maps should be displayed in their books.
3.5 The curriculum should flow clearly through the key stages. In each subject, pupils should know and understand why they are studying the topic they are studying and how the curriculum builds year on year. A-level students should be able to see how GCSEs have prepared them for their studies. GCSEs students should be able to see how KS3 has prepared them for their studies, and so on down through the other key stages. Pupils should also be able to make links between subjects. In the real world, the subjects we teach are not in departments or compartmentalised. And the real world is what we are preparing our young people for.
4. Beyond the classroom
4.1 Above and beyond this, schools should provide experiences which you cannot learn from books.
4.2 Let me give you an example. A number of years ago we took 11 boys to the Calais Jungle to play football against refugee children. They also visited some of the men and women in the camp and distributed aid. Why? To broaden their experiences, expose them to real world problems that seem impossible to solve and ask them how they would solve them; to ensure that our pupils understand how personal ambition must combine with social compassion.
4.3 On top of these once in a lifetime experiences, schools should have extended school days where they offer a rich co-curricular programme that enables pupils to try new things, find lifelong hobbies and discover talents and skills; to use London, their local area and the world around them as their classroom.
5. Mind the Gap
5.1 All pupils should be able to access the curriculum in a way that supports their needs and leads them to flourish. No gaps should be allowed to grow between groups of pupils based on their economic, social, cultural backgrounds or any special educational needs they may have. All leaders and teachers should know who these priority groups are and how they are performing, use data frequently to identify patterns and have a systematic approach and effectual action planning to improve the outcomes of these groups.
5.2 As well as the curriculum, all co-curricular activities, including trips and visits, should be accessed consistently by all groups. No one should be left behind.
6. Fit and Healthy
6.1 Sport should play an important part in school. Schools should have PE lessons, sports afternoons and co-curricular clubs. These should be set up to find every pupil at least one sport they enjoy and take with them through life, while at the same time developing elite athletes and winning teams.
6.2 Food and nutrition is also important. School lunches where possible should be compulsory. No packed lunches or food to be brought into school. Only bottled water and fruit. The food should be hearty and freshly cooked in order to fuel pupils for their extended day and teach them the importance of sitting down at the meal table, conversing and laughing over good food. We want our pupils to look back in twenty years’ time and remember happy times in the school dining hall with friends and teachers.
7.1 Schools need to nurture in pupils a spirit of enterprise. They need to have a can-do attitude, be resilient, solve problems, work as a team, know how to improve their performance, be game changers, push boundaries. We want to produce young people who don’t sit down under things, feel sorry for themselves, wait for things to come to them, blame everyone and everything, but rather they make things happen. Norman Tebbit said that when his father became unemployed, he didn’t riot. He just got on his bike and looked for work. That’s the spirit we need to cultivate in our young people. Good fighters don’t just hit hard. They get hit hard but can keep fighting.
7.2 Young people should also have opportunities to engage in social enterprise. Visit old people’s homes, do shopping for those who cannot get out, help out in soup kitchens; older pupils visiting primary schools to help with reading, support charities in line with the school’s vision and ethos. Fundamentally, enterprise should not be something we do but rather enterprising is what we are.
7.3 These essential skills are hard to quantify, assess and evidence. They are soft skills that need toughening up in our education system. All programmes of study should show how these skills are developed in their subjects and they need to be embedded in everything pupils do in school and recognised for their worth outside it.
7.4 This is why we are keen to develop the ‘FBS Enterprise Award’ and get it approved, even accredited, by universities, industry, professions and businesses. It is an excellent way of showcasing young people’s personal, creative, physical, emotional, moral, spiritual and enterprising qualities, alongside their intellectual intelligences. A young person’s worth and value is so much more than GCSEs and A Levels.
8.1 More importantly, schools must develop the character of pupils:
8.1.1 Do they have the highest standards of behaviour?
8.1.2 Are they well mannered?
8.1.3 Can they relate to and engage with people from all different backgrounds?
8.1.4 Do they put the needs of others before themselves?
8.1.5 Are they kind?
8.1.6 Do they work hard?
8.1.7 Do they show compassion?
8.1.8 Are they encouraged to build, strengthen, and repair relationships with their families?
8.1.9 Can they hold their nerve when life gets hard and bad things happen?
8.1.10 Do they ask for help?
8.1.11 Do they think and question?
8.1.12 Are they thankful?
8.2 We want young people who stand up for what is right, not look the other way. As Martin Luther King once said: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” Our young people should be those who treat other people the way they want to be treated (Matthew 7.12). They perseveringly talk to the young person who is painfully shy and socially awkward until they start to feel at home.
8.3 Schools should instil into pupils the importance of these characteristics and the importance of doing the right thing not the easiest. It means being brave and as Aristotle once said: “It is by acting bravely that one becomes brave.”
9. Tackle the Big Questions
Schools should make it clear that there are more important things in life than school. We live in a world full of sadness, worry and suffering. We live in a society where standards and values change from one generation to the next. All young people have to face death. So they need the opportunity to think about these things, be given all the knowledge and conflicting evidence for these big issues and the skills to critically interrogate them. Accepted norms should never be just accepted but always be challenged and questioned.
Schools need to be fun and exciting. Education is too important to be taken seriously! Whilst the work may be hard and the days long, pupils should enjoy school and want to attend. Places to get to know hundreds of other young people and enjoy their company. Learn, try and experience new things in interesting ways.
Chapter 3: Is the vision working? If not, why not and how can we get it to work?
1. Meaningful Assessment
1.1 Assessment, tests and exams should never be abolished. In our jobs, we are tested every day of our lives and we need to know where we are and what we need to do to improve. Others also need to know what we can do. If we are going to produce world leading doctors, engineers, lawyers, journalists and so forth our young people need to know what excellence looks like, what they need to be able to do, and what they can do.
1.2 These tests, assessments and exams should reflect the interleaved curriculum and prepare pupils for what they need to know in their final external exams. It is important therefore that the external exams - GCSEs, A Levels and BTECs - test the knowledge and skills that higher education and employers want to know in the way they want to know it.
1.3 Importantly, pupils should be able to talk confidently about what they have learnt and explain the work in their books.
2. Robust and Rigorous
2.1 Schools’ assessments need to be robust and rigorous. In each department in every school, there should be assessment experts who take a lead in developing and adapting effective assessment in their area so that our schools are always at the forefront of developments in national assessment strategy.
2.2 The benefit of being part of a MAT is that schools can more readily moderate work, check each other’s standards and pupil progress. And if the Trust includes both primary and secondary schools - which is a big part of our plans - there is a real opportunity to ensure a slick transition for pupils, avoiding the Year 6/7 dip. Education needs to be viewed as continuous, not starting again at aged 11.
3.1 As well as academic qualifications, the challenge is to provide more practical qualifications for pupils. These must be on a par with, and subject to, the same rigour as academic qualifications. These qualifications, whilst different, should in no way be less stringent and demanding and should be developed closely with businesses and industry, national and global. We need plumbers and mechanics just as much as doctors and lawyers.
4.1 As well as assessing pupils, informing them of their progress and attainment and what they need to do to improve, schools need to lead by example, continually self-evaluating and challenging themselves. We need to stop being defensive and insular and share the good we do with others, within our schools and across the MAT.
4.2 To that end, schools should have a robust review and development programme embedded which includes learning walks, book looks, pupil feedback, data analysis and curriculum maps.
4.3 All Heads of Departments should have a comprehensive understanding of the development needs of their department. They need to be thoroughly involved in review opportunities throughout the year and use these to plan effective development for their teams which is accurately reflected in their Department Development/ Action Plans. These plans should be up to date and departments should be RAG rated every half term to identify strengths and priority areas.
4.4 There should be a real open door culture where every department and teacher is open to feedback, actively seeks it out and is regularly engaged in high level pedagogical discussion. We all need to accept that we cannot be good at everything. If we know where the strengths and weaknesses are, we can match them up so teachers and departments can give and receive the help they need. This help can be shared within schools and across schools in the MAT.
4.5 This will only work if it is done well and in the right way. Coaching should be in place and used consistently to develop senior leaders, department heads and teachers at all stages on how to follow constructive feedback principles.
5. Working together
5.1 For effective self-evaluation and improvement to take place, everyone in the sector needs to work together. The government listening to the teaching profession, the teaching profession co-operating, and constructive crossparty collaboration. Most importantly, all remembering that schools are about children and young people; the driver at all times should be what is best for them. Government ministers, teachers, union leaders, governors and advisors, who are parents, would do well to take a step back and ask themselves: “Is this proposal - or my position on this proposal - good enough for my child?” If it is not, then it is not good enough for anyone’s child.
5.2 For this to happen, teaching unions cannot always take the position that whatever new suggestion is proposed, they have to oppose it. If we moan and complain about everything, then people stop listening. As a member of a teaching union, I do not want those representing me to see their raison d’etre as obstructing and blocking every change, apparently in my interest.
5.3 We have to have the same ‘can do’ attitude we try to cultivate in our pupils. Listen to proposals. See the benefits. Point out the weaknesses. Suggest ways of overcoming those weaknesses. Outline the time and resources that are needed. Come up with better solutions and proposals if necessary. Just moaning is draining and in no one’s best interest.
5.4 For the government’s part, they have to consult and listen. Properly listen. And show they have listened. Find outstanding practitioners at every level of the profession to run ideas and suggestions past and ask for ideas to make things better. Not just heads or union leaders or CEOs or think tanks, but outstanding teachers on the ground.
5.5 Let’s think outside the box, brainstorm ideas, plan, disagree, rip each other’s ideas apart, come up with proposals and have an unswerving commitment to getting it right for the next generation; to be world leaders in education again. Let’s stop being defensive, scoring points against each other, blocking, being dismissive and suspicious of change. Instead, let’s work together and remember that we are all on the same side and ultimately want the same thing.
6. What excellence looks like
6.1 We would change the way we judge and measure schools. Of course academic success is important. But we should also acknowledge the huge importance of attendance. If a school is a great place to be, students will want to go. Attendance is a key indicator of our provision.
6.2 As for measuring how successful schools are academically, instead of looking just at the grades their students leave with, why not look at university retention rates? How many pupils from each school stay on at university or drop out? This will prevent schools from spoon feeding students and encourage them to develop independent learners.
6.3 Schools should also be measured on their school music and drama productions, sporting triumphs, participation rates in sport and music, how healthy their young people are. All of these results should be published to give a full picture of every school.
6.4 The behaviour, attitude and manners of our young people should also be a huge factor in how we measure schools. This again could be assessed through the Enterprise Award, evidencing how students interact with other pupils and people from different social, economic and cultural backgrounds. This would encourage schools to be more ‘comprehensive’, sending out their pupils into the ‘real world’ more well-rounded and less socially ignorant and awkward.
Chapter 4: Built upon the Christian Faith
All our schools will be built upon the Christian Faith. But what do we mean by this?
The foundational principle of Christianity asserts, simply, that ‘God is.’ The triune God, revealed in His creation, the Bible, and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. He is, then, the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness that we know, see and experience in our world, and all wisdom ultimately comes from Him. Based on this assertion, our schools will cohere around the following four core convictions.
1. Human Dignity
Every child is a person made in God’s image and that means our schools will recognise each child’s inherent dignity, value and worth. Each child is unique and equal in significance to any other person, so they will be respected and not treated as inferior. Our goal will be to serve each child, regardless of background or ability, by creating the right conditions for their healthy development into adulthood.
2. Intellectual Formation
God’s world is a rich tapestry and it is a tragedy when children emerge from education devoid of intellectual interests. So our schools will seek to cultivate the child’s innate curiosity with a rich diet of ideas around the key areas: the knowledge of God; the knowledge of man (history, culture, languages, etc.) and the knowledge of the natural world (science).
3. Character Formation
If feeding the mind is the first educational objective, training the will is the second. Christianity understands the brokenness of human nature and so the need for discipline. People with good habits find the basic routines of life less burdensome because they have learned the art of self-management. Our schools will emphasise, for example, good study habits, concentration skills, and personal qualities like truthfulness, self-discipline and service of others. Christians also recognise, however, that perfect character is not something we can achieve, we know we need a Saviour who brings forgiveness. But in acknowledging this, we are also recognising the source of the forgiveness and grace that we want children to embody as a vital part of healthy character.
4. Spiritual Formation:
4.1 Humanity was created by God to be in relationship with Him and our schools will seek to help the children understand what this means, and how it is possible. This will be achieved through:
4.1.1 Regular school assemblies. Children will be expected to participate in corporate singing. In these assemblies, the Bible will be expounded and children will get to know its main stories and themes, in particular the claims of Jesus Christ. They will be exposed to the core beliefs of Christianity. The school chaplain at FBS has condensed this to seven core beliefs:
(a) #1 – The Bible is the Word of God
(b) #2 – God is Trinity
(c) #3 - God created the world
(d) #4 – Human beings have turned against God
(e) #5 – Jesus lived, died and rose again to save people
(f) #6 – Jesus will come back to judge and bring in the new creation
(g) #7 – Christians have a mission
4.1.2 Open discussion and debate, considering other religions, ideas or values, from a Christian perspective. One of the unique aspects of Christianity is that it welcomes intellectual challenge; understanding that truth does not fear debate. This will be done through RE lessons.
4.1.3 Christian Union. At FBS there are 9 Christian Unions. Some are called ‘Just Looking’ where young people can find out more and debate and question. Others are called ‘Diggin Deeper’ where they can learn more about what the Bible says. Boys from all religions as well as atheists attend the ‘Just Looking’ Christian Unions. They are a hotbed of debate and discussion. Our aim would be to establish these in all our schools.
4.1.4 An emphasis on the importance of service to others and finding practical ways to express this in school life.
4.2 As well as stating what we mean by schools built upon the Christian Faith, it is important to state what it does not mean. It does not mean:
4.2.1 Exclusion: No one will be excluded on grounds of faith; all our schools will be open to all. We are seeking to provide a service to the whole community because we believe all children will benefit from what we offer, whatever their religious convictions. Parents will, however, need to accept the Christian ethos as defined here.
4.2.2 Coercion: Due to our respect for human dignity, the approach at all our schools will never be ‘heavy-handed’. No child will be pressured to adopt the Christian faith. We believe children need to be given space to evaluate and appropriate life’s biggest ideas at their own pace.
4.3 In line with our Christian ethos, huge emphasis is placed on safeguarding and pastoral care at FBS and will be in all our schools. When Ofsted visited FBS, they commented, “There is agreement from pupils, parents and staff that the culture of safeguarding threads through all aspects of the school.” While the Head of Safeguarding at the Local Authority said:
“If there was ever a school whose ethos was embedded with students being happy, safe and well, The Fulham Boys School was a shining light in this element…if any colleagues from other schools ever wanted to see what a happy and safe school looked like, The Fulham Boys School would be first on my list of schools to send them to look at.”
4.4 Pupils are in school houses with a head of house and a form teacher looking after them. Form groups are vertical so that pupils interact with pupils of different ages; older pupils looking after younger ones (and keeping them in check!)
4.5 Staff wellbeing is also important. Staff should be happy, feel valued, listened to, looked after and treated well. At FBS (and again something we think is important in all our schools) a wellbeing group meet every half term. This is led by the school chaplain and is made up of a cross-section of staff. They feedback on what is going well and where the stress points are.
5. Think and Question
5.1 We encourage our pupils to think and question; that they are unafraid of being outspoken and are free to go against the crowd; to change society not simply be seduced by it. To have the courage of their convictions but at the same time to be kind and caring. The test of a tolerant society is surely one that means we can hold opposite views, say when we think others are wrong, be so convinced in what we believe that we can try to convince others to believe the same - but all the time respecting one another, being good neighbours, even good friends.
5.2 On the front page of The Times on Thursday 1st February 2018, Ofsted chief, Amanda Spielman, was quoted as saying that extremists are using schools to, “actively pervert the purpose of education; peddling their religious ideologies to narrow children’s horizons and cut them off from wider society. Parents and community leaders have opened schools, and used them as vehicles to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology.” Rightly, Ms Spielman was determined to tackle such people who actively undermine British values and she went on to say she was going to ‘face them down’. She called on school leaders to use ‘muscular liberalism’ to defend decisions they make, rather than fear causing offence.
5.3 I’m sure many would have read that article and thought ‘hear, hear’. I for one heartily agree that extremists who narrow children’s horizons, pervert education and peddle religious ideologies should be tackled and ‘faced down’. But I also have absolutely no time for ‘muscular liberalism’. It is a liberalism that is not liberal at all, but rather a perverted liberalism which forces people to think ‘liberally’. That is as educationally unsound as the worst extremist. This ‘muscular liberalism’ appears to be holding the megaphone on social media today. Far from encouraging young people to question and think about the world around us, how society is framed, the laws we pass and values we live by, ‘muscular liberalism’ dictates how we think.
5.4 On insisting on their own rights and freedoms, ‘Muscular liberals’ deny others theirs. Their liberalism prescribes that some things can no longer even be debated and discussed. People who hold views that are not liberal are labelled as dangerous extremists. But isn’t that wrong? I detest extremist ideology that makes young people adopt a view without question, to hate rather than consider, and leads them into violence, terrorism and murder. I think it should be ‘faced down’. But I also hate ‘muscular liberalism’ which tells us how we should think and live our lives. That too should be ‘faced down’, and it always will be in all schools that become part of our Trust.
5.5 We want our young men and women to question everything: Where we have come from, origins of the universe, abortion, euthanasia, views on sex, marriage, relationships; to have the right to be a boy or girl and be called one; to say that men and women are equal but different.
5.6 Muscular liberalism is neither liberal nor muscular. It pushes its agenda and forces us to all think the same. It is a bully, and like all bullies needs to be ‘faced down’.
5.7 As Ms Spielman pointed out in the same article (quoting Psalm 119), our duty as leaders is to ‘teach knowledge and good judgement’. Therefore, we should present young people with evidence; but all of it, not some of it, and none of it coloured by bias and prejudice. As Winston Churchill said, “True genius resides in the capacity for the evaluation of uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information.” We want to walk into science labs in all our schools and find pupils (and teachers) who question, challenge, explore, analyse and consider critically absolutely everything. Not just accept things because everyone else does. Including being anti-creation and pro evolution.
5.8 All of this means how we teach is as important as what we teach. In every subject the Christian views are presented alongside other world views and theories. We expose our boys to what Christians believe and encourage them to evaluate it, weigh it up. We do not force them to believe it. We have created a transparent environment that encourages thinking, questioning and scrutiny. We believe this is how to educate a mind. And certainly preferable to having society’s views and biases ‘taught’ unquestioningly, particularly if certain arguments and views are not even allowed to be put on the table.
5.9 All backgrounds and all faiths are welcomed, loved and respected at our schools. According to our Community Focus Group, “Muslim families are aware that FBS is firmly built upon the Christian faith but feel that everyone is welcome.” While Ofsted observed, “Christian values of the school are clear while at the same time everyone is welcome and included.”
5.10 The environment we have created encourages thinking, questioning and scrutiny, and is transparent with nothing to hide. Ofsted and the Department for Education are always welcome and can speak to whoever they would like, look at whatever they need, whenever they want. If what we are teaching children cannot be ‘inspected’ then we should not be teaching it. Jesus Christ taught openly (Mark 14.48, 49) and far from brainwashing people and forcing them to believe certain things, he asked over 150 questions in the New Testament, always encouraging people to question and think. He had nothing to hide and urged his followers not to teach secretly but openly. Ofsted commented, “Debate and discussion are encouraged which the pupils told inspectors they value very much.”
5.11 For us, this is what education is about. We get excited at the thought of our sixth forms becoming hot beds of discussion and debate; where young people thrash out big issues, disagree strongly, shake hands and laugh together later, while at the same time shape the thinking and attitude of our nation.
Chapter 5: The best of both worlds - state and private
FBS is an independent, government-funded school. Our aspiration remains (and one that will be the same for all our schools) to be among the very best schools in the country - state or private. But how can we realistically compete with the top private schools in the country? With all their money, history, tradition and resources?
1.1 The chances of reaching the top in law or politics or business is still very much greater if you went to an independent school. These schools, as well as succeeding with academic achievement, tend to be at an advantage in developing essential skills such as confidence, articulacy and team work which are vital to career success.
1.2 There is a huge amount to be learnt from the success of the traditional fee-paying independent schools in developing confidence, building aspiration and nurturing tomorrow’s leaders. And we have no shame in admitting we have drawn on the experience of the best of them. Our independence means we can choose to run longer school days, create a culture of enterprise and expectation and invest time and expertise in nurturing soft skills through a broad co-curricular programme: music, sport, drama, debating, art and all the other opportunities that go into developing the whole child, way beyond the classroom. This all requires exceptionally inspiring and dedicated staff. It means juggling budgets, term times and school hours to ensure a consistent focus on instilling those skills across the curriculum. But this does not mean fees.
2. Comprehensive in the best sense of the word
2.1 As a non fee-paying school, we are able to draw from a far wider cross-section of pupils than private schools. When it comes to preparing pupils for life, this gives FBS a huge advantage. FBS must rank as one of the most comprehensive schools in the country: 35% private school boys rubbing shoulders with 40% young men living in social deprivation; 15% black Caribbean, 13% Black African, 10% Asian. Our boys learn valuable lessons from mixing with each other, crossing socioeconomic divides, and learning from each other’s perspectives, rather than falling back on ‘groupthink’. No boy is allowed to use his upbringing or background as an excuse for not meeting our high standards, or as a barrier to achievement. Furthermore, how can you learn to be resilient, solve problems and make the best of things if everything is always served on a silver plate? FBS has been set up to provide for all Fulham boys, not for a particular type of Fulham boy.
2.2 I question whether students are going to be prepared for life by drawing on the groupthink of a restricted socio-economic cohort. Will tomorrow’s world need leaders who have learnt about the world from within a gilded cage, or will it need those who have developed a broader understanding by learning from and with a rather more diverse mix of backgrounds, cultures and beliefs?
3.1 It comes down to creating the right culture. A culture of high expectations and aspirations. As a free school meal boy who grew up in the Welsh valleys, I am very aware of all the untapped talent that is in this country; talent that will never cross the threshold of fee-paying schools regardless of bursaries and ‘needs blind’ admissions. Some of the most enterprising, creative and resilient people I ever met were at the top of the Rhondda Valley and on the back streets of Ebbw Vale! I will never accept that the brightest minds, sharpest intellects, greatest leaders, statesmen, orators and captains of industry in this country just happen to all be from the upper classes. Up until now, they may have had the best opportunities and gone to the best schools. It is now the great chance and responsibility of The Fulham Boys School, and every other school that joins our MAT, to take the talent that is going to waste in this country, nurture it in an environment of high expectations and expose it to outstanding teaching. It is all about creating the right culture. A culture that when Ofsted visited FBS, they described as ‘incredible’, and one that we would want to see and feel in all our schools.
3.2 Getting rid of private schools would be a denial of people’s freedom. But we do want it to be seen as crazy for someone to spend £250,000 on school fees when they could go to a ‘top’ school for free.
3.3 A few years ago I read a great book called ‘Fire in Bablyon.’ It is about the great West Indian cricket teams that boasted players like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michale Holding, Gordon Grenidge, Desmond Haynes and Jeffrey Dujon. There is a fantastic anecdote in the book about a West Indian bus driver in the West Midlands telling his son about the first time the West Indies beat England in a Test match. He says, “The first time we beat them wasn’t the big thing. It was Lord’s son – going into their own backyard and taking their chickens out of the coop and frying them on the front lawn. For me son, the empire collapsed right there. Not Churchill or Wellington could bring it back. Shackles were gone and we were free at last because the chickens were out of the coop.”
3.4 Our vision is to go into the established order’s backyard over the next few years and take those chickens out of the coop and fry them on the front lawn.
Chapter 6: All in it together
Running through every school in our MAT will be the three pillars upon which the Trust is built:
(1) The Christian Faith
(2) Nurturing Enterprise
(3) Bringing out the best in boys and girls
Even so, not all schools in the Trust will look the same. We want to see each school embrace our ethos and implement it in a way that suits the needs of their local area.
1. Local Governors
There is no one size fits all. We are convinced that each individual school within our MAT should be grounded in its community. You cannot take a cookie-cutter approach, that is, pick up a school in Fulham, drop it in Darlington and expect it to work just as well. You need outstanding local governors with a love of their community, who understand local nuances, to take the tried and tested ‘product’ and adapt it to the needs of that community. Our MAT needs skilled local people to be an outstanding governing body, with a passion for the area the school serves, who understand the particular strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of that community and to dress the Trust’s vision, ethos, standards and provision in local clothes.
2. The Trust
The Trust’s role will be to provide educational support to each school by providing educational and non-educational services and holding the schools to account. It is important the Trust is totally transparent in how it does so: both locally – to its school communities; and nationally – to central government. Different schools will require greater or lesser levels of input and intervention. The important thing is that we do not want any of our schools to be frustrated and hampered by slow moving bureaucracy, red tape and ‘process’. Let’s get rid of inefficiency and averageness. We want to take the ‘noise’ away from our schools so they can focus on teaching and learning and providing opportunities and support that will change the lives of the young people, their families and the communities they serve.
Our teaching staff are hardworking, love children and have high expectations of themselves and each other. Nothing but outstanding will do. However, 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 we want to create across the MAT is a hard working culture, but hard work that is worth it and which will enable us to become something really special.
4. Support Staff
Support Staff play a vital role in ensuring administration is smooth, facilities are all in place, photocopying is all done, the internet works, communication is clear, the website is up to date and informative. Everything just works.
5.1 As for parents, they need to know, engage and challenge.
5.2 They should know what is going on in school each week and how their son or daughter is performing. What is their behaviour like? What is their attendance and punctuality like? How are they performing academically? Are they completing homework? Parents need to understand their child’s report and how they can support academic progress. Attendance at all parent consultations should be consistently 95%+ and at these meetings staff should use data to hold purposeful conversations with parents. The school should create a curriculum and booklet to support parents in understanding what their son or daughter is studying in every subject and how they will be assessed. Parents should know their child’s target in each subject and the progress they are making against that target.
5.3 Parents need to be fully engaged in the life of the school. That means attend school events. Some parents can give time - help out at lunchtimes, do some administration, listen to readers. Others can give us their skills and talents, for example by running a co-curricular club. Others have contacts that they can ask (for example, famous or inspirational people) to come in and talk to our pupils. Parents can provide work experience opportunities. And those who are able to, can make financial contributions. It does not matter how our parents get involved, they just have to be involved. All the research shows that the more parents are involved in the education of their child, the better their child will do. At FBS, we have an FBS Foundation and FBS Friends. We would be keen to roll this out across all schools in our MAT. The Foundation is the charitable arm of the school into which parents contribute money, usually by monthly direct debit but also by one-off donations. FBS Friends is the Parent Association. The Friends organise events and ensure all parents know what is going on via form/year group representatives.
5.4 And parents should challenge us. Keep us on our toes. I hold a headmaster’s coffee morning every half term. Parents come in and tell me all the things that are wrong with the school and what I should do to fix it. We do not always agree but I love it because it shows they care. They do it constructively, remembering all the time it is all our school. In all our schools, the aim is to have 98% supportive parents and 60% properly engaged.
5.5 But it is not just in direct connection with school but what happens outside of school, within the family environment, where parents have an important role to play. The main responsibility is with the parents. They are the ones God holds responsible. On twenty six occasions, the book of Proverbs calls fathers to instruct their children and on thirteen occasions it calls mothers to do the same task. As a MAT we want to help parents and families who need support in bringing up their children. There are two important areas where some families need help today.
5.6 Firstly, in monitoring what their children are doing, particularly their screen times and gaming. Too much time spent on social media and gaming is damaging to a young person’s character and wellbeing. The unreal world that many young people escape into for hours and hours every day is so much easier than the real world. Gaming is a world where they are in charge; they are in control and winning and success are much easier than real life. When things in the game get tough or they lose or get ‘bombed’, they just switch it off and start again. Young people would far rather spend time in this world than in a world where they have to work hard, sort out problems, put things right, face up to things; a world where they cannot run away or switch off when things go wrong; a world where they are not in charge but have to listen and follow instructions. The gaming world seems so much better than the real one. The more time they spend in it, the harder and harder the real world becomes. Whereas on social media, people just post things which make their life seem idyllic, and compared to that, their lives seem dull and boring. Young people’s self-worth takes a nosedive. So parents have an important job if they are going to encourage their children to stop playing on their computers and games consoles, and spend less time on their phones and social media. They need to offer something better - real games and real life adventure. Simply stopping, or limiting, time for screens will create a void, and if it is not filled, they will just want to go back to their screens which will inevitably create tensions. We need to get young people to see that, even though it can be tough, the ‘real world’ is so much more exciting, healthy, rewarding and fulfilling than the ‘pretend.’
5.7 Secondly, parents need to play an important part in being positive role models. When I was growing up, my three heroes were my dad, my uncle and my grandpa. Between them, they were hard working, unselfish, kind, could tell good stories, laughed a lot, enjoyed sport and were strict. They treated everyone the same and liked people for who they were, not what they did. My dad always made sure my mum, my sisters and I were okay before he looked to himself. Having ‘stuff’ was not important but people, family, friends and a house full of laughter was. These were the qualities I thought were ‘manly’ - and when I was older I wanted to be just like these ‘manly’ men. It is important for all young people to have role models in their life that they can look up to and from whom they can learn their values. Otherwise, there is a danger they will find role models who leave them thinking that laziness, not caring, just looking after number one, going for the easy option, having no respect for authority, treating others however you feel (but all the while somehow getting rich) is what being successful is all about. Positive parental role models are vital, so we all need to step up to the challenge.
Pupils need to fully buy into the vision and ethos. Of course, they are going to have their ‘moments’. But they have to have the right attitude and care. We have created a culture at FBS where our boys have high aspirations and know that nothing other than their best is good enough. It is a culture where poor behaviour 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.
7. Wider Community
It is vital that schools are at the heart of their communities. Our pupils go into the community and the community comes in and supports the school. We have created a Digital Magazine explaining what the school does and ways the community can be involved and support us.
Chapter 7: Teaching and Learning at its heart
1. Teaching and Learning
1.1 Teaching and learning needs to be at the heart of every school. This is why we are keen that one of the benefits of joining our MAT means that schools do not have to worry about things that get in the way and take up a lot of time and can instead focus on teaching and learning.
1.2 The focus has to be on finding and developing outstanding teachers and - where they are lacking – schools (with the support of the MAT) should be allowed to spot talent and train teachers themselves with the responsibility of ensuring they meet the highest standards. This is best illustrated with the dearth of good/outstanding Maths, Science and Computing teachers. Schools should be able to go to industry and business to find them, make the profession attractive to them and then train them up.
1.3 And to attract and retain the best practitioners, schools will need more funding. Given the public purse will only stretch so far, we would look at ways of encouraging local communities, parents and businesses to ‘buy in’ as stakeholders. It would make schools more accountable. And schools that produce outstanding pupils will benefit businesses, the community, industries, professions and the country as a whole.
1.4 The teachers we need are those who have excellent subject knowledge and can impart it in an interesting way; with the ability to bring a subject to life, to make young people think and question. Teachers who can create independent learners who know what they need to do to improve and can help those around them do the same. Teachers should teach around their subject as well as teach to it, highlighting the social context, demonstrating the ‘real world’ issues, ideas, functional skills and thinking that stems from the curriculum content. The challenge is to motivate every pupil to consider themselves a linguist, a mathematician, a scientist, a historian, an artist, inspiring all pupils to discover their strengths. According to Winston Churchill, “Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn.”
1.5 And for all pupils to succeed, teachers must teach to the top and then scaffold the learning for the rest of the class; teachers need to ask in every lesson: ‘Is the cleverest pupil in front of me being really challenged and stretched?’
1.6 To ensure that the quality of teaching and learning is consistently good or better for all pupils, schools need to set clear teaching and learning expectations and all teachers need to know and understand these.
2. Standards. Standards. Standards.
2.1 We believe that young people need to have the highest standards of attendance and punctuality, uniform and appearance and behaviour and attitude. At FBS, we have an unswerving commitment to strict discipline and firm boundaries. When Ofsted visited the school, they reported that:
“Behaviour in lessons is exemplary.”
“The behaviour of pupils is outstanding.”
“Boys live and breathe good manners and courtesy.”
2.2 We would insist on the same high standards across all our schools.
2.3 We constantly remind our pupils about the importance of standards. Standards, standards, standards! Knowing how to behave appropriately in different settings – assembly, lessons, on the sports field, to and from school, in the dining room, in the library, walking through corridors, relaxing or letting off steam at break and lunch.
2.4 Attitude is everything. Upright posture, firm hand shake, eye contact, good manners and impeccable uniform and appearance; this is what makes the FBS culture tick and however much pressure we come under to change and relax things, we stand firm. We have a strict uniform policy which some people think is too pernickety. But ask British businesses, law firms and banks what they think. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37244180
2.5 The expectation at all our schools is that these standards are reinforced in five ways:
2.5.1 Firmly. Schools should insist upon the highest standards of uniform, attendance, punctuality, manners and conduct and take a no-nonsense approach to bullying and all other forms of anti-social behaviour.
2.5.2 Consistently. Schools have to uphold these standards: lesson in lesson out, day in day out, week in week out; ensuring that nothing gets missed or is allowed to slip.
2.5.3 Proactively. All schools should appoint a team of staff who are committed to the safety and happiness of their pupils and will show this commitment by being there for them at break and lunchtimes; as they arrive at school in the mornings and by ensuring they go home safely at the end of the school day.
2.5.4 Pastorally. Schools need to understand that growing up in today’s world is not always easy and our pupils, some in particular, face real pressures and difficulties. We must get to know them: over lunch every day, in clubs, in lessons, on school trips; building their confidence and creating an environment where they feel able to share their worries and concerns and trust us to help them sort them out. Furthermore, by getting to know our pupils, we will pick up on issues and sense when things just are not right.
2.5.5 Positively. Our pupils will observe and be taught Christian values: kindness, fairness, honesty, unselfishness, self-control and being a good neighbour. Our hope is that our pupils will adopt these values and model them in their own lives.
2.6 These standards and expectations should not only be for pupils in primary school and in KS3 and KS4, but extend to sixth formers too. If at all possible, all secondary schools should have Sixth Forms. They are the bridge between school and being a boy/girl, and university or the world of work and being a man/woman.
2.7 There is a huge jump from Year 11, with every period accounted for, to Sixth Form where more work is done outside lessons than in class. We think it is right to help young people bridge this transition rather than leaving them to make the leap. In FBS’s Sixth Form, some ‘free’ periods are periods where they can relax and have a cup of tea; other free periods are guided study periods. We are not out to spoil their fun or suffocate them but they need help and guidance to make the transition. Our pastoral care is integral to this: all our sixth formers are known, looked after, helped and given increased freedom and responsibility to make the transition from school to university and beyond.
2.8 Sixth Forms should have the same ethos as the rest of the school, only in a more grown-up guise. Our three pillars run strongly through our Sixth Forms. As with the rest of the school, we insist on high standards in attendance, punctuality, behaviour and uniform and appearance. At FBS, the Sixth Form uniform is a suit, from the school stockists. Why not their own suit? Because the strength of FBS is that we draw boys from all backgrounds. Some of the richest and some of the poorest. Wearing their Sixth Form suit, you have no idea who is who because they all look immaculate.
2.9 Sixth Formers are needed in schools to be role models and active student leaders at the heart of the school - leading some clubs, as lead guardians, as head boy and girl and deputy head boys and girls, as volunteer teaching assistants in curriculum areas once a week, having lunch with the rest of the school a couple of times a week and motivating and leading their school houses.
3. Inspirational Leadership
3.1 To achieve this vision, there must be strong leadership. Leaders who:
3.1.1 Believe in the vision;
3.1.2 Are able to inspire others about the vision;
3.1.3 Have a clear plan in place to accomplish the vision;
3.1.4 Can put the right people in the right places to make it happen;
3.1.5 Secure the resources that are required;
3.1.6 Watch closely (monitor, self-evaluate);
3.1.7 Listen carefully (welcome ideas, suggestions, feedback and advice);
3.1.8 Take necessary action (hold to account, make changes and strengthen).
3.2 At times leaders must take unpopular decisions, should expect people to complain about them and then know how to overcome the complaints.
3.3 Leaders need to be decisive and know how and when to take control. According to Tony Blair, “Leadership without delegation is usually a mess…But when in crisis time, forget delegation. That’s the moment you’re there for: grip it, shape it, decide it and solve it.”
4. Developing and Strengthening
4.1 Far and away the biggest reason for becoming a Multi-Academy Trust, along with the rest of the vision, is because we believe so strongly in our brand of education and want to extend its reach. However, it also provides exciting professional development opportunities. We have outstanding teachers, leaders and support staff whose expertise is crying out to be shared more widely. Putting our vision into action means that we have the means to extend the influence of the most successful leaders and middle leaders. We would have greater capacity to retain them by promoting them within. We would have the opportunity for the best teachers to lead on their subject across many other schools, influencing hundreds of teachers and inspiring thousands of pupils – all the while reducing workloads by sharing resources.
4.2 The best leaders create leaders so that nothing is dependent on particular people doing particular things. Achieving the vision is what is important. It is not about individuals. The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team have a saying: You don’t own the jersey. You’re just the body in the jersey at the time. It is your job to leave the jersey in a better place. The All Blacks team plays for the players that have played in the jersey before and for All Blacks yet to be born.
4.3 To this end, it is important we provide training for senior and middle leaders. Too many people are promoted too quickly, particularly in London and new schools. We need to provide training and coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders on how to be an effective leader.
5. Help and Support
5.1 Our aim is to have half-termly meetings with our Headteachers so they can share where they are feeling the pressure or struggling to meet demands; discuss the curriculum and co-curriculum; the challenges related to teaching and learning such as progress or attainment for groups of pupils with certain characteristics; development planning and self-evaluation; Christian ethos and enterprise; and the quality of the services from the MAT their schools are receiving. We can then work together to identify what the best solutions or support structures would look like to overcome challenges and achieve the best possible outcomes.
5.2 As well as the Trust leaders meeting with Headteachers individually, it is important that Headteachers meet together to help and support each other.
6. Taking the noise away
6.1 An important part of the Trust’s leadership is to provide security for schools and take the ‘noise’ away so that the Headteachers, senior leaders and staff can focus on their core business. To achieve this, the Trust will provide schools with central services:
6.1.1 Non Educational Services
(a) Finance and Procurement
(f) Policies and Risk Assessments
(g) PR, Marketing and Communication
6.1.2 Educational Services:
(a) Development Planning
(c) Staff Handbook
(d) Curriculum Mapping
(e) Programmes of Study
(f) Teaching and Learning
(h) Christian Ethos
6.2 We will work closely with schools to understand what their needs are in each of these areas and then provide the relevant services.
7. Value for money
7.1 We also believe it is important that the Trust and all the schools within the Trust are efficient. We need to have strong long-term strategic and business planning processes in place which identifies future challenges and how we are going to address them.
7.2 It is important to invest in our central services to allow us to support schools more effectively. Investing in the future is important so that as more schools are added to the MAT, there are no greater costs to individual schools. In planning for this investment, it is important to consider and calculate:
7.2.1 Salaries for additional members of staff;
7.2.2 Costs of resources to support existing members of staff to expand their roles;
7.2.3 Costs associated with taking senior leaders out of school to work across the Trust;
7.2.4 Costs to address additional training and professional development needs.
7.3 Transparency is vital. We need to communicate clearly to all our schools the value of the investment. We do not want our schools to feel like they are buying services off us but rather making contributions. When everyone feels like they are sharing the same resources, part of the same vision, with the same goals in mind, a culture of collaboration develops and there is less push-back at the idea of contributing to a central fund.
8. Be part of the Vision
8.1 If you believe and buy into our vision, please get in touch:
8.1.1 Governors and school leaders about joining our MAT;
8.1.2 Teachers and Support Staff about coming to work at one of our schools;
8.1.3 Schools and teachers about how you can access our services;
8.1.4 Young people about training to be teachers;
8.1.5 Churches to explore if there is a need and demand to set up a school in your area or that you know of schools who would benefit from joining our MAT;
8.1.6 Missionaries who know of schools in countries that would benefit from our help;
8.1.7 Businesses and individuals about supporting us financially and providing opportunities for our pupils;
8.1.8 Community leaders about opportunities for our pupils to engage in social enterprise and serve their local areas;
8.1.9 Clubs, companies, organisations and individuals about ways you could help with our co-curricular provision; and
8.1.10 Parents about how you can get more involved.
8.2 What we are trying to achieve may seem impossible. But as Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China once, said:
“At first it seems impossible. Then it’s difficult. Then it’s done.”