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.