It’s been quite a half term.
We are expecting Ofsted to visit anytime and just before we broke up for the Christmas holiday we were told that our move to our permanent home on the Fulham Road had been delayed. At the end of another million miles an hour term, this was quite a kick in the guts for tired staff, parents, boys and governors.
We could have reacted in a number of ways. We could have sulked and felt sorry for ourselves, complained about how site has blighted us from the get go and said ‘not again’. We could have stamped our feet, thrown our toys out of the pram, signed petitions, played on people’s emotions. We could have just accepted what we were told, said that lots of free schools have issues with site, changed our vision, lowered our sights, admitted it is harder than we thought and resigned ourselves to making do. Or, we do what we have done – the FBS way.
That meant staying committed to our vision of being among the best school in this country in the next ten years – state or private – with a non-selective intake. That was the driving force. We couldn’t let our boys, parents, staff, community and even the country down by changing our plan. Whatever else happened this had to remain the focus.
We then laid out the problem: we cannot deliver our education plan to achieve our vision if we remain on the current temporary site until January 2019. We haven’t got the facilities to deliver GCSE Music, PE, Computing, Product Design and Drama. Our ethos is everything and not having a hall big enough for the school to meet isn’t helpful to enforcing and reinforcing it. And it matters not having a dining room big enough for different year groups to sit down, together, and with staff to eat a good hearty meal . We want our boys to look back in 10 years time and remember with fondness conversation and laughs they had over good food at FBS. Space is important – our boys need to run around and let off steam at lunchtimes and we need sufficient areas to do the 96 co-curricular clubs on offer. And of course, a school which puts such great emphasis on reading and literacy needs a library built for boys.
As we tell our boys when we are confronted with a problem, we have to find a way to solve it. Solving this particular problem also required using other enterprise skills and characteristics we try to develop in our boys: team work, boundary pushing, risk taking, resilience and a can do, never know when you’re beaten attitude.
So how is such a problem solved? By having a clear strategy and plan of action. On the one hand we are continuing to work closely with the contractors and EFA to look creatively at building the permanent site as quickly as possible, challenging timelines and finding ways of cutting red tape and not being held back by process and bureaucracy. On the other hand we are making our temporary site everything we need it to be so that our boys can continue to make outstanding progress in the classroom, on the sports field and the stage.
We asked everybody to play their part. Parents were to lobby their MPs. Teachers were just to continue to teach outstanding lessons, ensure outstanding progress, maintain high standards, provide exciting co-curricular opportunities and make sure boys are happy and safe. Boys were to come to school every day, dressed immaculately, get stuck into every aspect of school life, be self-disciplined young men, well mannered, hard-working and kind. Governors worked to find a way of extending our site, to include all the classrooms we need, the music and drama facilities, an Art studio, technology room, a large sports hall and an assembly hall where the whole school can gather. And space to build a library as one of the focal points of the school, underlining to our young men the importance of reading and that ‘real men read’. All of it really is as brilliant as it sounds! Politicians and officials listened. They heard our case that this was the best and only solution for FBS.
Everyone was required to be dignified, hold their nerve, and stand for the cause with reason and sense. Which everyone did.
So what does all this mean and prove? It means that from September boys joining us in Year 7 are coming to a school with all the facilities needed to be outstanding and beyond. It means that everything is in place for our first ever Fulham boys to make the best start to their GCSEs. But maybe more importantly, it proves that we really are what we say we are. Resilient, problem solvers, , calm under pressure and with a flint like determination to be the best, whatever it takes. It’s in the FBS DNA.