Proud to be comprehensive
(Guest blog from Meriel Stinson, Parent, one of the school’ founders and Vice Chair of Governors)
Back in 2011 the Department for Education rejected an early blueprint for FBS; apparently it read as a proposal for a ‘comp’. The next bid determinedly distanced itself from the word. ‘Comprehensive’ wasn’t mentioned once. It’s never featured since in any promotional material for the school. Which makes it all the more ironic that it’s a comprehensive education we’re bending over backwards to deliver.
What’s wrong with the word? Pressure for new grammar schools and continued demand for (ever more expensive) private education suggests ‘selective’ still has distinct appeal; maybe because many commentators still use it as shorthand for aspiration, which in turn is taken as guaranteeing a child’s route to success. The FBS view is rather different. We hope it goes without saying that aspiration is integral to school culture. But rather than putting limits on possibilities through selection, we’ve set out to provide a spring board for every sort of ambition through a thoroughly comprehensive education.
A comprehensive education is more than delivering a broad and balanced curriculum. It also goes beyond a wide-ranging co-curricular programme and across the board outstanding teaching. All this matters, of course, hugely. But being comprehensive in outlook means establishing an inclusive ethos, driven by possibility, so students learn from each other, as well as alongside each other, and emerge thoroughly equipped for modern life.
A comprehensive education means learning that there are different perspectives, that it’s valid to question them and to challenge established norms, provided it is done so respectfully; it means learning that for all the diversity of opinion, background and belief there may be in a classroom, there’s more shared in common by 24 boys than there is dividing them; it means learning that boundaries and ‘standards’ are there to allow all boys the freedom to develop critical life skills, and build the resilience and emotional intelligence to allow them to flourish.
A comprehensive education means not selecting the cream of the crop or spoon feeding students to get outstanding exam results, but developing the passion and interest in all students to want to learn and keep learning. It means exploring wider interests, sharing enthusiasms – however geekish they may be – and building confidence; appreciating skills developed in one field may brush off in another, however improbable that may seem at the time; it means understanding the joy in finding an activity to keep active at when it’s no longer programmed into the day.
A comprehensive education means learning ‘British values’ as part of everyday school life; understanding what being part of a community involves. It means learning the rewards of social enterprise as well as the benefits of personal enterprise.
In short, a comprehensive education is a complete education, a ‘whole education’.
At FBS, we think it should be the hallmark for all round excellence in secondary education. Something to be proud of.