There has been some completely unfair attacks on Fulham Boys School in the media. The allegation of racism due to a boy not being allowed to attend with dreadlocks is quite outrageous.
The charge that the strict rule on hair length amounts to religious discrimination is also pretty dubious. Courtney Hamilton on Spiked writes:
“The Rastafarian author Barbara Blake Hannah argues that Rastafarians are essentially Christian – they read and quote from the Bible. And what does the custom of wearing dreadlocks have to do with Biblical tradition? Absolutely nothing, according to the Grenadian humanist Seon M Lewis, author of From Mythology to Reality: Moving Beyond Rastafari.”
The school makes the rules very clear. The rules apply to everyone. Parents who wish their children to be taught at a school with different rules should not choose Fulham Boys School.
The school’s headmaster Alun Ebenezer says:
At the start of our fourth school year I’d like to use my blog to reaffirm why we are doing what we are doing – and who we are doing it for.
Why we do what we do
Our pledge, and unflinching resolve, is to be one of the best schools in this country state or private in the next ten years.
To achieve this and pull off the seeming impossible, we have created and constantly reinforce a very distinctive ethos. It is an ethos that is built upon the Christian faith, nurtures enterprise and is geared towards boys. Our ethos and culture is made clear in all our policies and on our website. Furthermore, whenever I speak in public about the school on open days, open evenings or at transition events I make it clear what our school ethos is and refer to our firm discipline and strict rules on uniform and appearance at all times. We constantly remind our boys 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. Ensuring their uniform is always immaculate and strict rules about hair.
Our policy on uniform and appearance isn’t driven by our Christian ethos. To be a Christian you don’t need to have your hair a particular length or style, neither do you need to wear a blazer, an upper or lower school tie. We have a strict uniform policy because we maintain boys need strict discipline and firm boundaries. Too pernickety? Too strict? Ask British businesses, law firms and banks what they think. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37244180?scrlybrkr=5c7c1b5b#
Do these policies and firm boundaries somehow constrain boys’ development, creativity or expression? We think the opposite. Not only are our boys well behaved, they are also well rounded and happy – as is reflected in our Ofsted report. And as the Tri Borough safeguarding lead officer said after her visit to FBS, ‘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’.
When I take stock of what all our boys have achieved in the first three years – the sporting trophies, their performances on stage and outstanding work in the classroom – I believe that we are on course to achieve our ambitions aim to be one of the very best. And what I think really sets us apart is that the behaviour and attitude of our boys is exceptional. They are maturing and becoming self-disciplined young men – as Ofsted put it our ‘Boys live and breathe good manners and courtesy’.
Who we are doing it for
But who is all this for? All Fulham Boys.
FBS has a complete cross section of boys. As a non-fee paying school, we are able to draw in a far more diverse demographic than private schools. When it comes to preparing boys for life, this gives FBS boys a huge advantage. Fulham has a vibrant mix of cultures and some of the most expensive housing in London alongside pockets of significant deprivation. Our boys learn valuable lessons from mixing with each other, crossing socio-economic divides, and learning from each other’s perspectives rather than falling back on ‘group think’. 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.
Our demographic proves this. 7% of our boys have Special Educational Needs and the support we give these young men was praised by Ofsted. 22% of our boys have Free School Meals, 43% are Pupil Premium. 15% of our boys come from private primary schools. 18% have English as an additional language (EAL). 7% of our boys are Asian, 10% are Black African, 13% are Black Caribbean, 1% Moroccan, 47% White British, 3% White Eastern European, 7% White Western European, 5% Other mixed background, 1% other ethnic group and 6% White other. These are Fulham boys.
Everyone is welcome. As Ofsted commented ‘Christian values of the school are clear while at the same time everyone is welcome and included’ . FBS opened four years ago to provide for all Fulham boys, not for a particular type of Fulham boy.
For those that choose to come, we ask them to embrace our ethos and understand that our school rules are geared to support this. As with most rules, there are exceptions; the rules allow for these. And if our rules are tested, and found lacking, we do what we teach our boys to do – to reflect, understand and learn. Ofsted referred to our ethos as ‘incredible’. It drives what we do, and who we do it for.