Fulham Boys School hits back after unfair racist slur

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.

Exam success for local schools

Plenty for local schools to celebrate from this year’s exam results.

To give just a few examples.

75 per cent of Hammersmith Academy pupils achieved five GCSEs at A*-C equivalent, 65 per cent achieved five A*-C including English and Maths. Across all students there were 100 A*s or equivalent (compared to last year’s 50) and 166 A grades.

The school also achieved it’s best ever A-level grades.  Over 80 per cent of its pupils are going on to university.

At the West London Free School there were also excellent results – 80 per cent  of pupils achieved a 4 or above in English and Mathematics (equivalent to a C or above).

Toby Young, the WLFS founder points out that 38.5 per cent of pupils at the school are eligible for Pupil Premium – well above the national average of 29.3 per cent.

Latymer Upper School achieved its best ever A* results at A Level – 34 per cent. Furthermore 100 per cent of pupils achieved A*-C in all GCSEs taken.

Warm congratulations to all concerned.

Stephen Greenhalgh: The remarkable Hurlingham Academy turnaround

Stephen Greenhalgh is Chairman of Governors at the Hurlingham Academy and a former Hammersmith & Fulham council leader‎.

London is an engine of opportunity but there has been a disturbing decline in social mobility in recent years. Someone born into the poorest quarter of society 50 years ago had a greater chance of working their way up to a higher economic group than a young person today. The people at the bottom of our society are being left further and further behind.

It is London ‘s schools that drive social mobility in the capital and provide the key to tackling a poverty of aspiration.

Last week two students had particular cause for celebration given that they had only been in this country for less than a year:

Sunday Eguaroje achieved a grade 9 in maths and eight As. Sunday started at the Hurlingham Academy in October 2016 after arriving from Nigeria.

Maria Pahat achieved a grade 9 in english literature five A*and one A and 2 sevens. Maria started at the school in September 2016 after arriving from Romania‎.

This year 72% of the Hurlingham students achieved five or more 4-9 GCSE grades including english and maths – up from 63% in 2016. This is well above the national average and is the second year of record GCSE results at the school.

‎This school has had a turbulent history. It was described as a “failing school” in the pilot Ofsted inspections in 1994, which prompted discussions of closure. Provision was then judged ‘good’ by Ofsted in 1997 and the school was highlighted for its improvement in HMCI’s 1999 Annual Report.

However, the school was designated as a “school facing challenging circumstances” in 2003 because results were consistently below the government floor targets. In March 2004 the school was placed under special measures. In November 2005 the school emerged from special measures.

Back in 2006 when we formed the first majority Conservative administration on Hammersmith & Fulham Council since 1968, we were eager to make an immediate impact. We tried to close the school in the teeth of opposition from all our community schools. This was a mistake and we stopped the closure process. In January 2008, the school was highlighted as the most improved school in London (for the proportion of students achieving at least 5 A*-C grades at GCSE) and in July 2011 was judged to be ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

I joined the governing body in June 2012 thinking that I was joining a school that had been finally “turned around”‎.

It was yet another false dawn. That year the school’s GCSE results nosedived. In October 2013, the school was once again inspected by Ofsted receiving an overall “inadequate” rating and I became Chair of the Interim Executive Board when the governing body was disbanded.‎ On 1 January 2015 the school changed from a council-run school to an Academy as part of United Learning and I have continued as chair of the local governing body.‎‎

My long involvement with the school both as council leader and as chairman of governors has given me a certain perspective. I am convinced that this turnaround is finally for real – a‎nd that the single biggest factor has been the leadership.

Schools like the Hurlingham Academy need great heads. I pay tribute to the inspiring leadership of our head, Leon Wilson. Leon has thrived with the support of his former boss, Dame Sally Coates, now a director at United Learning. It was Dame Sally who famously turned around Burlington Danes Academy in White City.‎

My message is simple: We need great leaders in these tough state schools and they need to be supported by professionals who know what they are talking about from their own experience.‎

No school will have its budget cut as a result of the new fair funding formula

There has been considerable concern in Hammersmith and Fulham that the move towards fairer school funding would mean local schools facing budget cuts.

The Conservative Manifesto has made clear this will not be the case:

“The way funding is distributed to schools in England is not fair. Across the country, children with the same needs and expectations receive markedly different rates of funding for their school place. We have begun to correct this and in the next parliament we will make funding fairer still. We appreciate that it is hard for schools receiving a higher level of funding to make cuts in order to pay for increases elsewhere, so while we will make funding fairer over the course of the parliament, we will make sure that no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula. We will increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion by 2022, representing more than a real terms increase for every year of the parliament. We will continue to protect the Pupil Premium to support those who need it.”

Good news!

Weekly car boot sale in support of Melcombe Primary School

A guest post from Tom Martin.

A group of local parents, led by Shazeen Ahmed, are organising a weekly car boot sale on Sunday mornings at Melcombe Primary School in Fulham Palace Road.

The events will raise money for a good cause, with the entry fees from both sellers and buyers going directly to the school. More information is available here.

Please share and help spread the word. Hope to see you there!

N.B. There will be no car boot sale on Sunday 7th May and any other Sunday when Fulham FC are playing at Craven Cottage).

Hammersmith students reach for the stars

Hammersmith Academy school children are taking part in a scientific initiative designed by Noosphere – the philanthropic foundation founded by Russian philanthropist Yelena Baturina, in association with the Mayor’s Fund for London’s Discovery in a Week initiative.

Also supported by the Yelena Baturina’s BE Open Foundation, the initiative’s aim is introduce young people from across London to the fascinating world of astronomy. The Discovery in a Week projects bring together PHD astronomy students from the UCL’s Physics and Astronomy department to mentor secondary school pupils. London children will join those from Moscow and professional astronomers to discuss and exchange thoughts and ideas during weekly Skype conferences.

Currently children from six London schools – Hammersmith, Forest Gate Community School, Sanders, Mount Carmel, Lister Community College, UCL Academy – are not only enhancing their theoretical knowledge, but also making real astronomic discoveries by analysing pictures produced by a powerful telescope in Australia. By the end of the year 20 London schools will be taking part.

Discovery in a Week is a project that not just introduces young people to the fascinating world of astronomy, but by producing real scientific results gives them a rewarding educational experience that broadens their intellectual horizons, while fostering a keen interest in scientific research to last for years to come.

The stars discovered by children will be recorded in the International Variable Star Index, while the coordinates of the asteroids detected will be sent to the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. During the pilot launch of the programme only, the students at Hammersmith and UCL Academies identified 9 new variable stars in the Centaurus and Libra constellations. All the stars discovered are now officially named after their young discoverers.

The aim of Discovery in a Week is to continue to extend the scope of this initiative to a broader range of schools over the next few years, as well as create an international network of enthusiastic young observers and researchers by encouraging children from different countries to exchange their astronomical experience and ideas during regular conferences.

Yelena Baturina, Founder of Noosphere said:

“We are very excited that more and more schools join the ‘Discovery in a Week’ project. Over 10 years, we have implemented a variety of projects aimed at bringing people together, improving understanding and promoting freedom of thought. And we hope that looking at the sky will encourage younger generations to think globally, approach the world with an informed, open and universal perspective”.

The programme was made possible thanks to the Russian philanthropic foundation Noosphere in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for London, and with support from the BE OPEN foundation. Since 2008, Noosphere has conducted its educational projects across schools in India, Israel, Bulgaria, Romania and Austria.

Victory! H&F Council introduces automatic registration for free school meals

A year ago I wrote about the problem of children eligible for free school meals but who haven’t registered for them. This means  these children risk going without a decent meal each day and also that their school misses out on up to £1,320 each year in Pupil Premium funding to support their education. A report chaired by the Labour MP Frank Field noted that councils could use their Housing Benefit records to provide automatic registration.

I wrote urging Hammersmith and Fulham Council to do this. Cllr Caroline ffiske pursued the matter via the Children and Education Policy and Accountability Committee. I chased it up. Then chased up again. Then chased it up again. There were frustrating bureaucratic delays, reservations about data sharing,  other priorities.

But I am delighted to say that automatic registration is now a reality.

The Council tells me this means that 217 pupils in 25 schools who had missed out have now been registered as a result. The extra funding for those schools as a result for the 2017/18 financial year will be £286,440.

Frank Field has written to me to say he is delighted at this “terrific news” and hopes that other local authorities will follow the example.