Alun Ebenezer, head master
Lessons geared towards
The Fulham Boys School is an 11-18 school for boys in
southwest London which opened in September 2014. It is
a free school, and the school has embraced this freedom
to establish a strong and distinctive ethos. In addition to being
based on the Christian faith, the ethos nurtures enterprise and
is geared towards boys. It is an ethos that Ofsted described as
“incredible” and is driving the school’s ambition to become one
of the best schools in the country – state or private – within the
next ten years. Head master Alun Ebenezer tells us more.
Geared towards boys
Schools face many difficult questions such as what sort of traits a boy requires to
flourish, and what communities, industry and the wider world expect of a young
man. Designing a boys’ school from scratch provides an extraordinary opportunity
to look at everything – skills, knowledge, habits – needed to equip these young
men to venture forth from secondary school.
Free schools do not have to follow the national curriculum. We don’t stray far from
it, but we have to re-design it to excite, engage and enthuse boys. Our teachers are
tasked with bringing their subjects to life and making them relevant. By doing this,
boys know
as well as
they are learning and are motivated to find out
more. We have a clear view of what outstanding teaching looks like and, as a free
school, we can train teachers on the job if necessary (the FBS way). Moreover, being
a qualified teacher doesn’t necessarily make you an outstanding one.
»Head master: Alun Ebenezer,
»Founded in September 2014
»Based in Fulham
»Type of school: Independent
government-funded school for
boys aged 11-18
»No. of students: 480, but will
grow to 800 when school
is full, including sixth form;
we only offering years 7-10
The Fulham Boys
Highlighting best practice
We ratesomeone with potential more
highly than we would a qualified
We constantly remind our boys about
the importance of standards, such as
knowing how to behave appropriately
in different settings and understanding
the importance of self-discipline.
Displaying self-awareness, even in local
shops for example, says as much about
their school as glowing praise from
Ofsted does.
Sport plays a big part in school life.
This isn’t just to train elite teams and
athletes to compete at a high level, but
also to enable every boy to find at least
one activity he enjoys sufficiently to
carry into his future life. School, in our
view, should be there to encourage
sport for life, not just for games
A boys school not a lads school
We want our boys to be well-rounded
young gentlemen. To help achieve
this, we’ve built a culture where
singing in assembly, performing in the
school play, playing in the orchestra,
debating, being artistic, taking a book
out of the library, attract as much
kudos as playing for the first XV. Part
of this is the heavy emphasis we place
on reading, teaching our boys that this
is not a socially isolating exercise. To
facilitate this, we hold a termly event
encouraging dads and sons to read
together, and our library has been built
specifically for boys. Authors come in
and work with them. All boys, from
youngest to oldest, embrace World
Book Day.
The Christian faith
FBS is built upon the Christian faith and
we never dumb this down. Not all our
teachers are Christians, nor are all our
boys, but our Christian ethos impacts
every area of school life, including
learning, behaviour, pastoral care and
pupil and staff welfare.
We also abide by the view that there
is absolutely no place in schools for
brainwashing or for the promulgation
of extremist views. Education shouldn’t
dictate what a young person thinks;
instead, the core purpose of schools
must be to make students think and
Along with this general undertaking is
FBS’ belief that young people should
be encouraged to have strong views
and to be unafraid to go against
the crowd. This means that we
encourage debate and discussion. As
an example of this open-mindedness,
some boys dare to say that society
might be getting things wrong. Such
counter-cultural views are perfectly
permissible, so long as the boys make
their case with respect and back it up
with reasoned argument, and they
themselves are willing to be disagreed
with and questioned – again with
respect and kindness, not hate and
Naturally, a school built upon the
Christian faith will expose young
people to the claims of the Bible and
Jesus Christ, but our school does
so in a fair and balanced way that
encourages the pupils to scrutinise
those teachings.
Teachers who can bring
out the best in boys
Immaculate school
uniform and
dictate what a
young person
instead, the
core purpose
of schools
must be to
make students
think and
FBS is founded on enterprise. It’s what
we are; it is not something we “do”.
We are committed to developing
entrepreneurial flair, skills and habits,
for wider benefit as well as students’
later economic well-being.
We give students opportunities to
be risk-taking, daring, resilient, team
players, equanimous and tenacious. We
provide a wide range of co-curricular
clubs through an extended school
day, and boys also run their own
enterprises, visit older people for a
chat and volunteer for trips such as our
football match against refugee children
in the Calais Jungle. By doing this, they
get exposed to real-world problems
and are challenged to solve them.
Enterprise is in the school’s DNA, for
FBS has had to overcome significant
obstacles during opening and on site.
Governors, staff and boys may not
have wished for the challenges, but
having to surmount these problems
has built resilience – something that
wouldn’t have happened if everything
had been served on a silver plate.
Going forward
We believe in our brand of education
and want to take a lead in developing
the thinking and practice of education.
We want to become a teaching school
and offer services to other schools. As
evidence of our excellence, DfE has
asked us to set up more schools like FBS.
We want to challenge the established
order. Of course we are up against
it. Top private schools have financial
clout, history and tradition. But we
have two great advantages: as new
schools, some of us are unashamedly
cherry picking the best of what works
pastorally and academically in the
private and state sectors, and the
talent to deliver it; as non-fee-paying
and non-selective schools we are
drawing in a far wider cross section
of students. In the case of The Fulham
Boys School, raw talent is exposed
to firm discipline, high standards,
aspirations, rigour, opportunity and
first-class pedagogy. Boys from all
backgrounds learning valuable lessons
from each other, understanding there
are other perspectives rather than
falling back on “group think”.
Additionally, we question what
defines a school’s success. For
instance, we see a great need for
valuing university retention rates,
and not just the number of A*-8
grades. We also believe we should
be monitoring the progress of school
music, drama, sporting triumphs and
participation rates, and not only raw
EBacc or Progress 8 scores. In our
view, it is difficult for a school to be
“outstanding” if it offers no sport –
nor can it claim to be truly educative
if it merely spoon-feeds knowledge.
As for funding, limited resources will
always be a problem. To help solve
this, we seek to work with businesses,
parents and local communities to find
innovative ways of providing additional
funding streams.
The free school movement provides
the best opportunity in a generation to
turn the established order on its head.
We give
to be risk-
taking, daring,
resilient, team
and tenacious
Boys singing in assembly