The Fulham Boys School "Suddenly Under Serious Threat"

Department of Education refuses to allow school to open in September

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Fulham Boys School says that nearly 100 West London boys and their families are reeling from the news that the Department for Education has refused to allow it to open this year.

The school, a secondary Church of England Free School, which already deferred its planned opening from 2013 to this year, was due to open on September 8 on a temporary site in the Gibbs Green Housing Estate in North Fulham.

It then hoped to move to a new site in Parsons Green which would be created by the demolition of Sulivan Primary School and its amalgamation with another primary, New King's.

However, Hammersmith and Fulham Council's new Labour administration agreed last week to publish proposals to revoke Sulivan's closure, leaving The Fulham Boys School without a future home.

Yesterday, July 1 the school announced: " We have just received the shocking news that the Department for Education wants FBS to defer opening for a year due to uncertainties over our permanent site.

" We are challenging this decision, as we do not see how it can be in the best educational interests of FBS boys that their school does not open as planned on 8 September at Gibbs Green.

" We have emailed all parents with further information, and all parents are invited along to a meeting at Christchurch, Studdridge Street, this Thursday at 8pm."

Today, July 2, the school followed its announcement with the following press release:

" With under three weeks of the school year left, nearly 100 west London boys and their families are reeling from the news that the secondary free school they had been ready to join in September is suddenly under serious threat.

" The Fulham Boys School yesterday (1st July) had to break the news to parents that negotiations on funding with the Department for Education have apparently broken down at the final hurdle, with the Department currently refusing to allow the school to open on 8 September.

" Whilst FBS is adamant that pupils’ best interests lie in the school opening as planned on its agreed temporary site at Gibbs Green in North Fulham, uncertainty over its permanent location appears to have caused officials to think again. FBS has been guaranteed a home at Gibbs Green for at least two years. This had been seen as sufficient time for the DfE, Hammersmith & Fulham Council and other interested parties to work through options for FBS’s permanent home."

Chairman of FBS Governors, Alex Wade, said: " The new H&F Council has pledged to stand up for all types of schools, including free schools. Apparently the DfE has yet to be convinced this means support for FBS. It’s imperative that this political misunderstanding is cleared up as a priority, because caught in the middle are nearly 100 boys and their families, whose interests are being ignored.

" We simply don’t accept that political misunderstanding could or should result in the plug being pulled on FBS less than three weeks before the summer holidays. How can it be in the best educational interests of pupils? Parents are committed to FBS and its boy-focussed academic curriculum. Boys have been fitted for their uniform and have got to know each other at our transition days. Our head, Alun Ebenezer, has recruited an outstanding team of teachers and support staff."

Mr Wade continued: “We’re devastated. We’d been given the green light to open at Gibbs Green. Our education plans have been signed off by the Department as the best they have seen. A few weeks ago we passed our pre-opening inspection from OFSTED. Do officials understand what this means for FBS parents, now forced to rethink their choice of secondary school, facing a frantic scramble and desperate hope that alternate last minute places might become available before September?

" Why not give FBS the chance to prove its pledge to become an outstanding school within its first two years at Gibbs Green? Why inflict a summer of misery and uncertainty on boys, their parents, the staff and all those who have worked tirelessly over the years to get this far? And why cast such uncertainty over the free schools programme ability to deliver successful schools?"

July 2, 2014