" This is So Wrong"

Fulham Boys School Head Responds to Deferral of Opening

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Fulham Boys School headmaster Alun Ebenezer has responded to the news that the Department for Education has deferred the school's opening till next year at the earliest with an emotional letter to parents and prospective pupils written on his blog.

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.

However, the DfE has now deferred the opening as it has been unable to find a permanent site.

Mr Ebenezer writes: " Let me begin by saying how deeply sorry I am for you all. Speaking as a dad I am so sorry that you parents have to go through the trauma of not having certainty of where your son will go to school in September.

" To you boys, I am saddened that there is now a possibility I will not have the opportunity to get to know you and see you develop into the self-disciplined, ‘gutsy’, well rounded young men I know you would have become; excelling academically, creatively and on the sports field.

" To the staff, as outstanding practitioners, you don’t deserve this! On every level the Department for Education’s decision yesterday not to let us open in September is so wrong.

" From an educational point of view it makes no sense. The department have consistently led us to believe over the last year that we were on track for opening in September. We were the first school to have a pre-opening Ofsted inspection which we passed (far easier than the vast majority of schools we were told).

" The Department said our School Development Plan was the ‘most refreshing and reflective school development plan they have seen’. Our Education Brief they said was, ‘the best we’ve come across – detailed, apposite and comprehensive.’

" They have asked our permission to use our policies as examples of good practice in other schools. The staff we have appointed are all outstanding and have really bought into what we are trying to do. Some are re-locating to London because they see this as something special. One is making a side-ways move because in her own words ‘she is excited about being able to develop a truly 21st century science programme for boys’. Together we have put together a curriculum and co-curriculum which is geared to bring out the best in boys.

" From a community point of view FBS is a huge loss. Fulham and Hammersmith need an outstanding, academic boys’ school. Why pull one that is up and ready and raring to go? One that has pledged and gone on record as saying that if it is anything less than outstanding then we have not delivered. And by outstanding we don’t just mean according to Ofsted but by other measures too, including the positive impact we have on the local community.

! But first and foremost, as a human being it seems so unfair. It is too late in the day to make such a traumatic decision. You cannot tell parents on July 1st (just two weeks before the end of term) that their son cannot go to the secondary school they had been promised. Neither can you tell teachers after they have resigned from their previous post that they haven’t got a job for September.

" The future of a school that would have been the pride of the borough should not be prevented by flawed processes and red tape. The role of the Head and the governors is to put together an outstanding school. According to the department, we have.

" It is the role of the Department and the Education Funding Agency to ensure that the school can be housed, temporarily and permanently. In February they told us they had. Yesterday, it would appear they hadn’t. Humanly, communally and educationally, so wrong. Which is why we will fight on…"

In a letter to Andrew Christie, the Tri Borough Executive of Children's Services, Fiona Nzegwu, Assistant Director of the Free Schools Group on the Department for Education said:
" Unfortunately we not been able to secure permanent accommodation for the Fulham Boys School. Lord Nash and the Secretary of State have discussed the issue and ministers have taken the decision to defer of the school to 2015 at the earliest. This decision has not been taken lightly but as I hope you will understand, in the absence of any prospect of a permanent site for the school, ministers are not willing to agree to the school opening this year."

You can read the full letter on Hammersmith and Fulham Council's website.

July 3, 2014