In the Spring of 2018, Sarah Kerley, a former teacher with experience in a variety of Primary Schools, both large and small, and with experience in supporting schools with Curriculum Innovation as well as Leadership within the Primary Sphere read an article written by Alun Ebenezer, Head teacher of Fulham Boys School (a successful free school set up in London by a group of parents led by Alexander Wade) in a Christian magazine, questioning why there are so few Christian Secondary Schools in the UK.
Now a full-time mum to three very different children, with a passion for seeing an outstanding Secondary education facility accessible to them and many other local children, that will cater equally for each of their individual personalities and academic needs.
She is passionate about innovative, forward thinking curriculums where students are given the skills to equip them for a future that we know very little about, and exciting teaching methods that foster a love of learning, all tied together with a Christian Ethos and a collective family atmosphere that makes a School feel like a second home. Equally, through her work in Primary Schools, and seeing children move into Secondary schools, she has become increasingly concerned that teenagers – young adults – are not given the space or scope in the current system to be able to express themselves, their beliefs or their views without feeling vulnerable if these are not considered “mainstream”. The key to underpinning all of this is to provide a strong pastoral support network within schools (at a time when child and teenage mental health issues seem to be escalating), which is one of the reasons why the Fulham Boys School model is so excellent.
The inspiration behind the type of teaching she loves to see can be found here – a video that had a profound effect on her teaching style after watching it during her initial teacher training years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u06BXgWbGvA
Headmaster of The Fulham Boys School since 2013. Before 2013 he held a number of senior posts in state schools. He left a very successful job and family lifestyle in Wales to be part of the success story of opening Fulham Boys School. He was employed one year before opening and so handled all practical educational matters concerning pre-opening.
Fulham Boys School is an exceptional example of a free school with a Christian ethos. It has the backing of many high profile MPs, Ofsted have stated that the way the Christian ethos permeates into every aspect of school life is “exemplary” and that the curriculum is inspiring, and aspires students from very different backgrounds – some from terrible deprivation – to achieve. The slogan “Education can change your life” is in the very blood of Fulham Boys School. They have recently contributed to the Parliamentary Review. You can read this here: https://www.theparliamentaryreview.co.uk/organisations/fulham-boys-ce-school
Alun is the Educational Lead for Cornerstone Free School, and has the vision and expertise to appoint the correct staff to make Cornerstone Free School as successful as Fulham Boys School.
He is well respected in the media and has written widely for the press:
Also, view his blog on the Fulham Boys School website here: https://www.fulhamboysschool.org/news-category/headmasters-blog/
As the Founding members, Alex wrote the Free School Application and presented it to the government, making a compelling case that led to the opening of Fulham Boys School. He has been the Chairman of Governors since before the school’s opening, so is experienced in opening, staffing and managing a Free School. He has almost 24 years experience in banking and financial services, working for both National Westminster Bank and HSBC, where he spent 17 years.
He believes his education transformed his life and created opportunities that he and his family could never have dreamt of. He always believed such opportunities could be available through publicly-funded education and leapt at the chance to help establish a Free School with an ambitious vision and built on the Christian faith. The Fulham Boys School model is therefore designed to be a state school, open to all, but competing with the very best Independent schools for curriculum, extra-curricular offer, sporting excellence, and results.
Why we are proposing this School in Huntingdonshire
After reading what Alun Ebenezer had to say about the Free School Movement, and how it can transform education, Sarah visited Fulham Boys School and saw first-hand a thriving, exciting school, where boys love learning and despite some being from exceptionally deprived backgrounds, their results compare with those in the Independent sector. It really appealed to Sarah to be able to open a school where the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” is bridged through innovative teaching methods. The Christian ethos of the school also stood out as uniting all in the Fulham Boys School family and giving them the confidence to debate fiercely with one another on their different personal viewpoints, within the context of reason, rationalism and respect. We left inspired. Who would not want to send their child to Fulham Boys School? It made complete sense that it is a school oversubscribed by 400 applicants every year.
A subsequent case study of the whole of Cambridgeshire showed that the opportunity for children to transition from the small C. of E. Primary Schools, of which there are many across the county, to similar secondary schools, is almost non-existent. There is only one, non fee-paying Secondary School in Cambridgeshire (St Bede’s Inter-Church School), located in the City Centre, hugely oversubscribed and with a long waiting list. Despite there being other very good – some even outstanding – Secondary Schools in Huntingdonshire, there are none available for children whose parents want them educated in an environment where the Christian ethos is paramount. It became very apparent that there is a huge gap in the market, for a successful, academic Secondary school, with an innovative and exciting curriculum and a Christian Ethos, in Huntingdonshire. The Fulham Boys School is just this, and Sarah’s findings co-incided with an announcement by Fulham Boys School that they were forming a Multi-Academy Trust, named the Charles Spurgeon Schools Trust ( https://charlesspurgeonschools.co.uk/ ) on the recommendation of both Government Ministers and Ofsted, as their outstanding school model should be replicated elsewhere. Through the Free School movement, it is possible to independently set up a school like the Fulham Boys School, in Huntingdonshire, but funded by the government, making it accessible to all. So, Sarah was motivated to initiate this application through a keen desire to see another Christian secondary school available, and saw an opportunity through the work of the Charles Spurgeon Trust and Fulham Boys School.
After hearing from Alun Ebenezer as to why Fulham Boys School is so popular, so academically successful and gives children such a well-balanced grounding through the Christian Ethos, The Local Steering Committee was born, and began the local initiative in September 2018. They have visited Fulham Boys School – one commenting: “never mind sending my children there, I’d send me there!” – and scrutinised other excellent schools for ideas, discussed and revised the curriculum plans provided by Fulham Boys School to suit local conditions, looked at several possible school sites, and engaged in local consultation – which has involved churches, councillors, MP’s, potential feeder primary schools, Huntingdonshire Local Education Authority, Cambridge University Faculty of Education and members of the public. It has involved setting up this website, distributing leaflets, being interviewed by the press, talking to different groups, writing letters and generally raising awareness locally. It has also written much of the 100 page application, which was submitted to the Department for Education on Monday 5th November. The founding group will have three members on the Local Governing Body of Cornerstone Free School.
The Local Steering Committee
The local steering committee is made up of a team of parents, professionals and members of the local community, drawn from widely varying backgrounds, and with very different skill sets, but united by a keen interest in improving education opportunities for local students. We have split into different teams to ensure this application is thoroughly and professionally assembled.
Amongst the local group we have several Primary and Secondary school teachers with decades of combined experience, including in senior leadership positions.
Other members are local business owners, and those in managerial positions in both private and public sectors.
The team includes a senior manager at an accountancy firm, and his 14 years’ experience as a chartered accountant includes preparing the accounts for an academy school.
Outside the local group we have close links with other community figures, including a local tutoring centre owner, local church leaders, and Cambridge University Education academics. We are grateful for the advice and guidance these outside parties have been able to give us.
Multi-Academy Trust – Charles Spurgeon Schools
While our members comprise many and varied talents, we realise that in the local committee we lack the experience required to successfully open and run a brand-new school.
Encouraged by both Ofsted and the Government to spread their model of success, Fulham Boys School announced that they were forming a Multi-Academy Trust, named the Charles Spurgeon Schools Trust.
We are therefore delighted to be working in partnership with Fulham Boys School and the Charles Spurgeon Schools Trust – including Alun Ebenezer who inspired us in the first place. https://charlesspurgeonschools.co.uk/
The MAT will assist and oversee the local governing body to ensure Cornerstone Free School provides the same standard of educational excellence as that given by Fulham Boys School, as well as providing many key services such as financial oversight, legal services and teaching personnel who have been at Fulham Boys School since it’s opening and now seek to climb the career ladder into new positions within the MAT.