A West London school has seen riots at the school gates which last week led to a teenage boy reportedly having a corrosive liquid thrown in his face and a teacher taken “seriously ill”. Holland Park School, known as the ‘socialist Eton’ thanks to its history of educating the children of top Labour Party politicians like Tony Benn and Roy Jenkins, has been the site of a battle over a planned ‘takeover’ by a multi-academy trust (MAT) for the last few months.
In recent months there have been “many reports of problematic and rowdy behaviour” of students outside the school, according to a statement from Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC). The Council said last week a child was “harmed” and a teacher taken “seriously ill”. This week, the council claims a teacher left the Campden Hill Road school “in tears” and “more than 200 pupils” took part in a “riot” to protest against the future plans for the school and to express concern about their teachers.
The Met Police has confirmed they attended reports of a teenage boy having corrosive liquid thrown in his face on the afternoon of Friday, April 22. The boy’s condition was assessed as not life-threatening and a teenage girl was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and taken into custody. The incident began outside the school before moving towards Notting Hill Gate Underground Station.
READ MORE: Parents’ fury at academy chain’s plans to takeover ‘outstanding’ London school dubbed ‘socialist Eton’
The chaos centres around plans for the school to become part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) and wider concerns about the school’s management. United Learning Trust has been chosen by the school’s governing body as the desired MAT.
MyLondon reported previously on how parents say they were not consulted on what they have branded a “covert takeover”. Parents have formed the Holland Park School Parent Collective (HPSPC) to protest against the plans. The group argued the school – rated outstanding by education watchdog Ofsted – was going against parents’ wishes and the best interests of pupils.
HSPC are calling on the United Learning Trust ‘takeover’ to be paused and for all options for the school’s future to be “fairly and transparently” assessed including the option of a local MAT. Considering a MAT was one of the 10 conditions listed in a Notice to Improve issued to the school by the government in November 2021, which cited “c oncerns relating to the governance and oversight of financial management by the board”.
In their statement on choosing United Learning Trust, the school said it’s values matches the criteria set by governors, which included preserving the school’s unique identity as a flagship in the London education system, the opportunity to be a key player in wider work such as Teaching School Hubs, and ensuring the school becomes inclusive to parts of the North Kensington community who have felt excluded.
But the school’s issues go beyond the MAT ‘takeover’. The government warned Holland Park School last year that it would have to cut back its huge teacher salaries. The school’s former head teacher, Colin Hall, was last year the fourth highest-paid academy boss in the country with a salary of £280,000. Hall left in February of this year, as despite helping turn the school’s performance around, staff and students have complained of a “toxic” environment where staff experienced stress, bullying, and harassment and students felt “anxious and unsafe” due to high pressure on their performance, the Daily Mail reports.
In September, shortly after Hall’s retirement was announced, half of the governing board resigned and were replaced without parent representation.
Director of children’s services at Kensington and Chelsea Council, Sarah Newman, said in a statement released today (April 30) that the council has been “significantly concerned about the lack of communication between the school and parents; decisions are being made about the future of the school in the absence of any engagement or collaboration and changes to the school are happening in the absence of any planning for the impact”.
Detailing the recent unrest, Newman announced that the council has written to the Department for Education to “highlight the need for urgent action”. She said: “Teachers have expressed no confidence in the current leadership at the school and parents are threatening them with legal action. At the Council, we have been clear to the Department for Education that we have no confidence in the current leadership arrangements at the school.”
Jane Farrell, the chair of governors at Holland Park School, said: “United Learning met or exceeded all of our requirements when searching for the right home for our school. United Learning is a strong, very well-run, academically rigorous trust with high standards across all areas. It is inclusive, offers outstanding extra-curricular opportunities, strong pastoral care, and excellent staff development and teacher training.
“It was also very important to us that the unique identity and character of Holland Park School should be preserved. United Learning demonstrated real ambition for the school, deep understanding of what makes the school so special, and that it would not just maintain but would enhance Holland Park School’s very many positive attributes. We have every confidence that it will prove to be the perfect partner for Holland Park School.”
A spokesperson for United Learning said: “We appreciate there has been turbulence at Holland Park School over the past couple of years. This is one of London’s flagship schools and what it needs, more than anything, is the opportunity to put these times behind it and focus on being an excellent school. We believe that, if the school joins us, we can provide the support needed to secure the positive future that everyone who cares about the school wants for it.”
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Seren is a reporter covering the whole capital with a specific patch for Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea. She is particularly interested in human interest stories on topics such as health, housing, and refugees, as well as covering breaking news and crime.
Some of the stories she has written in the past month were on a Black woman who was told she had a year to live only to survive after pushing for alternative treatment, North Londoners living near a nature reserve who were left baffled by a letter from the council that seems to suggest they might be trespassing if they take a shortcut from their homes into the park, and gangs stealing Brompton bikes in Hackney.
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