Holland Park School has a reputation for being outstanding. It has been a leader within the London education system for many years. However, there have been significant internal issues more recently. These have included:
- Serious complaints from former staff and students raising very serious issues – they have been widely reported in the press. They include allegations of bullying including favouritism, public humiliation of staff and students; of serious failures in safeguarding; of contentious expenditure; and of misleading Ofsted. Governors have commissioned an independent investigation
- Complaints about admissions and the exclusion of key groups of children from attending the school and exclusion of many members of the school community from use of its resources outside school hours
- Governance issues leading to a Notice To Improve issued by the Government because of lack of compliance and concerns about how money and resources are managed, including excessive executive pay
- Poor accountability as a result of the weaknesses identified
In summer 2021, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s (RBKC) Local Safeguarding Children Partnership set up an independent learning review following the complaints made by former staff and students of the school. These include allegations over a number of years concerning safeguarding. As a result, a review of practice at the school is underway to learn lessons from the past.
In September 2021, new Governors were appointed to the Board of Holland Park School after a request from RBKC for the Department for Education (DfE) to provide support for the school’s governing body. The previous Chair of Governors had also resigned citing problems within the governing body.
Because of the serious nature of the complaints, which were revived and received by the newly constituted Board of Governors, the Governors commissioned an investigation, as is proper with such allegations, to be conducted independently. Governors resolved to work through the issues systematically and carefully, ensuring the students’ wellbeing and education are kept at the centre of the school’s work. The investigation is extensive and is still in progress.
In November 2021, Holland Park School was issued with a Notice to Improve by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), part of the DfE. This Notice can be found here.
The Notice included the following points:
- That there were continued concerns relating to the governance and oversight of financial management by the Board prior to the arrival of new Governors in September 2021.
- That the school had failed to ensure regularity and propriety in use of its funds as required in paragraph 1.14 of the ESFA’s Academy Financial Handbook 2020 (AFH).
- That the school had incurred significant expenditure with two companies whilst failing to follow the correct procurement process as required in paragraph 2.28 of the AFH.
- That the school had failed to seek prior approval from the ESFA of “novel and contentious” expenditure as required in paragraph 5.5 of the AFH.
The Notice also set out a number of conditions, including:
- That the school must reduce overlaps between trustees and members by reviewing its governance structure. This should take into account the DfE’s strong preference for the majority of company members to be independent of the board of governors, as per paragraph 1.6 of the 2021 Academy Trust Handbook (ATH).
- That the school must produce a plan to bring the setting of executive pay in line with ATH requirements (paragraphs 2.30 to 2.32 of the ATH).
- That the school considers starting the process for moving the school into a multi-academy trust.
- That the school responds to allegations from former pupils and staff, and reviews the relevant policies for managing complaints.
In February 2022, Colin Hall brought forward his retirement and stepped down as Headteacher of Holland Park School. Arwel Jones is the acting Headteacher until the end of the academic year. A recruitment process has just completed to appoint a new permanent Headteacher, who will start in September 2022.I In the meantime, leadership is under capacity. Some members of the senior leadership team are not in school and effective structures for the pastoral care of students are not in place (although this is under rectification).