Staff at Holland Park School engaged in ‘exploitative’ relationships with students

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Staff at an elite London state school engaged in “exploitative” relationships with pupils, an independent investigation has found.

The investigation into Holland Park School in Kensington found there was a culture of “fear, favoritism and inequality” at the top London academy.

It said that “very little support” was provided to students following traumatic events such as the Grenfell Tower disaster, and that “public humiliation” or shouting was used as a behavior policy.

The investigation also found there was discrimination in the school, including overt sexism, Islamophobia, and racism.

Recent parents include Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister, and John Bercow, the former Commons Speaker, who was elected a parent governor at the school.

The report comes as the school remains locked in a dispute with ministers about plans for it to be taken over by one of the country’s largest academy chains, United Learning, in September.

Around 200 students from the academy were reported by a local council officer to have been involved in a “riot” inside the school two weeks ago in protest at the plans.

A statement from the school’s board of governors made following the investigation said: “We know some members of the school community do not agree with our proposal [to join United Learning].

“There are also many who desperately want action taken. The governors’ priority and guiding principle is to make sure the school is again fit for purpose and providing the first-class education that students have a right to expect.”

The independent investigation looked into claims of safeguarding breaches, bullying, discrimination and inequality in respect of both teachers and students.

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Students ‘still traumatized by their experiences’

The complaints and evidence span from 2004, when the school was under the control of the local authority (Kensington and Chelsea) to September 2013 when it became a Single Academy Trust, and then from September 2013 to December 2021.

The investigators collected evidence from former staff and students, some of whom were “still traumatized by their experiences at Holland Park School”.

“At times interviewees were extremely distressed in having to revisit their time at Holland Park School and were visibly shaken,” the report said.

It also found that the school had completed Ofsted questionnaires from staff during an inspection in January 2020.

The Department for Education previously issued the school with a Notice to Improve in November 2021, “highlighting financial mismanagement” as well as “leaders’ excessive salaries and failure to seek prior approval from the Government for ‘novel and contentious’ expenditure”.

Headteacher retired early

The school announced last year that Colin Hall, his former headteacher, would retire early while a new chair of governors was appointed.

The board of governors statement added: “We are taking the findings very seriously. As a result, and after much consideration, the governors intend to make one referral to the Teaching Regulation Agency and will be beginning a disciplinary investigation in respect of three members of staff. All will be given a full opportunity to respond before any conclusion is reached.

“The future for Holland Park School must be different. Outstanding schools have positive, enriching and caring learning environments, focused on human dignity as well as high achievement. Governors are fully committed to this future and have been working hard to create its foundations.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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