True or False?

"Holland Park School has to join a MAT following the Notice to Improve (NtI)."

False. Governors were asked to consider joining a MAT (see point 6 on last page of NtI below). There is no obligation and other options are available. Below is the full Notice to Improve issued by ESFA (Education & Skills Funding Agency) to Holland Park School (HPS) after the new governors were installed by the Department of Education. 

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The following was included with the letter but in landscape format so we are showing casing it separately for your convenience.

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"Joining a MAT will provide better governance and oversight."

False. Governors have repeatedly informed parents that they have identified and remedied issues identified in the Notice to Improve (NtI).

SUMMARY OVERVIEW NOTICE TO IMPROVE for compliance concerns

The NtI has been issued largely on the grounds of governance and around spending, reporting methods and governance structure. 

One point of the NtI asks the school to set out plan for how they will respond to ex pupil allegations.

 

On 2 November 2021, the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) wrote to Jane Farrell (Chair of Board of Governors) to thank her for the work already done since September and that a “You have made a significant impact in a very short time.” However there are “continued concerns relating to the governance and oversight of financial management by the Board prior to your arrival and that of the other trustees and members in September 2021”.

The ESFA has decided to issue a NtI as a consequence of Holland Park School (the ‘TRUST’): 

• Failing to ensure regularity and propriety in use of the trust’s funds 

• Incurring significant expenditure with two companies whilst failing to follow the correct procurement process 

• Failing to seek prior approval from the ESFA of ‘novel and contentious’ expenditure

 

ANNEX B: OVERVIEW

1. The TRUST must reduce overlap between trustees and members: It must provide the ESFA with a revised governance and committee structure.    

19 NOV 21 PRESUMED DONE

2. The TRUST must make changes to current financial management and structure to strengthen challenge in managing the budget and finances.   

3 DEC 21 PRESUMED DONE

3. Implement procurement policy.

3 DEC 21 PRESUMED DONE

4. Trust to submit a revised scheme of delegation, and provide evidence of its use, thereby assuring the ESFA that the trust has a strong governance structure in place.    

3 DEC 21 PRESUMED DONE

5. Make plan for executive pay to be brought into line with ATH requirements.

3 DEC 21 PRESUMED DONE

    

6. The trust to consider starting the process for moving the school into a MAT.    

15 DEC 21 PRESUMED DONE

7. The trust to respond to allegations from former pupils and staff, and to review the relevant policies for managing complaints and to provide plan on how allegations will be investigated and responded to.

8. To submit audited accounts, statements, reports and budget forecasts by specific annual deadlines.     

ONGOING ANNUALLY

annually until NtI is lifted

 

9. The TRUST must submit a request for approval for any actions relating to the delegated freedom revoked under the terms of the NtI.

ONGOING UNTIL LIFTED 

10. Ensure trustee and member details are up to date.    

3 DEC 21 PRESUMED DONE

"Safeguarding will improve as a result of joining the United Learning Trust MAT."

False. United Learning have had some very serious safeguarding issues raised against some of their behavioural policies in school.

Please see the article on our blog that goes into further detail about why United Learning is wrong for Holland Park School.

"Stakeholder groups (parents, teachers, school staff, students, local community) have asked for the decision making process to be paused."

True. The parent collective (HPSPC), local council (RBKC) and the local member of parliament (MP), Felicity Buchan, (see letter below) have asked The Board of Governors (BoG) to stop the process but to date all requests to the BoG have been ignored. The way they are ignoring many of requests for further information or a pause in the process while we get up to speed suggests they have an agenda that they are refusing to pause for any reason.

"Governors claim the process has been 'robust, open and clear'."

False. Despite repeated requests for involvement, governors show no willingness to actively engage with parents. We have also asked for clarity as to what "robust" means as it is a word used widely by the new governing body. The Cambridge Dictionary of English's closest meaning for robust in this context is "strong and unlikely to break or fail". We want clarity about exactly what is "strong and unlikely to break or fail" about the process - pure political speak that is fundamentally meaningless. We want specifics - true transparency and real clarity.

"All governors are in agreement that a MAT is the best option for Holland Park School."

False. This decision has been made with no parent governors in position. Parents are not represented on our current Board of Governors.  

 

Sally Bercow's term as a parent governor ended in early December 2021. Her position has been vacant since then. The other parent governor, John Bercow, apparently resigned in March 2022. His position is yet to be filled. The image below shows the list of governors as noted on the HPS website as of 16th April 2022. Please vote in the parent governor elections (more info on the blog) - the following governors are active within the HPSPC: Sam Cockcroft (Hesketh), Melanie Juno Wolfe, Elizabeth McKay, Gaelle Deschamps.

Please also note that according to the HPS Article of Association the Head Teacher and Deputy Head are required members of the governing body. Since Colin Hall's retirement in February, Arwel Jones, has been appointed interim head teacher, however, is not listed below but David Chappell, the Deputy Head is listed as Academy Head?? We understand he was not included in the discussions around the school joining a multi-academy -trust (MAT) but without the minutes we cannot verify this. 

 

Furthermore we have repeatedly requested sight of the minutes of the meetings held by the governors but our requests have been ignored to date, so how can we be sure all governors were in agreement. A recently retired governor said she had not been told how unhappy the parents were. What else haven't the other governors been told by the Chair of Governors, Jane Farrell?

"United Learning understand the needs of HPS students because they have 'local' presence."

False. The nearest schools high schools UL has to HPS are based in Maida Vale and Hurlingham. They do not know our school nor understand our community. You can check out where their schools are on this link.

"The parent collective (HPSPC) have asked the school to share our contact details with all the parents at the school."

True. The parent collective has asked the school many times to share our details so that parents can choose for themselves to engage with us or not. They school continues to say No. If this changes we will let you know, but the school have made it clear they will not do this for us as we are not an official part of the school. (There is no official parent group at Holland Park School.) Preventing us reaching out to other parents means many parents accept all communications from the school and governing board at face value, unaware of the implications of what is happening behind the scenes. Parents have the right to be fully informed and make their own choices accordingly.

Even the Department of Education (DfE) recommend governing bodies should ensure their schools are “regularly communicating with parents and carers, and that parental engagement is used by the board to inform their strategic decision-making”. To date the school and governing board have kept parents away from one another and sent one way communications with invitations to respond back directly to the chair of governors or the generic email address info@hollandparkschool.co.uk that goes to the school reception. Holland Park School has enormously talented and generous parents who would love to support the school in many different ways, a parent collective can work with the school if supported by the school. 

"The way HPS Board of Governors is operating is not in accordance with the HPS Academy Trust governance guidelines."

True. HPS is an Academy and as such is required to have a group of people who make up a governing body that oversees the school. This governing body is required to follow a specific set of guidelines in the execution of its duties. For instance, an Academy Trust, like Holland Park School (HPS) should have a minimum of two Parent Governors, elected by parents, to represent the parents of the school (See image below from HPS Articles of Association). We currently have NO parents on the HPS governing board. One of these vacant positions has been unfilled since the 3rd December 2021 (that's 4 months to date) - all while major decisions that will significantly affect the school, our children and our local community are being made. 

Link to full HPS Articles of Association on the school website is here.

Alternatively the .pdf is attached here instead.

"The people on the Holland Park School's Board of Governors (governing body) who are choosing for HPS to join the United Learning Multi-Academy Trust are mostly those who are already linked to Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs)." 

True. All five people brought into the Board of Governors by the Depart of Education (DfE) in September have deep MAT connections.

 
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