Key Concerns about MAT "Consultation"
The MAT "Consultation" period is almost over. According to governor, David Laws, the board will be looking at all the correspondence they have received over this period, including the feedback on their https://www.hps-stakeholders.co.uk website questionnaire (more about the questionnaire below), in order to decide whether United Learning will be handed our school.
"At the end of the engagement programme, a stakeholder engagement report will be drawn up and carefully considered by the Board and a summary report made available; after which the Board will decide whether to make a recommendation to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) as to which is its preferred MAT partner. The Advisory Board of the RSC would then meet to make a final decision."
(Who is drawing up this "stakeholder engagement report" that the board will carefully consider? This person is likely to be able to influence the board's decision substantially given they'll be collating the info in all our letters and putting forward what they think is most relevant. Solution? Write to all governors personal email addresses!)
It's time to get writing to the HPS Board of Governors, RBKC councillors, local MPs, the Regional Schools Commissioner, the Schools Minister and The Minister of Education. Flood everyone with your emails. It's time to pull out all the stops and just go for it. We've created the information on this page to help you do that.
The most important thing to focus your letters (emails) on now is to a) address your issues with their "Stakeholder Engagement Programme" and then b) use their own list of essential and desirable criteria in choosing a MAT partner for us to show how United Learning does NOT meet their own criteria. Quote from journalists articles (e.g. investigative journalist Warwick Mansell of Education Uncovered) or any of the references you'll find below, to make your points.
Here are some quotes from their hps-stakeholders website that you might find useful, or down-right entertaining (given their actions reflect the complete opposite of what they say):
"Governors are keen to hear the views of all interested parties – students, parents and carers, staff, local politicians, and the wider community. Openness and transparency are very important to the Governors and they have prioritised these in this process."
Aside from the laughable nonsense in the last sentence (do ask them to demonstrate how they have been open and transparent if you like), the first sentence makes it clear they want to hear from local politicians and the local community, so we need to engage those people even more, quote from their letters or from online statements, e.g. quote from the RBKC website statement or letters on our Timeline, e.g. from Felicity Buchan (MP). The HPSPC have also written some pretty substantive letters to the governors, also featured on our Timeline.
The governors view of the "background" to the current situation shows that the content of the Notice to Improve is a big focus for them and bringing in United Learning is likely a way to wash their hands of many of the issues in the NtI. Please note that most of the NtI was focused on governance and financial issues, with the "consider"ation to "start" the process of moving the school into a MAT pretty low down on the priority list.
"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."
We are sharing these points here so you can keep them in mind as they are strong drivers for the governing body's actions and reasons for choosing United Learning.
"[The Stakeholder Engagement Programme] includes the following ways in which people can have their say:
Completion of an online question form, which is also available in hard copy
An in-person consultation event at the school on Tuesday 26th April led by United Learning:
There will be separate times for students (TBC), parents (6pm), and staff (TBC) to attend through the afternoon and early evening
A virtual meeting from 6pm to 7pm on Monday 9th May
Visits arranged to United Learning schools for students, parents and staff, will be listed and updated below.
The organised visit to Guildford High School has been postponed and a future visit will only take place if there is demand for it, in which case United Learning will be happy to arrange it. United Learning is in the process of seeking to facilitate a visit to a London state school and details will be provided when available from United Learning.
To express interest please email us
Separate outreach to wider stakeholders."
The "online question form" can be filled in by the same person multiple times, however, they will apparently check IP addresses to ensure duplicates are not being made. Well that's a problem then - me, my daughter and husband can only fill it in once?? This question form is highly flawed not just in that anyone can fill it in - let's employ our family members and friends throughout the country to fill it in, shall we? There is certainly nothing stopping those pro-UL doing exactly that - but also in terms of the questions it is asking and the way it is asking them. Good questionnaires do not ask leading questions, i.e. a question that prompts or encourages the answer wanted, but this question form is filled with them, meaning the quality of information that comes from it will be biased and fundamentally inaccurate. [Coming Soon: Recommended tips on how to fill it in]
As one HPS parent's letter said: “I want to point out a few of the flaws I have noticed with the stakeholder engagement process. As mentioned in our meeting, the questionnaire was bizarrely biased. I really did not see the necessity for the questionnaire to be formulated in a way that it was essentially cheerleading for United Learning.”
Another HPS parent's letter said about the question form: "And why is your website asking whether stakeholders would like to see things like a change of school name and uniform when this has nothing to do with the MAT/United Learning question or the other serious issues affecting the school? Your website raises yet more insecurity and uncertainty for our children about what lies ahead, yet more anxiety when you should be prioritizing their well-being over all else.”
There was actually a meeting where the Board of Governors introduced United Learning to us parents - it was supposed to be an hour in person event, followed by an hour online for those who couldn't come in person, but both meetings went on much longer as parents engaged strongly. these meetings were not part of the Stakeholder Engagement Programme.
If you were not able to attend the in-person consultation event with United Learning (UL) you can read our two blogs on the subject: A Parent's View and HPSPC Insights. You should know that the teachers have not engaged with UL at all and thus did not meet them in-person. I don't actually know if the students met with them - please ask your children. Aside from our blogs on the subject there are two other points to make about this in-person meeting:
1. The meeting was arranged at 6pm during Ramadan. This demonstrates that both the Board of Governors and United Learning are completely out of touch with the needs of our community. Our observant Muslim families could not attend the meeting as they were preparing to break their fast. Further more, David Chappell collapsed on Friday afternoon. The meeting was on Tuesday evening. Many stakeholders were still in shock. Various stakeholders, including RBKC council members, wrote to the BoG and asked them to postpone the meeting out of consideration of these two factors. They refused.
2. Having refused as there were other parents who wanted the meeting to go ahead regardless, they then promised to host an additional in person meeting for those who did not feel they were able to attend. This has not happened. They don't keep their promises.
A parent noted the following in their email to the governors: “At the in person Q&A, held by United Learning at the school last month, we were told that they would hold another of the same event to accommodate families who were unable to attend. There had been requests for the Q&A to be postponed following the tragic news regarding Mr Chappell the previous day, as well as the large number of families who would be excluded due to Ramadan clashing with the timings. I would like to know if there will be another formal meeting to accommodate these families and others as part of the formal stakeholder engagement process.”
The virtual meeting held on May 9th was highly managed - it was not a "meeting" it was a webinar, where engagement was quite limited. Two members of the PR team that has been engaged by the governors were also present at that meeting besides governor Roy Blatchford, UL's Secondary Schools Director, Sally Coates and UL's CEO, Jon Coles. The "chat" was switched off so parents could not chat amongst themselves nor make comments - fair enough, they clearly felt we need to be "managed"; it was only possible to see other people's questions if the moderator, governor Louisa Mitchell, accepted them - where was the "openness and transparency" noted on their website? To be fair she seemed to do a reasonable job, but was hindered by the fact that Jon Coles, who at previous meetings had been direct and to the point, now seemed to delight in using time-filling waffle in answer to each question - most of which he could have let Sally Coates answer. They limited the webinar to exactly one hour only. The result was a huge number of questions were not answered. Furthermore, during Jon Coles waffle he did two highly offensive things: he made his contempt for parents who are against United Learning very clear, and he did a box-ticking exercise by mentioning Grenfell and a few other "key" issues for us.
One parent commented today that "UL is in the "courting" phase here at HPS, but in the recent webinar his contempt for parents at HPS was evident. What will their attitude be towards concerned parents once the school belongs to them and we have no choices any more?"
Another parent has been researching parent governors at UL schools and so far has found that "UL do not involve local stakeholders in their schools. They appoint their own UL governors and UL staff governors. There do not seem to be any governors representing parents on UL governing boards." Jon Coles confirmed when they take the school over the current board will be completely dissolved and they'll bring their own people in - no doubt this will include the loss of the new parent governors we just fought so hard to get.
Visits to United Learning Schools - as noted in the italics above they tried sending us off to a private girls school in Guildford, but there were not takers. What a surprise! Again, further indication that they do not value, nor understand our community. How dare they try to waste our time like that. during the webinar Jon Coles said that their closest schools, Paddington Academy (Maida Vale), and Hurlingham Academy (Fulham), were reluctant to host HPS parents on a visit to their schools as they did not want their schools in the press. Twenty parents recently visited Paddington Academy. Reports varied depending on the stance of the parents concerned. Some loved the quiet, ordered behaviour of the students. Others were somewhat horrified by their behaviour policies, including the silence required between classes and the requirement they "track" the teacher (consistently watch the teacher throughout the lesson) as this would be difficult for kids without SEND statements. There are nine pages of 'stick' in the PA behaviour policy, many for really minor infractions, and half a page of 'carrot' that would incentivise few children. Furthermore, the perfectly behaved children they met told them things like "we'd be fired if we were late for work or talked at work, so detentions for these things is good training for us".
Separate outreach to wider stakeholders - no idea what this means. Private meetings with RBKC council members or local MPs?
In selecting their preferred MAT partner they used a "robust and fair process", and "applied rigour and expertise" (the ultimate way to say nothing, no specifics) - you can read about it here. Please note there were a total of three governors who selected the MATs the others interviewed. Those three did not present the KAA proposal to the rest of the governors. It may not have been a perfect proposal, but given it was local and an ideal option if it could be made to work it was worth discussing further and inviting KAA to address aspects of their proposal that the governors felt were inadequate.
Directly below here one of our parents has carefully gone through each of the essential and desirable criteria the governing board have listed in how they chose their preferred MAT partner and given her analysis with links to references at the end.
Based on their comment that "United Learning met or exceeded all of the governors’ requirements and it was able to achieve the timetable for a September 2022 transfer, as well as provide leadership capacity quickly, thus bringing much-needed stability to the school", it seems that these are actually their key priorities. We can see the value of both these points, if it wasn't for the fact that once we enter into a MAT we can (currently) never leave that MAT - it's like an arranged marriage where we'll never be able to get divorced no matter how we are treated. It seems that we would be giving up our future autonomy to solve a short-term problem quickly.
BoG preferred MAT partner criteria measured against the research we conducted into United Learning
Essential Criterium 1
Holland Park School’s character, history and identity must be preserved and celebrated. Its name must, therefore, be maintained.
Outcome - Pass
UL do not always change the name or uniform of their schools. (3)
Essential Criterium 2
Holland Park School must remain a key player within the family of schools in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It must contribute to the continuing success in education within the borough and play its role in ensuring equity of provision amongst pupils and families, contributing to the heads’ meetings, the FAP, pupil admissions codes and to school-to-school support and peer collaboration.
Outcome - Fail
UL do not have any schools in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for HPS to remain within a family of schools in RBKC.(2)(4). They say HPS will be managed by a regional manager, and grouped with Hurlingham Academy (Fulham) and Paddington Academy (Maida Vale), effectively divorcing it from the local community.
Essential Criterium 3
The quality of education and pastoral care must be outstanding: the receiving MAT must have sufficient capacity to improve on the high standards that have operated at Holland Park School over time. Safeguarding must be highly effective – a MAT must be able to support this.
Outcome - Fail
Only a small number of schools in UL are rated outstanding by Ofsted, despite the Trust being in existence for over a century.(4) No track record of UL being able to extend an already outstanding school could be found.
Major safeguarding concerns emerged this year for one ULT school.(8)
Essential Criterium 4
Teaching and the quality of professional development in Holland Park School can be stretched to go beyond outstanding and be truly exceptional. A MAT must have the capacity to both capitalise on existing practice at the school, deploying lead practitioners across the MAT as well as being able to peer support and challenge the school.
Outcome - Fail
Employee overall rating for UL is 2.6 out of 5 compared to 3.6 out of 5 for HPS. Multiple UL teachers report bullying, forced to teach poor quality pre-prepared lesson, and similar; feedback dated 2020 and 2019.(5) Staff at a UL primary school needed to threaten strike action over pay, conditions and bullying.(7)
Essential Criterium 5
The school community’s stakeholders – parents and carers in particular – must continue to be highly involved and a key part of the life of Holland Park.
Outcome - Fail
Parent/ carer involvement appears to be limited to the local governing board level of United Learning schools, if at all.(4)
Essential Criterium 6
All existing financial reserves must be ring-fenced to be used for the benefit of Holland Park School students and their families.
Outcome - Fail
Dame Sally Coates: “We don’t take money from any schools’ reserves. It absolutely stays with them.”(3) The full accounts at Company's House state: “The Charitable Company manages the cash reserves of the schools centrally in order to ensure sufficient liquidity is available to meet the needs of all the academies within it.”(2)
Following the UL meeting with parents on 26th April 2022 when Jon Coles suggested finances of state schools were kept separate, so we rechecked the Company's House statement regarding school reserves being held centrally by UL and we were correct, as hidden in the notes to the financial statements for the year ending 31 August 2021, p 69.
Essential Criterium 7
Holland Park School shall retain a governing body with two parent governors represented as well as other local representation.
Outcome - Fail
UL do not stipulate the number of parent governors on their local governing boards. Some schools have one, others two. There does not appear to be parent representation at higher levels of the organisation. (4) Another parent couldn't find any reference to parent governors in UL schools.
Essential Criterium 8
Staff will retain their current pay and conditions.
Outcome - Pass (Initially) *
Staff can retain their pay and conditions.(3)
Average teacher’s pay reported on Indeed for UL is 32K compared to 37K at HPS.(5)
*Recruitment likely affected in the long-term.
The following are the HPS Governing Board’s desirable criteria(1) in their preferred MAT partner, followed by the outcome of our due diligence investigation.
Desirable Criterium 1
That it is a MAT of sufficient size to successfully acquire Holland Park School and that it has sufficient breadth and depth of expertise in 11-18 education to add value to the existing high standard of provision.
Outcome - Pass
UL is the largest MAT in England. Cost to HPS will be about £320,000 per year: £230 per student(3) of the standard RBKC pupil premium of £7500 + government supplement of £955 (6). We understand the school already outsources a number of services that will subsequently be provided by UL and thus HPS will effectively be paying like for like. However, costs need to be looked into in more detail to verify this claim.
Desirable Criterium 2
That it has a successful and substantial track record of working with multiple inner city secondary schools.
Outcome - Limited
There are several inner city secondary schools within UL, hardly any are, however, rated out-standing. Limited evidence of successful track record.
Desirable Criterium 3
That it has the expertise to provide a suitable range of functions to provide high levels of assurance across finance, HR, health and safety, premises management and IT.
Outcome - Unknown
Schools appear to be arranged in clusters for this purpose.(4) Not clear whether this affords a true benefit for a school as large as HPS.
Desirable Criterium 4
That there is an overall compelling vision for the benefits for children and young people who are educated in the schools of the MAT and there is evidence to show that this vision is being realised?
Outcome - Pass?
UL’s vision is laid out on their website.(4) Many schools have improved their Ofsted ratings although some have seen a deterioration. The small number of outstanding schools under their care have maintained their rating.(9) However, given some of the press coverage of their safeguarding policies and complaints of racism, it is not certain their vision actually benefits children and young people.
For instance, HPS is highly diverse, but this article in The Guardian from March 2021 shows that United Learning had significantly more racist incidents than any other English academy trust. They did not provide data about the number of related temporary or permanent exclusions. At the recent online webinar Jon Coles admitted United Learning lacked diversity amongst their team too. One thing HPS needs is greater diversity amongst the leadership team and governing board, in order to balance out the student mix.
Desirable Criterium 5
That there are robust governance arrangements that secure high quality governance at the level of the whole Trust and of the individual school within the Trust.
Outcome - Fail
The expectations of local Governing Boards are clearly set out. However, “The Group Board carries out an annual self-evaluation…” (4), UL would operate outside local community oversight and governance.
Desirable Criterium 6
Achieve a timetable of transfer by September 2022.
Outcome - Pass
Likely to be feasible.
1. Holland Park School Stakeholder engagement process: https://www.hps-stakeholders.co.uk/the-preferred-mat-partner/ (last accessed 24/4/2022)
2. Full Accounts filed by United Learning Trust at Companies House: https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/04439859/filing-history (last accessed 24/4/2022)
3. Virtual meeting on Zoom Holland Park School Governors and United Learning Trust 17th March 2022 19.15hrs
4. United Learning Trust website: https://unitedlearning.org.uk/about-us/welcome (last accessed 24/4/2022)
5. Employee reviews and pay on Indeed worldwide employment website: https://uk.indeed.com/cmp/United-Learning/reviews ; https://uk.indeed.com/companies/compare/78ec03db83db54ef-7da5f62ca64708c4 ; https://uk.indeed.com/cmp/Holland-Park-School/salaries/teacher/ ; https://uk.indeed.com/cmp/United-Learning/salaries/Teacher (last accessed 24/4/2022)
6. Government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pupil-premium-allocations-and-conditions-of-grant-2021-to-2022/pupil-premium-conditions-of-grant-2021-to-2022-for-academies-and-free-schools (last accessed 24/4/2022)
7. News report: https://www.mylondon.news/news/east-london-news/walthamstow-primary-school-staff-striking-23543192 (last accessed 24/4/2022)
8. News report: https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/students-slam-cambridge-school-resembles-22505463 (last accessed 24/4/2022)
9. Ofsted reports on United Learning schools: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/1000/5143 (last accessed 24/4/2022)
The governors outline on their website why they believe that HPS needs to move from being a SAT (single academy trust) to being part of a MAT (multi-academy trust), and their arguments are well delivered. Initially the HPSPC wanted HPS to stay as a SAT, but on discussion with those who know more about the education system than we do, we came to understand that is not a realistic option, especially as the government intends to have every state schools be part of a MAT by 2030. Thus we are not arguing against being part of a MAT. On "paper" MATs make sense but investigations have shown that there is no significant benefit to non-failing schools joining a MAT and in fact some failing schools have been kicked out of MATs as the MAT could not help turn them around.
[Coming: Links to relevant articles]
The hps-stakeholders website makes a good pitch for United Learning and if we hadn't done our own research then we may buy in to their pitch too. Some teachers at HPS have worked for UL schools before and tell a very different story. You may find it worthwhile to read these two statements that were given in person at an HPSPC meeting from parents of a student at a UL school and from a teacher who was traumatised by working at a UL school.
Examples from parents letters expressing they key concerns
It has been nearly three months since parents learnt abruptly that the new Board of Governors at Holland Park School had been focusing primarily on moving the school’s ownership and governance to the multi-academy trust system, and were recommending one of the largest MATs in the country, United Learning Trust. Many parents have responded to this news with dismay, confusion and unanswered questions. Some of their words from letters to the Chair of Governors, the Board of Governors, the Regional Schools Commissioner and other decision-makers are attached below, to give a sense of the variety of concerns and depth of feeling.
We are sharing these paragraphs to give you insights into how other parents are writing about what concerns them. If any of these points resonate with you, please use your own words as we don't want to become like the governing board and start sending out letters with copied paragraphs. Thank you!
On the NEU strike:
“Accusing NEU [National Education Union] members, who voted within their legal prerogative and democratically in favour of the strike, of threatening the ‘stability’ of the school is beyond concerning. This divisive style of communication must stop. I urge you and all parties involved to work concertedly towards guaranteeing the stability of a school that, from my experience, was at least satisfying the minimum of working conditions before the board announced their decision to join a MAT [multi-academy trust] while at the same time trying to put right the abuses of past administrations.”
On local alternatives to a large Multi-academy trust:
“I trust that, for the sake of those of us who will suffer the consequences of the decisions taken by this GB [governing board] for years to come, you will evaluate with due thoroughness those alternatives that involve a more democratic attitude and set-up. Alternatives with the direct intervention of outstanding local schools like KAA, with the active participation of the Local Authority (RBKC) playing the role that the new policy recently highlighted in this year’s Queen’s speech outlines for it. Alternatives that will invigorate the spirit of the community and make us feel heard and fairly treated, not dismissed and forgotten.”
On the impact of the way change is managed:
“Not for a second do I deny that HPS requires change, nor do I want this situation to prolong more than it needs to be. All parents want this to be sorted out in the shortest possible time and with the least possible trauma. But the UL alternative, if materializes, will leave a long trail of bitterness in the community that will take long to heal. The local alternative on the other hand, will have the community coming together and acknowledging the good that can be found in the government’s policy of academisation because it will show, in contrast with the current justified perception, that communities have a role to play in it.”
“It was with great shock and disappointment that I read the letter sent to parents explaining that Holland Park School will in fact be joining United Learning Multi Academy Trust. All I really want to know is why we were never given an opportunity to get a real understanding of what the options were prior to the decision as it will affect the future of our children. It is also very upsetting that the voice of the school community means so little to the Governors. There's so many unanswered questions. Who was considered during the process? Why were we not involved in the process before decisions were made, surely the first thing would be to listen to the community who is most affected by these changes? It feels like the school community was pushed aside almost as an annoyance and kept in the dark on purpose to get this pushed through.”
“I emailed you in March to urge you to take a step back and start the consultation process again to try to bring all the Holland Park stakeholders with you on the decision to choose a MAT. My concern was that in the medium term enormous damage would be done by losing key staff and pupils. Felicity Cox [From the Department for Education, at 17/3/22 meeting] said the only reason you are doing this is for the children. You are failing the children at Holland Park. This has nothing to do with the previous management. You have created this situation.”
On the stakeholder engagement process:
“I want to point out a few of the flaws I have noticed with the stakeholder engagement process. As mentioned in our meeting, the questionnaire was bizarrely biased. I really did not see the necessity for the questionnaire to be formulated in a way that it was essentially cheerleading for United Learning.”
“At the in person Q&A, held by United Learning at the school last month, we were told that they would hold another of the same event to accommodate families who were unable to attend. There had been requests for the Q&A to be postponed following the tragic news regarding Mr Chappell the previous day, as well as the large number of families who would be excluded due to Ramadan clashing with the timings. I would like to know if there will be another formal meeting to accommodate these families and others as part of the formal stakeholder engagement process.”
On the nature of consultation with parents:
“Had the Governing Board reached out to parents and staff before reaching out to UL I am confident we would be in a very different position now. It is not too late. While I am aware that the Governing Board has been working diligently on behalf of the school, what is the school if not the students, staff and parents? Please listen to what we we are saying and scrutinise this flawed process.”
On the Notice to Improve:
“The financial Notice to Improve required governors to consider a MAT due to compliance issues. You clarify in your email below that these compliance issues have now been resolved, so the conditions laid out in the NtI have been met. Why therefore is there such enthusiasm from a board who are supposed to be acting in the interests of our school to progress further than their remit of “considering”, with an agenda that school stakeholders are clearly informing you they do not want?”
On the appointment of a new Headteacher:
“You wrote to parents stating that Mr Parsons was selected from "a very strong field". Is this really how you would characterize the short-listed candidates interviewed on 29 March, that included not a single woman? It is commonly known that the broadest candidate fields are drawn from adverts placed in January/February and yet you chose to wait until mid-March, even though the September 2022 vacancy was known in September 2021, and allowed the absolute minimum period of two weeks for applications. The headteacher appointment is not a box-ticking exercise. It is not a side show to the main ULT event.”
On the impact of rushed and unaccountable change on the wellbeing of our children and communities:
“Our children have been living through a hugely stressful period that has taken a massive toll on their confidence and mental health. The rug has been pulled out from under their feet time and again, many certainties have evaporated before their eyes. At a time when they need stability you are introducing a new, fundamental and completely unnecessary anxiety into their lives. I do not understand why you wouldn't simply have stabilized the school, hired a fantastic new headteacher (plus safeguarding/pastoral support staff as needed) and then in the longer term looked to assess whether a broader structural change was necessary. The new governors have been at the helm for nearly seven months now and yet, in your own words, "effective structures for the pastoral care of students are not in place". How can this be? And why is your website asking whether stakeholders would like to see things like a change of school name and uniform when this has nothing to do with the MAT/United Learning question or the other serious issues affecting the school? Your website raises yet more insecurity and uncertainty for our children about what lies ahead, yet more anxiety when you should be prioritizing their well-being over all else.”
“We are already in a far worse position than I could have possibly imagined. My child is sitting GCSEs and his teachers are not coming to school. How do you think this is affecting all of the children's confidence?”
On concerns over ULT:
We need to expand on this subject extensively in our letters to the board before May 27th.
See some ideas in section below these examples.
“In relation to the consultation, I assume that you will re-consider UL if there are valid concerns about the governors' choice of MAT? I have been researching other UL schools and the recent complaints made seem very similar to those made about Holland Park School - the very issues that I had assumed the governors were trying to fix.”
“One of the advantages that representatives from UL repeatedly mentioned to the ‘consultation’ groups was that their MAT would give HPS access to UL’s centralised services such as HR, Finance and Curriculum Resources including shared examination papers and lesson plans. The ‘shared resources’ are totally at odds with the claim that the school can remain autonomous in its teaching approach. Having cookie-cutter style lesson plans is a one-size-fits-all solution. It removes a teacher’s ability to be agile within a classroom and adapt to the individual learning needs of their pupils.”
“I am apprehensive that United Learning is so dismissive of parental concerns, particularly if they scrutinise or are critical of ULT.”
On parental voice:
“Parents have asked repeatedly for consultation. At a time where there is no parental voice represented on our Board of Governors, it feels that our wishes for the school’s future have been entirely ignored by you.”
On lack of transparency by the Board of Governors and Department for Education:
“For the purpose of transparency and accountability may I ask you to elucidate which Academy members and Trustees specifically:
A. Collated the evidence for the different options (local government, SAT, In-borough MAT vs large MAT)
B. Voted on A
C. Created the shortlisting criteria for the various MATs
D. Voted on C.
How did you ensure absence of bias towards the proposal that you reached. Specifically was the voting body balanced in terms of their affiliations to MATs vs no such connection? May I also ask you to explain what processes you have put in place if on balance the current decision is found not to be in HPS’s interest after all?”
“What I want most from the board of governors is clarity and transparency. There are so many questions that the Governors should have answered to their stakeholders before agreeing to choose a MAT!
I repeat why the urgency, this is going to change the fabric of our school?
Why choose a MAT at all, surely there were other ways to address the issues stipulated in the Notice to Improve?
If we had to choose a MAT, surely a local MAT in RBKC, where children in our community could benefit. You mentioned the wider community in North Kensington, surely joining forces with other local schools in North Kensington and bridging and forging links would be a better solution than joining 89 schools that we have no affiliation to
The Holland Park School I've known in the past was always honest and extremely detailed in terms of their future strategy for the school. Instead it feels like we are forced to accept changes without any information with no transparency or clear channels of communication. I can't believe that you would accept changes like these under these circumstances for your child, why should we?”
On delays in electing parent governors:
“The governing board of HPS has been without its full complement of parent governors during this process. Will the new parent governors be enabled to engage meaningfully in A to D (see above) once appointed?”
Reasons for the BoG not to choose UL (aside from those already mentioned)
The following are just loose ideas that we will tighten up in time, but we hope will give you some food for thought.
The student and former teacher allegations about practices at HPS were all accepted as having occurred in the recent report conducted by the Board of Governors. United Learning schools use practises that these same students and teachers considered abusive at HPS.
These students and teachers highlighted inadequate pastoral care at HPS. Is UL's pastoral care (and education) outstanding? Many think not.
There are significant costs involved in installing the permanent pumps required in the basement to make the pool usable (due to underground rivers), replacing all the fire doors and some of the glass in the building. Who will pay to have these issues fixed? What will UL's responsibility be?
Support staff at HPS could be used locally by both KAA & HPS, whereas if UL take over they will lose their jobs.
Hard for HPS to remain key player in RBKC family of schools if it is trying to be a key player in the UL family of schools. A local MAT would make much more sense in honouring this essential criterium of the governing board's choice of MAT.
Partnering with local schools will allow both schools to develop complimentary sixth forms and students wouldn't need to travel far. Local MAT could eventually include most RBKC schools and lead to innerMAT sports and other competitions etc.
KAA very strong on safeguarding (and SEN?) where local support with understanding of our community is obviously much preferred. UL does not understand our community, and even with a local school board all important decisions would be made by their head office in Peterborough.
Letters from Stakeholders you can quote from
You can quote from the RBKC statement - blog sharing it is here.
Below is the letter from the local MP, Felicity Buchan, to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC), Dame Kate Detheridge. and below that is the letter to Felicity Buchan from Baroness Buchan following an in person meeting with five HPSPC parents.