• Holland Park School Parent Collective

Due Diligence on United Learning

Updated: May 15

The following is the Due Diligence Report undertaken on behalf of the HPSPC.


Due diligence on United Learning Trust

as the preferred MAT partner for Holland Park School


Below we have listed the HPS Governing Board’s essential criteria(1) in choosing United Learning Trust, followed by the outcome of the due diligence investigation.


Essential Criterium 1

Holland Park School’s character, history and identity must be preserved and celebrated. Its name must, therefore, be maintained.


Outcome - Pass

ULT 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

ULT 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).


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 ULT are rated outstanding by Ofsted, despite the Trust being in existence for over a century.(4) No track record of ULT 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 ULT is 2.6 out of 5 compared to 3.6 out of 5 for HPS. Multiple ULT teachers report bullying, forced to teach poor quality pre-prepared lesson, and similar; feedback dated 2020 and 2019.(5) Staff at a ULT 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.(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, we rechecked the statement re school reserves being held centrally by ULT and this is indeed correct, 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

ULT 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)


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 ULT 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 choosing United Learning Trust, followed by the outcome of the 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

ULT is the largest MAT in England. Cost to HPS is £320,000 per year:

£230 per student(3) of 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 ULT, 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

ULT’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)


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), ULT 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.


References:

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)


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