News Update & Call to Action - 28th April 2022
Updated: May 3
This is an interim news update that covers the so-called student 'riot' (it wasn't!), the impact of Mr Chappell's collapse, our concerns, the role of the HPSPC, Parent Governors, takeover tactics and the MAT issue. The Call to Action is explained at the end of the News Update.
On the 27th April the students organised a silent sit in on the MUGA to protest Holland Park being moved into the United Learning Multi-Academy Trust without consultation with students, parents or teachers. They have launched a petition and written to the Board of Governors about their concerns and are so upset to have not even received a reply. Those who sat in on the new head teacher interviews, rated the future HPS teacher who has been selected by the BoG, as their second last choice. The students at HPS do not feel heard. The intentions behind this silent sit in were reasonable and understandable.
After this silent protest was planned, Mr Chappell collapsed, affecting many of the teachers and students deeply. Out of respect for the shock many people are in, especially the teachers, the Student Leadership Team cancelled the protest.
Unfortunately a number of students did not get the message that it had been cancelled and went out to sit on the MUGA, while other students took the opportunity to play up and encourage others to join them, run around, throw water around, miss lessons and be disruptive. For those students who wanted to peacefully protest this was deeply upsetting. (It also speaks to the fact that the disruptive students do not understand the long term impact of their behaviour.) About 260 students have been identified through CCTV as being disruptive during this event and have been contacted by the school to attend school on Friday, where they will given appropriate consequences.
The teachers decided to call the police as they were concerned about their ability to manage the number of children running around, however, order was restored quite quickly. We are still collecting details about what happened, however, we understand the situation was brought under control within twenty minutes and no children were seriously hurt during the event. However, some children are writing exams right now and this disrupted them. We understand one young man came out of his exam and punched the wall. We have been told that no exam doors were kicked in or damaged. Ongoing classes were disrupted by what was happening in the stairwells and outside.
The Interim Head, Arwel Jones, spoke to the whole school today about what happened, and teachers re-iterated what he said in their classes. The feedback from the children is that it was well handled.
The Impact of Mr Chappell's Collapse
The children are feeling the uncertainty in the school more and more;
Mr Hall leaving suddenly.
A new interim head whose lack of consistent physical presence around the school and introductory speech sadly lacked the insight to gain him the respect of the students.
The lack of teachers with the experience and authority to manage the disruptive behaviour of the less well-behaved students, when previously there were many teachers able to handle the students.
Discovering through a letter sent to their parents from the Board of Governors (BoG) that the school is to become part of a MAT, specifically the unknown United Learning.
Parents and other students protesting the BoG's lack of transparency and consultation at the school gates - echoing their own unease.
Strange people (e.g. United Learning) starting to walk around the school and ask them questions.
Ofsted suddenly arriving and throwing everyone around them into a heightened state - Ofsted asking them questions and them worrying their answers might make things worse for their school.
Following all this, Mr Chappell, who some saw as their stabilising figure at HPS since Colin Hall left, suddenly collapses and is taken away by ambulance.
On Tuesday the children told members of the HPSPC that they don't know what to do with their feelings. Teachers and staff have apparently been ordered not to say anything about Mr Chappell other than to give rudimentary information - no-one had spoken to them about him - they feel they are being made to continue 'as though nothing has happened'.
For many of them, this is a culmination of all that has been happening, leaving them feeling as if their world is imploding around them. They are trying to reach out but don't always know how to express what is going on for them.
This has also affected the teachers quite significantly. He was their pillar through all the changes the school is encountering, and now that security has been taken from them too. Many of them are worried about their jobs and are talking to their unions about their situation.
Within this context United Learning refused to postpone the Q&A they had set up with parents last night even though they'd scheduled it during Ramadan at a time when our Muslim parents would be preparing to break their fast and thus unable to attend.
The Student Leadership Team cancelled their peaceful protest after discussion with the teachers, as a sign of respect for Mr Chappell and his family - and to allow time for the shock to ease, RBKC and the HPSPC both requested a respectful pause from UL re the Q&A, but Jon Coles refused to postpone it, instead adding in another meeting for those who weren't feeling "quite up for it". Although many boycotted the meeting, a number of the HPSPC parents felt we had to attend the Q&A as a result, and when we asked him to pause the MAT inclusion process his response was that we needed to escalate it (as he believes UL is the solution to our "many problems"). This demonstrates his commitment to his agenda regardless of the voices of others, and his lack of care and consideration for the needs of our community, in which case I am certain UL will not solve our problems, just hide them. You can read the two blogs on this Q&A here: A parents experience of the Q&A without deeper background knowledge and the insights based on HPSPC background knowledge.
There are consequences for this lack of understanding by Jon Coles, CEO of United Learning; it shows no commitment of care to our school body. The children want to feel that they matter - and that someone will listen to them. They did not create this mess but are the ones having to live with the consequences of derisory decision making from those running or taking over our school. United Learning (Jon Coles) are complicit.
We are very concerned that we may lose yet another member of the Senior Leadership Team due to the intense pressure and lack of consultancy or support for them. We have made this clear to RBKC.
The BoG have had since September 2021 to put adequate systems in, and yet all they did was focus on getting us absorbed into a MAT. They didn't even start looking for a new head teacher until after Colin Hall has left the school. Now we have an Interim Head that has come at considerable expense, who has "no skin in the game" as one parent so eloquently said at the recent United Learning Q&A, and who isn't taking the definitive public stance we need in order to stabilise Holland Park and make our children feel more secure.
All these outsiders do not understand our community or the needs of HPS and our children, and the Senior Leadership Team and our teachers are not being heard or supported.
The role of the HPSPC
HPS has no Parent Teacher Association (PTA) - it is normal to have one in most schools - so we have had no way of getting together, supporting one another and engaging with the school. We created the HPSPC in response to the lack of consultation and transparency from the Board of Governors, so by definition we are currently focused on our concerns around the changes happening at the school, however, we hope in time this group will evolve into a positive support group for parents. For now we are focused on supporting our children, teachers and school through this period of change, while fighting for all our right to be consulted and heard.
The Board of Governors promised we'd know the result of the parent governor elections by 26th April 2022 - 2 days prior to this article going out, but to date we still have no parent governors.
There has been no transparency and no consultation by the Board of Governors - the basic expectations of our community - and promises are being broken. The government have sworn many times to us that this lack of transparency, integrity and non consultation would never happen again here in RBKC since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We have been ignored and treated as an annoyance, just for asking for consultation on the future of our children's educational and emotional lives. We are being railroaded and torn apart by worry and stress. Typical division tactics for takeovers 101. There is a Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry going on currently looking at this type of indifference and entitlement. We shall be asking where this basic Duty of Care has disappeared to at the fifth Anniversary for Grenfell.
The MAT Issue
The government want every school to be part of a MAT (multi-academy trust) by 2030. The idea is that a MAT will be able to save money by pooling resources, contracts, Human Resources, finances, admin and the like. It is also supposed to inspect its schools regularly and take responsibility for its schools so the government have less to worry about. However, there are many issues with MATs and they don't work quite as well as the government hoped they would. You can read more about issues with MATs in the following articles: National Education Union (on joining at MAT), Guardian article (refers to academies but is talking about MATs) and UCL Institute of Education Report (on how new government reforms to the education system).
A further key consideration for Holland Park School is that in joining a MAT we lose our status as a legal entity and no longer have power to make our own decisions. Furthermore, it is currently not possible to leave a MAT. Those that do are schools failing so badly the MAT kicks them out, but schools can't leave of their own volition. Once we're in, we're in.
Without consultation our BoG has decided HPS needs to be absorbed by United Learning, the biggest MAT in the country. We haven't seen United Learning's proposal and we haven't seen the proposal put forward for a local MAT.
We have taken the time to explain to United Learning that there has been no transparency and no consultation. We have noted that they should be presenting their proposal alongside others for us to choose the best one to ensure transparency and proper procurement. They are strangely not interested in this. Doing this could lead to them legitimately taking part in, possibly being mandated and winning the bid honestly and fairly.
Instead, they are using our children's distress to ramp up pressure and suggest they now step in immediately and fast forward an already inordinately rushed, ill conceived process. Let us remember this is not an act of kindness but one of takeover. The financial rewards per pupil are great, plus we are one of the most well known state schools in the country and they will, no doubt, use our presence in their 'Trust' to lure in other schools.
CALL TO ACTION
Please parents, join us in doing your research. It doesn't add up!!
Instead of fixing the problems the DfE (Department for Education) will be to give us more of the same if we do not manage to secure a local MAT. The United Learning representatives will be long gone once they have secured our school. We will be left with a central system that serves more than 80 schools, none as outstanding as HPS was before September 2021, and none are as distinctive as Holland Park School.
There is an immediate workable option within RBKC. This is the preferred option of RBKC Education and Safeguarding, the teachers and staff, our MP and Counsellors, and the majority of parents and children we have spoken to. (If this is not how you feel, do let us know what you'd prefer). This option will have an awarded RBKC Headteacher step in as an Executive Head (above the new Head), with a behaviour and safeguarding team to work with the current HPS Senior Leadership Team, teachers and staff - and a new, mandated Governing Board while a Local MAT is formed for September 2022 - as confirmed at the recent RBKC Education Scrutiny Meeting. It has been agreed with RBKC and is being put forward. The DfE has it in their power to make that happen. Please support this.
We can be scared into submission and give in now, losing much of our HPS student cohort as parents remove their children, or save our school from a future that has no way out - and in doing so, give our children a lesson in standing up for our neighbours, our basic rights and an expectation of Good Practice in Governance.
Thank you for listening.