United Learning is not best for HPS - by The Student Leadership Team
What is United Learning and why should you care about them?
United Learning is the MAT that Holland Park School is now set to join. It is the biggest MAT in the country, with over 80 schools under its control, and there have been some serious issues raised with safeguarding and wellbeing in United Learning schools recently.
For instance, Coleridge Community College in Cambridge, a United Learning school, has recently been criticised by an ITV source for its 'draconian' rules; students were reportedly made to chant "silence is my natural state" and shamed for having their top buttons undone, along with many other extreme disciplinary rules which have directly contributed to a severe decline in the mental wellbeing of the pupils at the school. Another UL policy includes 'Rank Order Assessment' - a published hierarchy of student performance in end of year tests - displayed publicly for all students to see. Such actions, although almost unheard of at Holland Park School, are common practice throughout United Learning's schools and are in fact supported by United Learning's policies.
What is a MAT?
A MAT (Multi-Academy Trust) is a trust that controls several academy schools. MATs can range in size, from local MATs only running a few schools, to large nation-wide MATS, such as United Learning (UL). As the largest MAT in the UK, UL controls over 80 primary and secondary schools across the country.
Why are we protesting?
Recently, the Holland Park School community has witnessed several protests regarding the distressing lack of transparency and consultation for what is ultimately the future of our education. We are protesting because we cannot find any other way of asking the governors to listen to student voices; we have written letters and signed petitions, yet still we are being forced to join United Learning. The irony of this situation being that the Governors wish to force Holland Park into a MAT that has safeguarding issues with their schools more serious than the allegations levied against Holland Park by former students.
Why would joining a large MAT such as United Learning not be beneficial to our school?
Putting aside the multitude of very concerning allegations against United Learning, what is most concerning to us is the prospect of losing autonomy. By allowing our school to be managed by a large external force such as that of United Learning, we risk losing control of important matters such as finances, resources and staffing decisions.
Thus, we may find the quality of the teachers decreasing, timetabling changing completely (most likely for the worst), resources being taken away and the wellbeing of students deteriorating.
In addition, it is generally appreciated that the movement of a school into a multi-academy trust is ultimately irreversible, and as such the decision should absolutely not be taken lightly.
Is United Learning the only option? No; the student body is open to the idea of considering joining a smaller, local MAT (such as the prospect of joining one with KAA). We wish to reiterate the fact that, whilst our community is not wholly opposed to joining a MAT, we do absolutely disagree that United Learning is the way forward in ensuring our school's success.
By joining a smaller MAT with other schools in the area, we could help contribute to the community and still retain the values at the very core of our school; values that stress the importance of freedom of speech and freedom of expression (which seem to be missing from United Learning's behavioural policies).