“Governors have rushed forwards in a way that has left our student community powerless and without a voice for the future of our own learning.
Our school encourages us to express ourselves, with teachers that value our opinions; now strangers, with no experience of what makes our school so special, are taking that freedom away from us.”
"[HPS students] will continue to stand united in the best interest of our community, an interest which we feel [the Governors] have dismissed in [their] inability to show any signs of transparency or engagement with the school and its students."
- Chair of Student Leadership Team
We, the current students of Holland Park School (HPS), want to be heard.
The fact that we have had to set up our own web page, Twitter and Instagram accounts, along with a physical protest outside the school gates, just to get our voices heard is testament to the fact that the new Board of Governors at Holland Park School have continuously failed to include us in their decisions, decisions that will affect us more than anyone else.
Our experience at school impacts the rest of our lives, not just in terms of what we learn academically but also in terms of our confidence, mental health, self-esteem and the values we embrace as we move forward with our lives. We will not sit idly by while we are railroaded into the United Learning Trust whose values clearly do not align with those of our school, regardless of their marketing rhetoric.
On the 21st March 2022 Ajani Craig (Sixth Form) attended a meeting at the RBKC Town Hall to share his thoughts with the Family Services Committee on what is happening to Holland Park School under the DfE imposed governing body.
HPS Student Leaders Speak Up
Chair of Student Leadership Team
“Over recent weeks, we have invested a considerable number of hours in researching and digesting vast amounts of information in order to better understand the board of governors’ seemingly informed motivations for joining United Learning - one of the biggest MATs in the country. It has become increasingly apparent to us all that since the newly appointed board of governors have joined the school, transparency and meaningful consultation with students, parents, and staff has not been a priority - forcing all stakeholders to spend valuable time piecing together the truth behind the decisions taken over the last couple of months rather than devoting all our efforts towards achieving the best grades we possibly can in our upcoming exams.”
“The claim by the school governors that there has been transparent consultation with current student bodies is baseless. They have not consulted properly with students, and any attempts have been half-hearted or non-existent. They have predetermined the outcome and are now railroading us through this decision. This is fundamentally wrong.”
“The Board of Governors’ decision to join United Learning is rash, irreversible and has the potential to be highly destructive. Perhaps most importantly, it has been made with absolutely zero consultation of staff, parents, or students; is this really fair? Such a decision would remove the autonomy we need from Holland Park School; we could lose control of staffing decisions, finances, budgeting, and curriculum, as well as countless other crucial aspects of what makes up the school we know and love. A decision of such magnitude should incontrovertibly not be made without thorough consultation of those most affected: the parents, the staff, and the students. Any conclusion will inevitably directly affect the academic careers, and ultimately the futures, of every single student at Holland Park School - which is why we deem it crucial that the governors acknowledge our voices.”
“I believe it's important to express what I feel, and if I'm going to be a hundred percent honest; quite frankly it all seems wrong to me. To take this school, as if it's just a piece of rock, when it's worth so much more than that. It's lovely teachers and hardworking students. They are priceless, and I will not bear to watch these tyrannical, cunning creatures pull my school apart right before my eyes. Though some students may not really care, as in a few weeks they'll be gone, but I'm still here and so are my classmates. I will do all that's in my power to save this school, but I'm afraid it might be too late.”
Why NOT United Learning?
WHAT IS UNITED LEARNING?
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.
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.
WHY WOULD JOINING A LARGE MAT SUCH AS UNITED LEARNING NOT BE BENEFICIAL TO OUR SCHOOL?
Putting aside the multitude of very concern ing 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).
Student Letters to BoG
The following are open letters written by students at Holland Park School.
Please see the key points from these letters below, where we clarify our concerns about the lack of transparency and open communication by the new BoG (Board of Governors) and their chair, Jane Farrell.
Key Points From Student Letters to Jane Farrell
Y13 student's letter includes the following:
As a relatively small body of five members, who have rarely visited our school, or made contact with our staff and students, your collective decisions have affected the 1400 pupils to a great extent, though this is nothing compared to the detrimental impact of being absorbed into a federation and that being United Learning - a trust that has faced numerous allegations.
... An ITV source has stated that the parents of Coleridge Community College in Cambridge, run by United Learning, launched a petition against what they called the school’s ‘draconian’ discipline rules, where the students were punished for having their top button undone and reportedly made to chant ‘silence is my natural state’. I need not mention how oppressive and regressive such a statement is in an age, where valuing individual liberty and the significance of one’s voice is what is being emphasised.
... Ms Farrell, are you really advocating joining a trust, where students are taught to stay ‘silent’, rather than learn about their freedom of speech and right to voice their opinions on matters regarding them? What kind of a school would Holland Park become, if under the trust’s leadership, students’ voices are disregarded, and pupils are indoctrinated into believing that ‘silence is [their] natural state’?
Chair of the Student Leadership Team's letter includes these points:
“Around sixty students gathered on Monday 21st of March for a peaceful and organised protest outside the school gates – a true testament to the empowering environment Holland Park School has established for its students over the last 14 years. We, as a fair representation of the student body, feel that our voices have been dismissed and undermined in the decisions taken to join United Learning and change the future of our educational careers.”
“Given the governors’ lack of engagement in this community and our school events since your appointment, I imagine that gaging an understanding of how close we all are may be difficult… please allow me to name some of the events that we as a school, have taken part in to shape and contribute to the solidarity of our community since your appointment on the board of governors. Last November, a football charity match between students and teachers raised £100 for Cancer Research UK. This was followed by a rematch raising £312 for Breast Cancer Research UK. In February, a school-wide book drive was organised on behalf of the Children’s Book Project which saw over 400 books donated in an attempt to help tackle book poverty, and to give every child across the country the opportunity to own their own book. Most recently, on Friday 18th, a charity netball match and bake sale (‘peace for cake’) were organised and raised £800 in support of DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian appeal - enough money to provide one month’s worth of food for 16 refugee families. These are only some of the events that took place this year organised by the Student Leadership Team, and it is simply heartbreaking that our attempts to be involved so deeply within our community are counter-acted by your continuous failure to involve us in your decisions. As I am sure you have realised, the students at this school have continuously sought to stand united in the face of suffering, not least when in the summer of 2017, the whole school came out on a silent walk through Kensington Park to show our solidarity for the victims of Grenfell. We will continue to stand united in the best interest of our community, an interest which we feel you have dismissed in your inability to show any signs of transparency or engagement with the school and its students.”
Please note that although this page is being hosted on the Holland Park School Parent Collective (HPSPC) website the content on this page is managed by students at Holland Park School, and is not influenced by the opinions or beliefs of the HPSPC.
We have offered to host this page for the students in line with our belief that all stakeholder voices at Holland Park School deserve the right to be heard, regardless of whether we agree with their opinions or not. Transparency and open dialogue are key values of the HPSPC.