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Council calls for “immediate intervention” from Department for Education at school over governance concerns

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has called upon the Government to intervene immediately at a school the council claims is plagued with governance issues.

In a statement published on 30 April and updated 4 May, Sarah Newman, Executive Director of Bi-Borough Children's Services, said Kensington & Chelsea was making the call as there had been recent reports of "problematic and rowdy behaviour” of students outside Holland Park School.

Last week, a teacher left in tears and more than 200 pupils were involved in a "riot" to protest against the school board's decision to join a chain of academies, she said.

According to Newman, teachers have expressed no confidence in the current governing body at the school, and parents are threatening legal action.

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The unrest centres around a disagreement over the board of trustees' decision to join United Learning, a large multi academy trust (MAT).

The school's governors were asked to consider joining an academy in November 2021 as part of the conditions laid out in a Notice to Improve issued by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Newman said: “Over many weeks and months, the council has continuously raised concerns about the management of Holland Park School with staff, trustees, the Department for Education, and Ofsted. The situation has now escalated to such a level that the council is calling for immediate intervention by the Department for Education.”

The Executive Director later wrote in the statement: "The council has been significantly concerned about the lack of communication between the school and parents; decisions are being made about the future of the school in the absence of any engagement or collaboration and changes to the school are happening in the absence of any planning for the impact."

She added: "At the council, we have been clear to the Department for Education that we have no confidence in the current governance arrangements at the school.

"My priority, and the priority of the council, will always be the safe wellbeing and quality of education for children and young people in Kensington and Chelsea, and regretfully this has been disrupted in recent months at Holland Park School. Reports are increasing of problematic behaviour, and it remains a concern that the school's Trustees are continuing down a path not supported by parents.

"I have great respect for all those working tirelessly to help Holland Park School find its stability but, clearly, adjustments are needed."

In a statement announcing the MAT decision, school governors said the criteria for their decision were based on early dialogue dating back to the autumn term with the local authority, the leadership team, parent and local school representatives and historical knowledge of the school.

"Criteria included matters of governance, finance and autonomy as well as outstanding education for children. They included the requirement for any MAT to preserve the unique identity of the school as a flagship in the London education system, as well as the opportunity for Holland Park School to be a key player in wider work such as Teaching School Hubs and other similar national roles," the announcement noted.

Adam Carey

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