Holland Park School staff engaged in ‘exploitative’ relationships with students

Staff at an elite public school in London have “exploitative” relationships with students, an independent investigation has found.

The investigation into Holland Park School in Kensington found there was a culture of ‘fear, favoritism and inequality’ at London’s top academy.

He said ‘very little support’ was provided to students following traumatic events such as the Grenfell Tower disaster, and ‘public humiliation’ or shouting was used as behavioral policy.

The investigation also revealed that there was discrimination in the school, including overt sexism, Islamophobia and racism.

Recent parents include Michael Gove, the Cabinet Minister, and John Bercow, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, who was elected parent-governor of the school.

The report comes as the school remains locked in a dispute with ministers over its intention to be taken over by one of the country’s biggest academy chains, United Learning, in September.

According to a local council officer, around 200 academy students were involved in a ‘riot’ inside the school two weeks ago to protest the plans.

A statement from the school’s governing body made following the investigation said: ‘We know that some members of the school community do not agree with our proposal. [to join United Learning].

“There are also many who are desperate for action to be taken. The Governors priority and guiding principle is to ensure that the school is once again fit for purpose and to provide the first class education that students have come to expect.

The independent inquiry looked into allegations of breaches of protection, bullying, discrimination and inequality towards teachers and students.

Students “still traumatized by their experiences”

The complaints and evidence span from 2004 when the school was under local authority control (Kensington and Chelsea) to September 2013 when it became a Single Academy Trust and then September 2013 to December 2021.

Investigators collected evidence from former staff and students, some of whom were “still traumatized by their experiences at Holland Park School”.

“At times, respondents were extremely distressed at having to review their time at Holland Park School and were visibly shaken,” the report said.

It also found that the school withheld completed Ofsted questionnaires from staff during an inspection in January 2020.

The Ministry of Education previously issued an improvement notice to the school in November 2021, ‘highlighting financial mismanagement’ as well as ‘excessive salaries of leaders and failure to seek prior government approval for “new and disputed” expenses”.

The director took early retirement

The school announced last year that Colin Hall, its former headmaster, would take early retirement while a new chair of governors was appointed.

The Governing Council statement added: “We take the findings very seriously. As a result, and after careful consideration, the governors intend to take the matter to the Education Regulatory Agency and open a disciplinary investigation into three staff members. All will have a full opportunity to respond before a conclusion is drawn.

“The future of Holland Park School must be different. Exceptional schools have positive, nurturing, and caring learning environments that focus on human dignity as well as academic success. Governors are fully committed to this future and have worked hard to create its foundations.”

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