Holland Park School opened in 1958 and was one of London’s first comprehensive schools. Under its founding Headmaster Allen Clarke (1958 – 1971), the school became a showpiece of progressive post war education. In its early days the school was mixed in its identity: Allen Clarke was mild mannered, traditional, courteous and patrician. He led benignly in an academic gown. As the Sixties progressed, prefects, Latin mottos, speech days and Houses, began to give way to rather more egalitarian ideals. Standards of discipline fell, the fabric of the building declined and what had met the need in the early Sixties was deemed outmoded: a student demonstration in December 1970 rather heralded in the new era of liberalism and a period of mixed fortunes.
The school attracted, in the 1970s and 1980s, some high profile socialist grandees and a smattering of literati and glitterati of West London. The Benn family gave enormous support to the school and were advocates of its ideals. Whilst the proportion of such families was small by comparison to the whole, such alumni provided a cachet that has continued to dominate people’s perceptions and understanding of the school. The school tended to attract either devotees or critics in equal measure. Whatever the opinions, by 1997 its fortunes were at a decidedly low ebb and the 1997 Ofsted report was crisp in its criticisms. Like many schools, the spirit of the 1970s and 1980s was reflected in its philosophy but well-intentioned idealism was much less in vogue by the 1990s and it was time to put into the annals of history its supposed heyday. Such change began in 2001 and since then the school has twice gone on to be judged outstanding by Ofsted and to feature in the Good Schools Guide.
See left for old film footage: The opening of Holland Park School 1958.