Preferred Multi Academy Trust

United Learning selected by Holland Park School’s Governing Body as the Preferred Multi Academy Trust Home for the School

The governing body has today advised the school community that United Learning Trust is the preferred multi academy trust (MAT) to be a potential future home for Holland Park School.

The governors were asked to consider a MAT for the school as part of the conditions of the Notice to Improve, issued to Holland Park School in November 2021 by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

This Notice to Improve confirmed serious problems with the school’s arrangements for governance and oversight, issues which had already led (in September 2021) to the Department for Education (DfE) to appoint a large number of new governors. A Notice such as this can lead to a termination of the school’s funding agreement with the DfE and therefore its ability to remain open. You can read the full Notice to Improve here.

At the same time, the governors received multiple serious complaints about the school stretching back some years, resulting in an independent investigation. This investigation is due to report soon. All the complaints received were of significant concern to the governing body.

Governors have explored a number of options, including the consideration that Holland Park School might remain a single academy trust. Given the issues facing the school and having carefully worked through all the options using a robust, open and clear process, the governors have decided the future of the school is best secured and leadership stabilised through joining a MAT.

The criteria set by the governors were based on early dialogue dating back to the autumn term with the local authority, the leadership team (including the head), 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. In particular, governors were concerned to ensure the school becomes inclusive and open to parts of the North Kensington community who have felt excluded.

Taking all this into account, the governing body has resolved to enter into a due diligence process with United Learning Trust.

United Learning Trust is a well-respected and highly successful MAT. The schools which belong to United Learning include state maintained and independent schools such as Paddington Academy, the Hurlingham Academy, Newstead Wood School, Wilberforce Primary and Guildford High School. The values of United Learning match those within the criteria set by governors. Schools belonging to United Learning enjoy high levels of autonomy which mean they keep their identity, whilst drawing upon the support of a strong, agile and highly effective central services team.

United Learning has a local presence, with schools in Paddington and Kilburn. It is a MAT that appreciates context and individuality. It is led by a Chief Executive Officer in Sir Jon Coles who understands London communities and by a supporting team that works to ensure ‘the best in everyone’ – students and staff alike – providing outstanding opportunities for students’ academic and personal development as well as high quality training and growth in leadership.

Jane Farrell, the Chair of Governors at Holland Park School, said:

“United Learning met or exceeded all of our requirements when searching for the right home for our school. United Learning is a strong, very well-run, academically rigorous trust with high standards across all areas. It is inclusive, offers outstanding extra-curricular opportunities, strong pastoral care, and excellent staff development and teacher training.

“It was also very important to us that the unique identity and character of Holland Park School should be preserved. United Learning demonstrated real ambition for the school, deep understanding of what makes the school so special, and that it would not just maintain but would enhance Holland Park School’s very many positive attributes. We have every confidence that it will prove to be the perfect partner for Holland Park School.”

Ms Farrell added:

“The process has been robust and fair, and I would like to thank all governors for the rigour, expertise and hard work they have brought to it. The governors realise that not all parents and carers will agree with us but we truly believe that we are acting in the best interests of the students of Holland Park School, whose achievement and well-being are central to every decision that we make.  In the current context of the school’s situation especially, the governors firmly believe that the benefits of joining United Learning are both significant and numerous, presenting many great opportunities ahead.”

Sir Jon Coles, Chief Executive of United Learning, said:

We are very pleased that the Governors of Holland Park School have approached us to begin a careful process of due diligence on both sides. Our discussions with the governing body have been fruitful and we look forward to meeting with staff and parents at the school. We believe that we can provide an appropriate home for Holland Park School within our Group which will help it to sustain and build its areas of excellence whilst benefiting from the support that comes from being part of a larger Group.

“We know that this has been a challenging time for the school but we are confident that, assuming the due diligence is completed satisfactorily on both sides, its community can look forward to a calm and positive future”.

The governors of Holland Park School and United Learning will continue to engage with stakeholders and the school community as their and our due diligence progresses, which governors required of shortlisted candidates. In doing so, we will work collectively to hear views about how best to take the school forwards.

 The governing body of Holland Park School and United Learning are committed to stakeholder engagement. While it is the case that the Governing Body makes a recommendation to the Regional Schools Commissioner for a final decision, the governors want to hear views from the school community and other stakeholders in a variety of different and meaningful ways.