School downgraded from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’ amid safeguarding failures

·3-min read
School pupils (David Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
School pupils (David Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

An academy school which has been mired in controversy over its safeguarding practices has been downgraded by Ofsted from its previous rating of “outstanding” to “inadequate”.

In May, Holland Park School in Kensington was found to have a “culture of fear and favouritism” in an investigation by its governors.

The investigation found there was discrimination in the school against protected characteristics, including overt sexism, Islamophobia, and racism.

It said that “very little support” was provided to students following traumatic events such as the Grenfell tragedy, and that “public humiliation” or shouting was used as a behaviour policy.

The school announced last year that former headteacher Colin Hall would retire early, while a new chair of governors was appointed.

On Friday, Ofsted found that “turbulence” in the school’s leadership had “destabilised” the school community, with many aspects of school life, including pupils’ behaviour, having “declined substantially” since its previous inspection seven years’ ago.

The report said that pupils and staff had welcomed the “governors’ intervention to stop previous behaviour management strategies that they deemed unacceptable” but that the behaviour policies had not been updated, leaving a “vacuum” with staff and students “confused” over how to deal with unacceptable behaviour, some of which was spilling into the local area after school.

Leaders entering pupils for exams early left them with a “curtailed” education in some subjects, Ofsted said, and it found that leadership was “poor and unfit for purpose”, with many of the leadership team “overstretched”.

Ofsted identified weaknesses (Ofsted/PA) (PA Media)
Ofsted identified weaknesses (Ofsted/PA) (PA Media)

The inspectorate said that the new governing body was starting to take steps to improve the school through the appointment of a new head from September and a new leadership structure.

“Nevertheless, there is still a very long way to go.

“Some governors have had to step in to work alongside the interim headteacher and get involved with day-to-day operations,” the report said.

Ofsted found that not all believe the school needs to change, with some “established” senior leaders and parents at odds with the governors.

A parent group opposed to proposals for the school to join a large academy trust, United Learning, has held protests outside the school gates.

“Communication has largely broken down and some stakeholders, while possibly well intentioned, appear to be pushing their own agendas, thus fuelling further disharmony.

“All of this is a severe hindrance in securing the urgent improvements needed,” Ofsted said.

A spokesperson for the school said: “Ofsted has independently identified many of the long-term, historical weaknesses which governors have also been concerned about, and which they have been working extremely hard, with school leaders, staff, and external partners, to put right.

“These serious problems were also set out in the independent investigation report and in the Notice To Improve that the Government issued to the school last year.”

“The Ofsted report recognises that the interim headteacher and new governing body quickly got to grips with these serious issues and are taking significant action to tackle these.

“However, governors agree there is more to do.

“They have recommended that the school joins a strong and experienced multi-academy trust so that the school has a positive future.

“We now ask that the whole school community comes together and unites around a strategy to support the school to reach the standards that our students deserve.”

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