Schools

Chair of governors at ‘toxic’ Holland Park school resigns

Ex-charity CEO stands down from role at west London state school dubbed the 'socialist Eton'

Ex-charity CEO stands down from role at west London state school dubbed the 'socialist Eton'

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The chair of governors at a school facing investigation over claims of a “toxic” working environment and “public shaming” of students has resigned.

Anne-Marie Carrie (pictured), a former chief executive of the children’s charity Barnado’s, has stood down at Holland Park, a west London state school dubbed the “socialist Eton”.

Schools Week understands Carrie resigned on September 10, two days after The Guardian reported that more than 100 former students had signed an open letter to governors, Ofsted and the government claiming serious failings at the school.

Pastoral care was “inadequate” with “public shaming” of students, the letter alleged. A month earlier the same newspaper reported allegations from staff of a “toxic” working environment.

The governing body of the school, once attended by Nadhim Zahawi, the new education secretary, promised an independent investigation into the allegations.

But nearly two months on, aggrieved teachers fear it has been shelved.

It is not known publicly why Carrie resigned, and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing. She refused to comment.

Council launches ‘learning review’

News of her resignation comes as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) launched a “learning review” into allegations of safeguarding failures.

The investigation by the borough’s Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) will be supported by the school, the council, the health service and the police.

It is expected to take three months with an independent lead yet to be appointed.

A RBKC spokesperson told Schools Week the review would “seek to understand the organisational culture within the school and make recommendations to strengthen the areas of safeguarding practice”.

There are concerns the learning review will now replace the investigation promised by governors.

Parents received a letter on August 4 from Carrie about the staff allegations. It read: “Whilst it would appear that many of the complaints have already been considered by our regulatory bodies … we take all such allegations seriously.

“To provide assurance and create a forum for these matters to be independently considered, the board has taken immediate steps to commission an independent, external review which will report back next term.”

An former teacher at the school, representing a collective of more than 140 former and current staff, said: “We have not been contacted at all, despite repeated attempts on our part to learn the identity of the investigator and the terms of reference of the investigation.”

The teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that “given our collective experience … of the school, we have doubts that it will ever happen. It remains our hope that the culture of the school will change to ensure all current teachers and students are treated properly.”

RSC ‘working closely’ with school and ESFA contacted

The regional schools commissioner is “working closely” with the school as part of the review. The Education Skills and Funding Agency has also contacted the school over the allegations.

Ofsted said it did not comment on complaints, but any it received were taken seriously and “investigated where appropriate”.

The watchdog conducted a no-notice inspection at the school in January last year over safeguarding and leadership concerns.

However, inspectors judged the school’s safeguarding as effective. Bullying was not tolerated, staff were “unanimous” in feeling well supported by leaders, and there was a “strong awareness” of safeguarding incidents.  

The school did not respond to requests for comment this week. But a statement on its website says: “The wellbeing of our pupils and staff is, and always will be, our foremost priority.”

A Schools Week investigation in 2019 revealed the school had spent £15,000 on luxury Farrow & Ball paint and £6,000 on Jo Malone scented candles.

Colin Hall, its chief executive, is among the highest paid academy bosses in England, earning at least £280,000 last year – despite being in charge of one school.

The Department for Education did not respond to a request for comment.

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4 Comments

  1. The Ofsted inspection was a farce. It was rigged by the school. Any teacher comments had to be left in a basket in the head’s office. All uncomplemtary comments were discarded. Ofsted themselves need to be investigated that they missed such glaringly awful failures of working culture and child protection

  2. I went to Holland Park and to be honest, they don’t care about students, they care about results.
    I was predicted to get A’s and B’s in my GCSE’s
    But due to my mothers death at the age of 13, I struggled to do well in school, started acting out was rebellious, when this wasn’t me before. I loved school, but none of my teachers helped me cope with the death of mother. The school gave up on me, even though they promised they would help. I then went on to fail 2 out of 4 gcse. They gave me Btec courses to do as if they felt you wouldn’t pass GCSEs they never let you try. The school is terrible for children’s mental health and confidence. I left that school at 16 with no hope for my future as I was told I wouldn’t be much because I was a lost cause. I went on to college and started working at 17. If that school taught me anything, it’s that I didn’t need their rubbish education to do well in life. They are a discriminating school that only accept students based on there post code

    Is you live in w11 or w10 they won’t accept because it’s too rough for their image
    Since becoming an academy, this has gotten worse

  3. There is a critical mass of testimony and complaints against the Holland Park school management which should indicate that an urgent and totally independent investigation is required.

    The failure to carry out a thorough, independent, high-level investigation into the school’s head teacher, culture and management tactics means the long-term cover up will continue. Students, staff and parents will continue to suffer.

    And please stop with the trite ‘socialist Eton’ nonsense, repeated ad nauseum in articles about the school. It might once have been dubbed that decades ago by a glib journalist. But there is nothing socialist or Etonian about the school now. It’s more akin to a George Orwell dystopia.