A London school under scrutiny over allegations of a “toxic” working culture and high executive pay is set to become part of England’s largest academy trust, Schools Week has learned.
Holland Park School, dubbed the “socialist-Eton”, was told last year by the government to rein in the salaries of its highly-paid school leaders and to join a multi-academy trust.
In a letter to parents today, it was announced that the governing body has entered a “due diligence process” with their preferred partner, United Learning.
Jane Farrell, chair of governors, said they looked at staying as a single academy trust, but the future of the school is “best secured and stabilised” through joining a MAT. It is understood Ark Schools was also in contention.
Governors set a 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 the school “to be a key player in wider work, such as teaching school hubs and other similar national roles”.
Farrell said on Monday: “The values of United Learning match those within the criteria set by governors.
“Governors realise some parents and carers may not agree with our decision. We are also aware that a change like this causes uncertainty. In our view there are many advantages that come with being part of a family of schools.”
United Learning want process ‘managed calmly’
Writing to parents, United chief executive Sir Jon Coles and secondary education director Sally Coates said they were “very conscious” they need to ensure the process of joining the trust is “managed calmly and effectively and that it does not interfere with successful completion of this academic year”.
“We have already had very positive discussions with the governing body and look forward to our colleagues spending more time in the school during the remainder of this academic year.”
They are aiming for the school to join by September.
Two investigations by the local authority and by the school into complaints by former staff and students of a “toxic” culture continue.
New trustees have been parachuted in by government and the headteacher Colin Hall has retired earlier than planned.
In a statement, sent to Schools Week, Farrell said the MAT process has been “robust and fair” and that United “demonstrated real ambition for the school”.
Bercow steps down from school governors
It comes as former House of Commons speaker John Bercow stepped down from school’s governing body on Friday, saying he didn’t want to be a “distraction” following a report on allegations of bullying against him.
An independent expert panel found Bercow was a “serial bully” while serving as speaker. He denies the allegations.
He told Schools Week: “I didn’t want to be a distraction. I’d been on for 15 months and it’s been a hugely busy and challenging time for the school. I’ve made my input as productively as possible.”