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Holland Park School

(30 Posts)
MN164 Sun 20-Sep-15 10:52:13

Not likely we would get a place here but I was very interested in what an £80m new comprehensive intake academy with an 'elite-head' was like, compared to the many other London schools I've seen, so I went to the Open day last week.

I must say I was impressed and also happy that state schools can be of such quality, but also saddened that this isn't anything like to norm for state schools.

The one thing that rang alarm bells was just how committed the head and his senior team were. He was so committed he could be "committed". When he mentioned that his deputy only sees his twin baby daughters fleetingly at weekend because they all work so hard, I wondered if such a unbalanced work life was a bad thing.

Anyone else go and have different views or indeed actual experience with their children there?

Giraffe44 Sun 20-Sep-15 11:23:43

I felt very much the same at the Open Day and would love to hear from parents with children there. I found it very difficult at the open day to see beyond the hype and work out if it was a happy school.

KingscoteStaff Sun 20-Sep-15 13:28:25

I'd send a bright child there.

I wouldn't send a lower achieving child there.

I wouldn't work there.

Fatfreefaff Sun 20-Sep-15 18:14:56

My daughter left this year at the end of year 11. The school has an extremely high turnover of staff because they are treated like shit in my opinion. The commitment is coerced I think. There are very few women in the SLT unlike other local schools.

I think most of the local schools in the Triborough area are ok with a couple of exceptions. HP excels at hype and putting a spin on everything.

DD was in the highest group throughout and found it extremely pressurised. She has moved to another local school for sixth and found that it is NOT NORMAL to practice favouritism, to shout continually and to tell pupils they will starve on the street unless they get A* at everything. There is a cult around the head and a cult built around certain children which is creepy and weird.

DD also finds the pupils in her new school 'normal'. HP is all about cliques. She made some nice friends there but that is all she got out of it.

MN164 Sun 20-Sep-15 21:28:43

That's helpful insight. I assume she was uncomfortable and /or unhappy there hence the move.

I got the impression that whilst they made a big thing about the high achieving students, a) There were not that many and b) lesser students were not celebrated for achieving improvement.

Any other parents there care to add comment or balance the picture? Sometimes only those with a gripe comment, masking many who are happy but don't comment.

Fatfreefaff Sun 20-Sep-15 21:43:08

She was not particularly unhappy and had very good friends. Her reason for leaving was that HP was unable to offer the combination of subjects she wanted at A level.

On joining her new school, the scales have fallen from her eyes as it were. Teachers actually speak to kids nicely and are warm and friendly, they celebrate all sorts of achievements and are much more inclusive. HP operate a very obvious system of favouritism even at classroom level.

I must say when I visited her current school I was really impressed by the way the kids are the focus of everything - at HP it is the Mr Hall and Mr Chappell and the SLT; or the wretched building. I remember one year they produced a prospectus with massive pictures of the SLT and virtually no kids at all - summed them up really.

I think of all the parents I know at HP I can only think of 2 with anything positive to say about it and both their kids were among the golden children elite.

MN164 Mon 21-Sep-15 12:17:12

The senior leadership team certainly get paid a lot. 16 get over £60k and 5 over £90k. The head is paid £180k. He should be moved onto a "failing" school to get best value for taxpayers.

neuroticnicky Mon 21-Sep-15 12:56:09

Fatfreefaff we are also considering HP and attended the Open Day. Are you able to say what GCSE results your DD got /whether the top band GCSE results are very good ? DD is bright and we are also thinking we may move her elsewhere at A level but would be happy for her to be at HP (which is walking distance) for 5 years if we thought she could get stellar GCSEs there.Our main worry is whether there is more hype than substance or whether the teaching is genuinely good at HP.

Fatfreefaff Mon 21-Sep-15 13:03:38

Most of the GCSEs among DD's friends in the top group were A/A*. I would say that her group are the 30 or so deemed rightly or wrongly the most able.

I think the school is very 'supportive' in terms of coursework and practicals done at school - don't know if the stellar results will continue when exams move to completely linear.

While saying that there is some very good teaching (though some poor) - no reason why an able child should not do well.

neuroticnicky Mon 21-Sep-15 13:47:45

Fatfreefaff-thanks for this. Do you know why so many pupils seem to leave after GCSE/would your daughter have stayed if she could have done her preferred choice of subjects for A levels? Or is the HP sixth form not as good as the lower school (I see there has been quite a big slump in the percentage of A*/A at A level this year although the AS results suggest next year may be better)?

Fatfreefaff Mon 21-Sep-15 13:49:03

MN164 - re the wages, I think you have to realise that Holland Park IS Mr Hall and to a lesser extent Mr Chappell. They are a double act. Everything about the school is cast in his image. As it is an academy I believe it can pay what it wants. Don't expect any checks and balances from the Governors, they are completely out of touch with reality and believe whatever Hall tells them.

Personally I think £60k for the assistant heads and £90k for the deputies (I assume that is the breakdown) is quite reasonable. Not sure I agree with £180k but I think Mr Hall must be near retirement age by now and presumable doesn't want to start again - unless he retires and becomes a 'consultant'.

I have witnessed a hell of a lot of waste - for example every text book, computer and pencil was thrown away when the new building opened. Even the frigging exercise books are bespoke with pictures designed by Mr Chappell. Then there are the floral displays, free wine at school events etc.

Having lived near the school and seen its fall and rise I am glad Hall managed to turn the school around so at least I had a viable option for DD. However since then Hall has pretty much cut all ties with the Borough and effectively told everyone in North Kensington who supported him over the years to 'fuck off' as they changed the admissions policy.

Fatfreefaff Mon 21-Sep-15 14:13:43

Neuroticnicky, yes I think my daughter would have stayed had the subjects been offered. But the Sixth is quite small and there is little choice especially in Arts/Humanities. I did persuade her to look at other schools and while I had my doubts about her eventual choice it seems OK so far. Of her friends who stayed, I think it was a case of no particular incentive to leave. The ones who left were either sick of the place, were restricted in option choices or decided another school would better suit university applications. 2 were not offered places at HP and went to local colleges.

I think academically able kids have a free choice of local Sixth Forms as almost all select on GCSE grades. There is no Sixth form centre or particular provision at HP so little incentive to stay. The school does not want the less able/badly behaved.

I noticed the GCSE results were down which I think was due to the fact while the school would previously enter kids for maths/English early and continue to do so until they passed - only the first attempt now counts in league tables, so they are less inclined to do so.

I hadn't looked at the A level results. It could just be a glitch. I understand that all take 4 A2s which is a massive mistake in my opinion as universities generally only want 3, especially with a EPQ as well.

Fatfreefaff Mon 21-Sep-15 15:23:36

I see what you mean about A level results. Some of DDs friends sat AS maths early and the rumour was that one teacher had not taught his groups properly and then left abruptly just before the exams - not sure if it is related to that. I think maths is the most popular subject. I would have thought something has gone horribly wrong in one subject rather than across the whole of Sixth Form.

neuroticnicky Tue 22-Sep-15 10:10:41

Thanks- I was shocked that the A*/A percentage could fall 20% in one year from last year's excellent 45.5% to 25.9% (which is even below national average) and no explanation was given for this at the Open Day. However as mentioned this year's AS results were apparently the best ever so hopefully there will be a big bounce next year.

hillbilly Wed 23-Sep-15 10:36:21

We will probably put this as our 1st choice. I like the school as does DD, and although I'm slightly concerned about the whole "favourites" culture there, I believe it's a good school and our other options aren't better.

I don't think she would go in at the A band though, probably B and given this year's distance admittance she would have got in at band B but not A. Obv that has no bearing on this 2016 entry.

Fatfreefaff Wed 23-Sep-15 10:54:33

It is still a relatively good school, great building and location and most of us have little choice. It was DDs 5th choice I think and she was terrified when she first went there.

For what it is worth, the school has many more articulate middle class parents now, compared to when DD started and I feel they are more likely to challenge the bullshit. Most people in my day moaned but put up with it.

I really like the inclusive ethos of Aldridge Academy which is now my nearest school, but I wouldn't like my child to be among the first cohorts to go through GCSE there. If I had an 10/11 year old now I would seriously consider Burlington Danes though.

neuroticnicky Wed 23-Sep-15 11:30:22

Hillbilly while my DD is likely to be in Band A if she goes to HP I know some children in Band B there and they seem to enjoy it. The only difference seems to be that Band B don't do Latin. As Fatfreeefaff says its pretty clear that the HP intake is becoming more middle class and this trend will accelerate now that they have changed the admissions policy to purely distance from the school ( although some may not think this a good thing).It seems to me that due to the facilities/location/discipline HP is the best choice of the secular local state schools for GCSE. Indeed the facilities compare very favourably with many of the smaller local private schools and eg the Art department does seem exceptional.

hillbilly Wed 23-Sep-15 12:00:59

Thanks for your input fatfree and neuro. DD is very artistic and loved the art facilities at HP although given the huge numbers of children going for the art aptitude places I am not holding out much hope for that!

Fatfreefaff Wed 23-Sep-15 12:22:38

I wouldn't worry too much if she doesn't get the art aptitude place. If she has natural talent that will be picked up.

DD's experience of art aptitude consisted of a few extra classes mostly involving creating 'products' to a particular specification for shows in their gallery.

heidiwine Thu 24-Sep-15 08:33:11

I used to teach at Holland Park. The culture is difficult to describe. I did not enjoy it. I have never worked so hard. If Holland park was the only school offer a child of mine was given I would choose to home school. Only very few children at Holland park were treated with respect and as individuals. It's a very peculiar environment that, in my opinion, does not nourish children.

Fatfreefaff Thu 24-Sep-15 08:37:10

If the school was a person I would feel it had a Narcassisstic Personality Disorder.

neuroticnicky Thu 24-Sep-15 12:47:43

The kids I know at HP (mainly band 1 but some bands 2 and 3) all seem to enjoy it whereas I know a number of friends' children who have been unhappy/bullied at other schools (including private schools).Although I still witness bad behaviour sometimes, its easy to forget that not so long ago HP kids used to run riot in the local streets smashing up cars etc. Indeed friends who attended HP in the old days used to get mugged at school and some of the kids used to carry knives.I suppose what I am saying is that the "zero tolerance" approach of the management team may not be to everyone's liking (including some of the staff) but I'm not sure any other approach would have worked at HP. Indeed a couple of years ago I wouldn't have contemplated sending my DC there whereas now I have come round to the idea and I know a lot of others in the same position. As regards treating the kids with respect, I am personally fine with the teachers yelling at them if they misbehave as I do this myself. A lot worse goes on in other schools including some well known London private schools with physical/sex abuse by teachers etc.

Fatfreefaff Thu 24-Sep-15 14:54:20

I will describe an incident that happened that occurred at the school. On the strength of an internal exam result all children in that year were lined up according to result. The high achieving children were told they could be lawyers, doctors etc. The low achieving that they were failures and on track to be shop workers, street cleaners etc.

Notwithstanding that there were children there whose parents do manual jobs and were insulted, some kids do not have the ability to get high marks in exams - at least a quarter of the intake are below average.

Do you think that is a positive way to treat kids?

As for shouting - no one objects to shouting at the badly behaved. On the first day they are lined up in the playground and SCREAMED at so they know who is boss. In assembly they are constantly berated and told they will fail at life unless they get A* in everything.

Enjoy the school, I didn't have an alternative but I hope your child does.

Fatfreefaff Thu 24-Sep-15 14:55:56

BTW there ARE bullied and unhappy kids at the school. They exist at every school.

neuroticnicky Thu 24-Sep-15 19:52:01

Fatfreefaff of course I accept that there will be some bullied and unhappy kids at HP like at all schools and from what I have seen at Open Days I don't doubt that the teachers may go over the top sometimes. However I can only report what I have been told by the many parents/ kids I know at the school i.e that they are generally happy there and have nice friends etc. While I'm sure that parents/teachers alike would prefer a more liberal environment I just don't think it would work at HP given the wide mix of pupils. You may have read the article below about what it used to be like pre the current regime...

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