Holland Park school 2016(17 Posts)
The last threads on this school are quite old now (from February 2015), so I am wondering if anyone has up-to-date info! I am looking at the school for my son for Year 7 entry.
Although the school is lauded in the press and by Ofsted, on these forums people have commented on the negative culture of favoured 'golden' children (to the cost of all the other children), the dominance of the headteacher, a very male senior management team, many disruptive children, the (conversely) strict discipline, and the pretence at open days of activities/school trips that don't seem to materialise once a pupil.
Is this still an accurate picture of the school? Any info gratefully received!
Hi, I'm a HP parent.
I have DC1 currently in Y8 and DC2 joining in September. We are very happy with the school but yes, it's far from perfect. It really depends on what you are looking for and what are your other options. We have experienced private prep schools and lovely outstanding state primaries. I have toured many top secondaries before we made our choice and I do not regret it. Facilities are amazing and more importantly teaching is good, sometimes amazing. Teachers turnover is high, they work very long hours and are constantly monitored so I guess it's a hard life. They are expected to work during school holidays when extra lessons are available for the kids. DC's work is carefully marked, then they have to respond to the marking, re do work if necessary which is marked again. We had teachers calling because DC forgot a book for the second time or hasn't done some homework. While I would prefer the teachers to deal with it without calling home, I think it's better to be informed than have surprises on reports or parents evenings. Some teachers (like in any other school) are not great but they tend to disappear. Some of them are excellent and really care about the kids. Overall my DC is very happy with most of them.
"golden kids": I don't really know who these are supposed to be. It is true that band 1 is offered the majority (if not all) the school trips. These trips, languages in France and Spain, ski trip to Italy, classics to Italy..... , are all in half terms or weekends so nobody really notices who is away. There are 90 kids in band 1 so I wouldn't say they are all golden. DC thinks that there is no point going on school trip during the holidays. There is an award ceremony at the end of the year, mainly for academic or music excellence but DC can't be less bothered. Some of them get a weekend as a prize for collecting the most points during the year but again my DC is not bothered at all.
Clubs and extras: do not expect
anything too much. Mr Hall is clearly not interested in sport which is a real shame given the facilities. This could change hopefully in the future as the school population is changing. All the clubs are free of charge and are run by teachers but are not reliable, they get cancelled without any notice. I hope they will agree to bring in professional coaches and charge for it, I'm sure there are many families who will happily pay for it.
I personally have no problems with the school management being mainly men as long as they do their job at a high standard, which they do. They are very approachable and often ask for feedback. Yes, Mr Hall likes to be the
only main character on the stage but I remember what the school was like a few years back and I am very happy with how he transformed it. The school population is still very mixed and I am happy that the discipline is strict. My DC has no problems with it, maybe because there is not much difference from home
There are a few disruptive kids mainly in band 3 and in the years higher up. BUT: they keep break time to the minimum, 15 min mid morning and half an hour for lunch. There is not much time for messing around and the trouble makers tend to stick together. DC1 is extremely aware of what's happening around, I'm sure DC2 will not even notice them.
In the last 3 years more and more local families have chosen HP over private secondaries so the kids are changing A LOT. It's a school with no frills I would say. They do a great job with teaching and you have 20k to make up for clubs and trips.
And having local friends it's big bonus!
What are your other options? Do you live close enough to get in?
Oh, thank you so much, that's tons of useful information! We will be moving into the catchment area in time to apply for my son. Other options would be in H&F borough, but Holland Park is looking like a strong choice. It has been concerning to read such different views of the school, so it's great to have an up-to-date and first hand opinion. We are not too fussed about after-school activities or school trips, so that wouldn't be a deal-breaker.
It sounds as though there are 3 bands in total, is that right? My kids haven't been streamed before so I hope they will deal with this okay, although it seems fairly standard practice in many secondaries. The marking and discipline sound good. Was it easy for you to get your child in? We will be aiming to get in on distance.
I personally am very impressed by the improvement at HP over the last decade or so. For example :
1. A level results:
a) A*/A grades 2008: 18.3% 2015: 39.6%
b) AS level results: A grades 2008: 10.7% 2015: 38.4% (best ever)
If, like in previous years, this year’s A levels results are better than the AS results, this years A*/A A level results may be HP’s best ever and approach 50%. Indeed if the long term upward trend continues HP may soon (like say Cardinal Vaughn) have A level results comparable to some of the private London schools, not least because more and more bright MC kids seem to be going there and most of the lower bands leave after GCSEs.
2. Discipline: The introduction of “zero tolerance” discipline and uniforms has undoubtedly seen a big improvement in student behaviour over the last 10 years or so. Pupils who seriously misbehave within or outside the school are likely to be expelled and even minor infractions (such as not doing your homework) result in an automatic detention.
3. Facilities: Fabulous new facilities in one of the best settings for a school in London i.e. virtually in the park itself. Indeed the facilities are substantially better than many of the London private schools.
4.Streaming: If your DC is bright he or she will be in a class with other bright kids. Indeed there are a number of clever kids who got into leading local private schools (including SPGS, CLGS, Latymer etc) but who were sent to HP instead once their parents knew they were in band 1 (which has 90 pupils-3 classes of 30- and is the only band which does Latin). Virtually all the band 1 students I know seem to get As or A*s in their GCSEs which is partly because the school tends to push pupils hard. However some band 2 students also do extremely well.
Like any other school you will always find people who are unhappy or who have had a bad experience but this is just as likely to occur at private schools and it is sometimes easier to blame the school than look at other causes. I have several friends whose DC are unhappy or underachieving at private schools whereas most MC kids I know at HP are very happy and achieving exam results comparable to those which they would get at a private school. Some parents do complain that the same kids seem to get the prizes/perfect tense etc year after year but I remember this being the case at my private school many years ago!
Hope that helps.
The staff turnover at HP is huge because the staff are treated really badly by the Senior Leadership team. They are expected to work ridiculous hours. They are expected to run intervention sessions on Saturdays and the school holidays, do a vast amount of marking and they are constantly monitored and micro managed. The school seems perfectly happy to have a huge turnover with a constant stream of newly qualified teachers replacing them.
Also their sole aim is to be an exam factory and improve grades. Private schools get the good grades while still providing sport, clubs and an overall education.
jeanne16 as the exam results are improving HP doesn't seem to be suffering that much from the staff turnover and at least the senior leadership team seems to have been the same for a long time . Agree that the after school clubs could be improved as some HP pupils I know get home at about 3pm each day . It is then up to the parents to ensure they do extra curricular activities which is difficult if you're working although I actually think that certain activities (such as music lessons etc.) are better done out of school if you can arrange it.
The SLT may be fairly consistent but the 'foot soldiers', as in the teachers, are treated pretty badly resulting in a massive turnover. You only have to see how many jobs are advertised every year to know this.
I guess the problem is that if you ask young teachers -or any other young employees- to undertake extra work they are not paid for (and in particular sessions on Saturdays, holidays etc.) you may find that there are only a limited number of people who will be prepared to do this on a permanent basis i.e. they may just go there because the teacher training is good and leave once they have got a bit of experience.
I should have added that I nevertheless greatly admire the effort the staff put into their teaching as judged by the surprisingly large number of pupils I see going to HP on Saturdays..
Following with interest as my daughter starts there in September. She did not get in on Art Aptitude but is very creative and I'm hoping there will be some creative after school clubs.
Balex - your summary sounds the same as I have mostly heard from parents. Out of interest what bands are your children in? How regularly do they assess the banding?
Neuro - do you have children at HP?
I'm also watching this thread with interest. We didn't get a place at the school, although it was our first choice. DS would have been band A and the catchment this year was 0.4. Admissions lady was very helpful but did basically tell us we had no chance. I know children from his school who did get in a couple of years ago. They are in band A and doing very well as they are on the Gifted and Talented register so get pushed. I do wonder what happens to those in the other bands though as I have friends this year with children in bands B, C and D.
Actual bands are different from the admission. You would expect to have 2 forms per band but they are:
band 1 - 3 forms
band 2 - 2 forms
band 3 - 3 forms
band 4 - 1 small form of mainly SEN
Some of the kids I know were given band B on admission but then found themselves in band 1.
This for the past 2 years.
band 1 and 2 do similar work except for latin.
band 3 is equally pushed because the school wants good results, many are "invited" to attend Saturdays. I guess the main downside in band 3 are some disruptive kids but hopefully they will be less and less.
Bands are reassessed every term based on end of term exams which puts quite a lot of pressure on performance.
We also get 3 parents meetings where results and feedbacks are given.
hillbilly - do not expect many after school clubs.
First of all, there are no clubs for only year 7s. This can be very scary when you are the youngest and know nothing about the BIG school. The big kids are VERY BIG as there is no separate sixth form.
There is a school production. DC1 is not interested, DC2 will definitely go for it. There is one choir but as far as I heard they only do very serious stuff, not for everybody's taste. DC1 tried music technology which was fun but got cancelled too many times. There are no individual music lessons.
We met with some friends the other day with kids at private school and one of them was telling my DC how badly they beat them at so and so match. It's a real shame that sport is disregarded. They also have a great pool but no swimming team.
As I said it can only improve and I really hope that it will!! In the meantime we will continue with sport outside the school. The short day leaves plenty of time for any extra.
neuroticnicky - we should also add that the poor teachers have to spend time to rehears and perform at a big staff production
Hillbilly/Mandzi34- DC will be starting in Band 1 this September but being long term locals we know a lot of kids already at the school . There doesn't seem IMO to be a huge difference between most of the kids in Band 1 and Band 2 although you do get some very bright kids at the top of Band 1. Some kids I know in Band 2 say they don't want to be in Band 1 since they avoid doing Latin and also I guess the stress of potentially being "demoted" to Band 2 at the end of the year. You can certainly do well from Band 2 (indeed one of the recent Oxbridge successes started there) and due to the somewhat haphazard initial banding system there were apparently a few kids in Band 2 this year who got much better SATs results than almost all the Band 1s.
Thanks Neuro - yes I have also heard that some band 2s are happy to stay in that band. Guess I need to look into things for after school if the school isn't providing although I imagine homework is going to take up a fair bit of time! Shame about sports though since they have such great facilities :-(
That's good to know re the bands neuroticnicky as my friends son went in to Band 2 as he misunderstood how to use the answer sheet. He's towards the top in our primary so I know he will shine. I'm still gutted we didn't get a place . Good luck to your DS! I'm sure he'll thrive!
The sport apparently isn't bad for girls who get into the main teams -I think the netball team generally does well and e.g. there was a girl's netball/boys tennis tour of Malta over the Easter holidays. However the private schools probably have a lot more teams for the lesser able pupils and the HP boys sport must suffer from a lack of grass as the pitches are all astroturf.
I'm personally not that bothered about after school clubs taking the view that you can normally find activities like music and sport taught just as well outside school and am not underestimating the homework. Despite getting home at about 3pm it seems that HP Year 7 students are often up quite late doing this ; indeed some friends tell me their DC at HP get more homework than their private school Year 7 counterparts.
I am hoping to gain a better understanding of what topics/subjects the Holland Park School Banding Exam concentrates on? I was told it is mainly Verbal- and Non-Verbal Reasoning with "some" Maths and Comprehension?
Any advice how best to prepare/practice for the exam would be appreciated.
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