Holland Park parents and NEU lose legal bid to block school transfer

A group of parents backed by the National Education Union have lost a High Court bid to block the transfer of the high-profile Holland Park School to England’s largest multi-academy trust.

The campaigners had claimed government failed to properly consult over the controversial decision to move the standalone London academy into United Learning.

But Mrs Justice Hill dismissed the claim in a High Court judgement handed down on Friday.

The decision paves the way for the transfer, proposed by trustees and backed by the Department for Education, to go ahead. It had been due to take effect in September, but the DfE had agreed to pause the transfer pending the case.

The plan to transfer the school, once dubbed the “socialist Eton”, came after a bullying and discrimination scandal was exposed and financial problems emerged at the trust. It was also later rated ‘inadequate.

But the move was heavily opposed by a group of parents, as well as many staff members of the NEU and the local authority, Kensington & Chelsea.

Financial controls placed on the trust, which included ordering it to consider a MAT transfer, were also recently lifted in recognition of improvements.

The court documents show trustees’ initial bid to join another large MAT, Ark Schools, was blocked by a DfE regional director because the trust was only willing to take the school on in September 2023.

The official said this was “not an acceptable date of transfer because of the urgent need to stabilise HPS”, according to the judgement document.

The case is part of a wider trend for single-academy trusts to fold into larger ones amid political and financial pressures, but has been one of the most fiercely contested battles to date.

More to follow.

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