Cllr Atkinson spoke under Standing Order 19:
Firstly, I would like to point to the excellent and first rate OFSTED report that was published recently. I hope that the whole Council will join me in congratulating the school, its staff and community on such an excellent result – a result made more extraordinary because the intake of Holland Park School remains challenging. So this excellent result is something in which the school is entitled to take exceptional pride.
Secondly, I wish to note and regret the decision made last Thursday by the Governing Body to vote to explore the possibilities of becoming an Academy. I hope (but do not expect) that this council will join me in encouraging the school to refuse this totally unnecessary development.
The OFSTED report proves not only that a change in status at Holland Park is entirely unnecessary but that if it goes ahead it will be for entirely political reasons. I regret very much that tonight’s timetable does not allow us a wider debate on this matter but I do want you all to know that if our schools do now vote to become academies it will be only because: a) the Council’s political leadership has told them that they must do so and b) that our excellent and much valued education department is already being dismantled so that the schools have no choice but to go along with the Academy proposals.
If any of our schools now walk the plank to academy status it is only because Cllr Elizabeth Campbell is pushing them over the edge at sword point. And behind her stands her wicked and ambitious ‘Pirate captain’ Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell.
Finally, I want this Council to agree over the summer to assist the school in ensuring that public consultation on this proposal is conducted as widely and as extensively as possible. The lack of consultation with the students of this school is a disgrace and the four days’ notice given to parents is entirely inadequate and I believe leaves the decision open to Judicial Review [and should Judicial Review fail this will only prove that the rules on consultation with parents and the local community have been deliberately rigged so as to make them meaningless].
I often criticise this council for its own poor efforts to consult with and involve our residents. But even the Royal Borough could not make such a poor job of resident and community involvement.
Madam Mayor, I hope therefore that this Council will applaud the excellent OFSTED report and condemn the plot to force Holland Park School to become an Academy.
Students from Holland Park Comprehensive sent us this letter:
Dear Labour Councillors for Kensington and Chelsea,
I wonder if any of you would be interested in learning more about, attending a meeting of, or backing Campaign Against Holland Park Becoming An Academy, a recently set up local and student-led campaign calling for a schoolwide ballot on the status of Holland Park in the new academic year. We would be highly grateful of any support for our petition letter or our campaign.
I cannot underestimate the significance of Holland Park falling to the Department of Education’s reform programme, as one of the most prestigious state comprehensives in London.Thank you for your attention. Our website can be found here. http://noacademyathollandpark.wordpress.com/
Holland Park Student
Interim Chair of the Campaign
Member of Youth Parliament for Kensington and Chelsea (personal capacity)
Cllr Robert Atkinson, Education Spokesperson, Kensington and Chelsea Labour Opposition Group has responded thus:
“I am horrified, having spent so much effort and money over the last 20 years building up such a spectacularly successful relationship between the school, the Council and the wider community, that this Council is now prepared to cast the school adrift and gamble with young people’s future in pursuit of political dogma. Those who are pursuing academy status with such speed seem more interested in political preferment for themselves than strengthening the community by working together. Ruthless competition between schools has not been shown to improve standards. So much better to encourage schools and Councils to work together in partnership for the benefit of all. “.
SUPPORT THE STUDENTS – GO ON THEIR WEBSITE AND SIGN UP NOW!
Thanks to our two fantastic candidates and their teams who put in a fantastic effort in the two ‘most Tory’ wards in the country! A shocking turnout of just 15% shows just how much value residents of those wards hold for their local Tories. They have no idea what they’re missing! The Labour vote stood firm, and we had great back-up from members and Councillors and friends from all over the borough, showing how our increased membership has given us all a boost.
The Labour Party by-election campaign teams have been out in force with their candidates speaking to disaffected residents fed up with the lack of response from their ward Councillors.
Mark Sautter and team at Exhibition Road
Brompton Ward candidate Mark Sautter said: ‘Even on a Sunday afternoon the traffic in the area is appalling, almost gridlocked. We are also hearing stories about anti-social behaviour around the clubs and bars keeping working people awake half the night, and cars roaring around the streets in the early hours. Residents tell me they have complained about these issues but their Councillors have offered no help whatever. They need a Councillor who will work hard for them; if elected I will work tirelessly on their behalf’.
Keith Stirling with Queen's Gate campaign team
Queens Gate candidate Keith Stirling said: ‘We have been talking to residents about car parking and traffic problems in the area. Not a single one had been informed about the upcoming chaos about to unfold this summer, when the De Vere Gardens construction site will mean closure of all but one lane of traffic each way for three months. It’s bad enough on a Sunday afternoon with no lane closures! It’s incredible that one of their Councillors is vice-chair of Transport for London but is letting this happen in his own ward. If elected I will work with the Council to find better alternatives.’