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Praise for new conservatives of Holland Park

A HEADTEACHER under fire from parents and teachers for allegedly abandoning the progressive traditions of one of Britain's most famous comprehensives has been praised by inspectors.

Moderniser Colin Hall provoked a storm of protest because of changes he has made since taking over as head of Holland Park school in January 2001.

The west London school, which counts politicians Tony Benn and Shirley Williams among its former parents along with actress Vanessa Redgrave , was founded as one of the country's first purpose-built comprehensives in 1958 and has a liberal tradition.

Mr Hall ruffled feathers when he introduced uniform and setting for the first time. Last summer, upset by what they saw as his autocratic style, more than 40 members of the Holland Park School and Community Association (HPSCA) passed a vote of no confidence in him.

But inspectors found that he provided "strong and inspirational leadership" and that overall teaching was satisfactory. Holland Park was an improving school and the rate of improvement had increased under Mr Hall's headship, their report said.

Last November, Neil Ferguson, former HPSCA chair, claimed that parents, pupils and staff were united in their dislike of Mr Hall's regime.

But the inspectors disagreed, saying that most parents were positive about the school. Those unhappy about the leadership were in the minority.

Claims that the school had been facing a breakdown in discipline were also contradicted, with inspectors finding little evidence of the unruly behaviour Ofsted had uncovered when it last visited in 1997.

Mary Weale, Kensington and Chelsea Council's cabinet member for education, said the report made it plain that the head and his staff had made real progress and that the majority of staff were behind them.

But the present HPSCA chair, the Rev Michael Sawyer, said: "No matter what the report says, we feel that Holland Park has lost its distinctive ethos."

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