What it was like to go to Holland Park, Notting Hill’s most infamous school

Michael Gove’s kid goes there

In the 90s, it was full of ganja smoking teens in Lonsdale trackies. Now, Holland Park is a 21st century parable of the “turnaround” school: consistently rated “Outstanding” by Ofsted. Progress was marked by the shiny new uniforms, a flash new building and £83 Ercol designed chairs (of which more later).

Granted, I didn’t study at Holland Park for my secondary education so I missed all the playground fighting fun, but I joined in 2011, the “transition” year which saw the school move from its old location into the new £80 million glass building.

Sixth form isn’t anyone’s favourite period. You spend half your time wondering why you didn’t go to a college – where you could be rolling in at 2pm – and the other half worrying about making your UCAS personal statement “original”. But I can bet you had a better time than us at the zero tolerance policy prison that was Holland Park School.

It's Grove bitches

It’s Grove bitches

Its alumni included Miquita Oliver and Bel Powley, both of whom have a penchant for appearing in tabloid news, and Vice even did a piece on it called “My Fucked Up Time at London’s School of Jihadis”. Let me take you inside the well-protected gates of London’s socialist haven.

The benefits of an all glass door...

The benefits of an all-glass door

Is it the Shard? Is it the Gherkin? No, it’s Holland Park School

Want to know what it’d be like to learn everything from the inside of a fish bowl? Sure you have. And I know: Holland Park’s elaborate £80 million building is constructed almost entirely from glass. After selling a plot of land in the sought-after area, the school was renovated into a building reminiscent of the Shard.

So much glass

There’s nowhere to hide

This meant you were under surveillance from all possible angles. Our “sixth form only” area was in fact a room with four glass walls, meaning that we were constantly gawked at and watched by staff and students alike from the outside.

We had bespoke chairs

Your 9am tutor lessons were a chance to catch up on the latest Made in Chelsea gossip, while our form period was spent learning the ins and outs of the Holland Park Chair.  We even had training on how to lift it rather than drag it to put it back in its place.

The chair that's worth more than the whole lecture room in Arundel

The most expensive thing you’ll ever sit on

It makes your PSHCE role play lessons look sane by comparison. That said, they were very comfy and made the classroom a whole lot quieter.

Even our exercise books were tailor made and laminated

Even our exercise books were tailormade and laminated

You couldn’t move for the sake of all the cleaning staff

Holland Park School is undoubtedly cleaner than your local STI clinic. The comparisons don’t stop there. Intense lighting, unisex toilets and strict water-only policies made it feel like the inside of a hospital as opposed to a place of learning and creativity.

When we first made the mighty move across buildings, we even had a teacher warn us of the perils of drinking H2O from a coloured bottle. Countless blithe youths had precious packets of Quavers and Fruit Winders ripped from clammy paws before entering the building, in a bid to stop potential littering inside.

On that note, actually getting into the building proved to be a Herculean task in itself. Guarded by security men who were channelling the door guys at Berghain, you were lucky if you managed to make it on time for the bell.

Spending your spare time at Portobello Market was a given

Bello market hits the spot

Bello Market hits the spot

Rather than running home and having a nap after an early finish, you would mosey through stalls where you’d find an abundance of hidden jewels and vintage gems (and the occasional celeb).

If that wasn’t your thing, you’d head the other way and process across the manicured pavements of High Street Kensington. The Urban Outfitters there is where we spent the majority of our pocket money, mostly in that gap between French and History lessons.

bello 2

We’re like Hugh Grant in Notting Hill

Additionally, Itsu was just round the corner – so it was the go-to place for lunch. Yes, now Itsu is just about everywhere, but once upon a time there were only a handful dotted across London. Wasabi peas and salmon sushi beat a Co-op meal deal hands down for the title of best boring desk lunch.

Notting Hill Carnival was the most important event in your year

Classic carni snap

Classic carni snap

The best thing about going to Holland Park was that most of the students lived within five minutes of the school – which meant unparalleled access to Notting Hill Carnival every year. Residential passes, secret shortcuts and no hour-long Tube queues were enough to make your time at Holland Park worth it.

This is part of a series on schools. Was your school made entirely of glass? Or was there not a single pane of glass in the whole complex? Email [email protected] if you want to write about yours. 

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