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Fury over switching Osmani School’s name to Vallance—but Tower Hamlets council can do nothing

PUBLISHED: 13:53 19 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:24 23 January 2017

Whitechapel's Osmani Primary School

Whitechapel's Osmani Primary School

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Protests are planned by parents against a school in London’s Bangladeshi East End community planning to change its name from Osmani to Vallance.

Osmani Primary's Bengali heritageOsmani Primary's Bengali heritage

Governors of Whitechapel’s Osmani Primary in Vallance Road have written to parents advising that the name is being switched in September to Vallance Primary in a bid to fill empty places.

The plan raised anger last night at Tower Hamlets Council which voted to call on the school governors to hold a full consultation with parents.

The education authority itself has no power to prevent the change, councillors were told.

But council members were in no doubt in their resolution that the school governing body was “wrong not to consult parents before the decision”. The school should rely on its Ofsted results to promote itself—not abandon its heritage, they said.

School that opened in 1986 now struggles to fill placesSchool that opened in 1986 now struggles to fill places

Mayor John Biggs has had a meeting with the chair of governors to try and persuade the school to keep the Bengali name.

“There’s no reason why people shouldn’t sent their kids to Osmani just because of its Bengali name,” the mayor told councillors. “It serves the whole community—we’re celebrating figures who are important to our community in the names of our schools.”

Parents plan protests against the decision, ahead of a governors meeting planned next Tuesday.

The school opened in 1986 on the site of the former Montefiore Secondary is named after General Muhammed Osmani, who fought in the British Army in the Second World War.

Osmani Primary in Vallance RoadOsmani Primary in Vallance Road

He was born in 1918 to an affluent family in Sylhet, in India’s eastern Bengal province, now Bangladesh, who became an Indian civil servant before joining the British Army at the outbreak of War.

General Osmani’s name was an important symbol for the Bengali community, the council points out. Councillors urged the mayor and other group leaders to write to the governors to try and stop the switch and to “run a full consultation with parents”.

The decision to switch to ‘Vallance Primary’ was to meet rapidly changing demographics, the school insists. ‘Vallance Primary’ was picked as “a neutral name” that reflects the location in Whitechapel.

Chair of Governors Mike Tyler said in a statement to the East London Advertiser: “This has been a difficult decision—we understand the significance of the school’s name and respect parents’ views, but firmly believe the name change will help make sure we can meet future educational needs of the entire community.

“There is intense competition for pupils among schools in the area. We need to be as open and inclusive as possible to attract new parents.”

The school’s nursery intake this year is down by 23 children from last year, he points out, which reduces its income. The school will be almost half its size in six years’ time, governors fear, if the intake of new pupils remains the same.

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