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Parents hit back over Raine's Foundation school's future after High Court let down

PUBLISHED: 17:17 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:34 11 October 2019

Battle for furture of Raine's 300-year-old church foundation school continues. Picture: Mike Brooke

Battle for furture of Raine's 300-year-old church foundation school continues. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Parents who have lost a High Court battle to stop Raine's Foundation closing have accused Tower Hamlets Council of running down the 300-year-old School long before the decision to shut it.

Raine's pupils who started their own petition last term to save their school. Picture: Mike BrookeRaine's pupils who started their own petition last term to save their school. Picture: Mike Brooke

A pupil lost the legal fight over a consultation on the future of the 300-year-old church school in Bethnal Green.

The Year 8 girl complained that the consultation was "a sham" and should be halted because the council had already decided to close Raine's—although the town hall insists no decision had been made.

Lawyers had been instructed by her mother on her behalf. Yogi Amin, from Irwin Mitchell law firm, said after the judge's ruling: "Our clients believe the council needs to keep an open mind and support the school to remain open and flourish. Some amilies feel they have been left in limbo over places."

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Mickey Ambrose bid to kick Tower Hamlets' school closure plan into touch. Picture: Mike BrookeEx-Chelsea midfielder Mickey Ambrose bid to kick Tower Hamlets' school closure plan into touch. Picture: Mike Brooke

Critics accuse the council of running down Raine's by closing the Year 7 intake prematurely and Year 10.

Campaigner Mickey Ambrose, who worked at the school for two years, told the East London Advertiser: "We brought the case because the local authority pre-determined the closure before the end of consultations and before the final decision which was supposed to be next February.

"The Pupil Services head told two parent meetings in the summer that Raine's was closing. He even applied in May to the Schools Adjudicator to stop all new admissions, but was rejected, yet continued by rescinding the offer of places already made."

Furious parents' meeting in the summer accusing Tower Hamlets Council of deliberately running down Raine's Foundation school. Picture: Mike BrookeFurious parents' meeting in the summer accusing Tower Hamlets Council of deliberately running down Raine's Foundation school. Picture: Mike Brooke

There is now no year 7, no year 10 and no year 12 which critics say has forced pupils to transfer elsewhere.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said: "The High Court judgement recognised the decision-making process throughout the consultation on the potential closure of Raine's. We will continue complying with the legal framework."

New pupils were offered places in March for Year 7 that was supposed to start in September. The council withdrew the offers in May in favour of expanding Bethnal Green's Oaklands non-faith secondary instead.

Plans to close Raine's Foundation church school were announced by Tower Hamlets the week of its 300th anniversary celebration in April 2019. Picture: Mike BrookePlans to close Raine's Foundation church school were announced by Tower Hamlets the week of its 300th anniversary celebration in April 2019. Picture: Mike Brooke

Letters were sent in May and June to those applying for Year 7 places in September that the school was closing in August 2020.

The first, dated May 1 from the council's corporate director for children, Debbie Jones, said the school was "half full" and pointed out that its income has been falling with pupil numbers.

Secondary admissions manager Kelly Mack wrote to parents twice, in May and June, revealing that the local authority was seeking Schools Adjudicator permission for no Year 7 because of "such small numbers and significant funding reduction". Places had been reserved at Oaklands, replacing the previous offer of places at Raine's.

Legal wrangle over Raine's Lower School in Old Bethnal Green Road. Picture: Mike BrookeLegal wrangle over Raine's Lower School in Old Bethnal Green Road. Picture: Mike Brooke

Then came the blow on Wednesday, October 9, when the High Court ruled in the council's favour to continue the consultations despite the decision to close.

But it was not without a fight to the bitter end. A legal wrangle still hangs over the Lower School building in Old Bethnal Green Road which has had a £4m makeover ready for the council to hand over to nearby Oaklands.

The building is owned by Raine's Foundation Trust, it has since emerged, along with the Upper School in Approach Road near Victoria Park. The foundation has campaigned against the school closing.

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