Parents protest with their children outside Raine’s Foundation over closure of East End’s oldest school
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Parents fighting to save the East End’s 300-year-old Raine’s Foundation School from being closed down by Tower Hamlets Council have set up a steering group which staged a protest with their children outside the main gate.
They chanted and ran up banners outside the main building in Bethnal Green at home time on Friday and now plan to lobby the council next week.
The shock closure plans are affecting whole families. Mum-of-four Gloria McCormack's Year 9 daughter Mathilda is about to start GCSE studies but has been told to find another school because there aren't enough pupils in her year group.
Her 11-year-old son Zebedee who won a scholarship to start in September and was accepted in March has also now been told he can't go after all. The youngest son aged seven was also hoping to join Raine's one day.
"They've dropped us like a hot potato," Zebedee fumed. "I'm disappointed especially as I was offered a scholarship and they got the funding for it."
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His mum insists: "They must have known when he went for his interview for a scholarship and had sibling priority—now nothing."
The Anglican diocese school faces being taken over by Bethnal Green's Oakland Secondary, with parents already invited earlier this month to tour its campus.
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But young Mathilda, joining her mum at Friday's protest, said: "To close a Church of England school and put us in a non-church school is disrespectful.
"My education has now been disrupted—they aren't bothering any more."
The shock closure plans, with the school marking its 300th anniversary last month, come despite public consultations yet to be organised.
Only one meeting with parents has been held so far, which was described by those attending as "a sham" with questions left unanswered.
This was followed by an invitation to Oaklands on June 6—the day police were called to deal with unruly pupils in a street fight outside the school gates.
One Raine's mum invited to Oaklands who witnessed it, Kim Hiscock, told the East London Advertiser: "They were swearing and shouting at our children telling them they weren't welcome and calling Raine's 'scum'. It was intimidating.
"Police arrived when the fight started. I dread to think what it would be like for any Raine's pupils that go there.
"I've made my mind up that my son won't go to Oaklands if Raine's closes."
The second Raine's consultation is Wednesday at 6pm, ironically being held at Oaklands, while the parents also plan to lobby the council's scrutiny committee at the town hall on June 25.
The closure decision won't be made until February, according to the council—but youngsters already accepted to join Raine's in September have been told that they must find other schools instead.
So the families turned up outside the main building in Approach Road gathering more names to their petition, led by former Chelsea and Charlton midfield player Mickey Ambrose who worked at the school for a year. The pupils have also started their own petition.
But the school pulled the rug on the protest by closing early and sending pupils home at 2.30pm.
The town hall says the "difficult decision" to close a school with such a long history is over concerns about education standards which have meant fewer parents applying for places. The school is now only half full.
Raine's was founded in 1719 in Wapping by Henry Raine, a devout Christian who used his merchant wealth for poor children to get a free education.
It has moved several times in its history, the last in 1985 when the Upper School took over the former Parmiter's Grammar School in Approach Road, then modernised it in 2010 in the government's 'Building Schools for the Future' scheme.
But Raine's may not have a future—unless midfielder Mickey Ambrose can help kick the closure order into touch.