Tower Hamlets Council refuses to reconsider plans to close down East End’s oldest school
PUBLISHED: 17:00 19 February 2020
A last-ditch attempt to save the oldest school in the East End from closure was refused by councillors last night.
At an emergency call-in meeting on Tuesday, February 18, campaigners asked Tower Hamlets Council's scrutiny committee to send a decision to shut the 300-year-old Raine's Foundation School back to mayor John Biggs for reconsideration.
The Church of England school, in Bethnal Green, is due to close for good in August.
But two co-opted members of the committee - Dr Phillip Rice and Ahmed Hussain - argued that the troubled school and sixth form should be given an extra year to turn itself around.
Campaigners also argued that the closure consultation was unfair and claimed the council and the school's interim executive board had already decided to shut it down before they started consulting.
Dr Rice said: "I believe there is a conciliatory way forward. I find it impossible that the upper and lower school sites cannot be used by Raine's as a faith school. I want to give the people who put the school in this mess a chance to clean it up."
The request was denied with six out of 10 committee members voting that the closure should go ahead without further scrutiny.
Proposals to shut Raine's Foundation School were released in May last year - just before the school celebrated its 300th anniversary at a ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral. The plans were officially signed off by the council earlier this month.
The committee heard that in 2006 Raine's received £17million of tax payer money to pay for refurbishment to the lower and upper schools.
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Councillor Peter Golds said: "That is an awful lot of money. We should be using that, not allowing it to lie dormant."
However, at the time the school was earmarked for closure it had around 550 pupils on its register out of 911 places. It was also rated as Requires Improvement by Ofsted during an inspection in 2017.
The Department for Education hands out school funding per pupil and the council argued that the school could not afford to provide a high quality level of education.
Director of education Christine McInnes said: "The standards [at the school] are too low. Children going to Raine's get lower grades than others in the borough. I would be failing in my duty if I didn't take action over that."
She added: "The issue here is the performance of the school and parents voted with their feet."
Children attending Raine's were given the option to transfer to nearby Oaklands school, which is not a faith school.
Parent Laura Gibson said she now has two weeks to find a new school for her 13-year-old daughter Alicia.
"My daughter is devastated," Ms Gibson said.
"She doesn't want to go to another school. We feel like we have been pushed out and the school was never given a chance to succeed."
Campaigner Mickey Ambrose said he was in talks with the Raine's Foundation Trust, which owns the school buildings, to provide some educational programmes on the site.
"I think the whole consultation process has been a sham," he said. "It's a disgrace this institution will be shut down. But we have big plans for the site."