Raine’s school closure date announced

Raine's Foundation School. Picture: Mike Brooke

Raine's Foundation School. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

The East End’s oldest school will officially close down this year, Tower Hamlets council has said.

The council's cabinet signed off plans on Wednesday, January 29 to shut the 300-year-old Raine's Foundation School in Bethnal Green for good on August 31.

The move follows months of protests from parents and campaigners after the proposals were first announced last May - the same month staff celebrated its 300-year anniversary during a special ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral.

At the time the Church of England school had around 550 pupils, just over half its capacity. Students were offered places at nearby Oaklands but a petition to stop the closure received almost 3,000 signatures.

A council report stated: "Given the financial pressures facing Raine's, the earlier Ofsted findings and the lack of pupils applying to the school this [closure] proposal is the option being recommended."

Councillor Danny Hassell, cabinet member for schools, said the low pupil numbers meant the school was not able to receive enough funding from central government.

"Raine's has a long and proud history of teaching children in this area, however in the last few years it has seen a number of challenges," he said.

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"Compared to other schools Raine's is not able to offer the standard of education we would expect."

Raine's Foundation School was set up in 1719 by wealthy Wapping philanthropist Henry Raine's. It caters for children aged 11 to 18 and comes under the spiritual guidance of the Diocese of London.

Cllr Hassell added that the council was working with the Raine's Foundation to "preserve the name in some way in educational attainment" in the borough.

Cllr Andrew Wood said the town hall needed to learn from the way it consulted parents about the closure, suggesting the council had already "made up its minds" to close the school before consultations even started.

"Raines has been a part of our educational offer for 300 years now," he said. "This has been a deeply painful process. This decision to close was taken last April and we are just going through the motions. I thought in the beginning there was a chance to save the school. We have to learn from this experience because it was so painful."

Ex-Chelsea footballer, Mickey Ambrose, who worked at Raine's and joined the campaign to save it, said the whole process was "an absolute disgrace".

"Parents are furious about the way they've been treated. This has caused problems for the children's education," he added.

He claimed Tower Hamlets wanted to close the school from day one, announcing he would be appealing against the decision.

"The Raines Trust has already started looking at ways of keeping the legacy alive," he said.

But he added that from day one Tower Hamlets have not contacted the trust. The trust has also not been involved in any discussions about the closure.

The trust wasn't invited to join an interim executive board set up by Tower Hamlets ahead of the decision either, Mr Ambrose said.