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Raine's parents accuse Tower Hamlets of 'dodgy dealing' over plan to close school

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 June 2019 | UPDATED: 22:28 26 June 2019

Battle to save 300-year-old Raine's Foundation, the East End's oldest school. Picture: Mike Brooke

Battle to save 300-year-old Raine's Foundation, the East End's oldest school. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Accusations of maladministration have been levelled against Tower Hamlets Council by parents battling to save the 300-year-old Raine's Foundation from being closed down.

Raine's prospective parent Diane Gillespie...  .Raine's prospective parent Diane Gillespie... ."Closure plan is riddled with maladministration." Picture: Mike Brooke

The council has already spent £4m getting Lower School building ready to hand over to another school eight months before any final decision is made, it emerged last night.

The parents took their fight to the town hall with a plea to councillors on the education scrutiny sub-committee to halt the closure before it's too late.

"This process is riddled with maladministration to eradicate 300 years of Raine's history," prospective parent Diane Gillespie told councillors.

"Year 11 pupils were told they wouldn't continue in the school in the same week their GCSE exams started—and the same week Raine's celebrated its tercentenary.

Parent governor Ahmed Hussain... Parent governor Ahmed Hussain... "If you 'shove' a school you change the demographics on the area." Picture: Mike Brooke

"The new boards of governors have been unlawfully or incorrectly constituted since 2015.

"Raine's has been systematically run down to the point where Tower Hamlets claims that it's not viable."

Mrs Gillespie, who had applied for a sixthform place for her daughter, asked the committee to "halt the closure immediately while investigations are undertaken".

The council insists Raine's has "performed poorly" on the GCSE tables while applications for places have declined in five years. It blames a change in Bethnal Green's population, with a diminishing demand for Anglican church education.

Tower Hamlets education director Christine McInnis shows education committee the falling numbers of Raine's pupils. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets education director Christine McInnis shows education committee the falling numbers of Raine's pupils. Picture: Mike Brooke

But this was challenged by Ahmed Hussain, a parent-governor co-opted onto the sub-committee, suggesting: "The council can change demographics. If you 'shove' a school you change the demographics altogether.

"People will move to where there's a school, buying or renting properties in the area. The council is purposely changing Bethnal Green's demographics."

He believes the authority could have got parents applying for school places in September to accept Raine's if it wasn't their first choice, to fill the vacancies.

But the council's head of pupil services, Terry Bryan, insisted: "Parents look at performance tables to make their choices.

"The demographics have changed with a different population coming in. If people move to be near a school, it's usually a good school. They wouldn't move into an area because the school is CofE."

But another shock for parents last night was discovering the council has already spent £4m getting the Lower School building in Old Bethnal Green Road ready for nearby Oaklands to take it over—even before the public consultations on whether Raine's should close has got under way.

The money comes from planning levies on new developments allocated by the town hall, which came to light when another co-opted committee member, Dr Phillip Rice from the London Diocese, challenged why work was being carried out on the building if Raine's was to close.

The money has already been spent "to get the site ready" in time for Oaklands to transfer Raine's pupils in September, the head of pupil services admitted.

The committee is now preparing its report to the council on whether Raine's, which celebrated its 300th anniversary last month at St Paul's Cathedral, should close in the first place. The final decision isn't due until February, five months after Oaklands takes over the Lower School building.

Another consultation for parents is being held tonight at Raine's Upper School in Approach Road, near Victoria Park, at 6pm, when details of a legal challenge against the closure—revealed exclusively by the East London Advertiser last Thursday—will be unveiled by campaigners.

Raine's School closure could face legal challenge in court

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