Raine's Foundation School marks 300th anniversary tonight at St Paul's Cathedral while facing closure
PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 09 May 2019
Plans have been revealed to close down historic Raine's Foundation by Tower Hamlets Council in the week that the East End's oldest school celebrates its 300th anniversary.
The shock news was broken to parents last night at a consultation meeting held in the Upper School hall in Bethnal Green.
Parents applying for their children to join Year 7 in September next year have been warned that the school may be closed by then—while pupils still at the school would be transferred to nearby Oaklands or other schools, the town hall has confirmed to the East London Advertiser.
The council's head of education partnerships, Christine McInnis, began a presentation on the closure when she was bombarded with questions from angry parents barely half-way through.
"The meeting was a shambles," one furious potential parent said. "It was clear this was the first time we had heard of the closure.
"Everyone was so angry. Some pupils at the meeting were even in tears."
The council holds a public consultation next month, with the closure proposal set to be thrashed out by its cabinet in February and a likely closure date in the summer of 2020.
An interim board of governors has taken over the school from the previous board which was replaced by the council following last year's poor Ofsted report.
Raine's new interim executive head is the head teacher at Oaklands Secondary, Patrice Canavan, who is to oversee the closure.
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The school has faced falling numbers, now running at half capacity. It has places for 911 pupils, but only has 558 currently on its register.
Oaklands is set to expand and is looking to take over the Lower School premises close to its own campus in Old Bethnal Green Road, it is understood. No future has been decided for the Upper School in Approach Road, near Victoria Park.
Parents and past pupils, meanwhile, are marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of Raine's at a 5pm service this-evening at St Paul's Cathedral.
"It's going to be more like a wake than a celebration," one past pupil told the Advertiser.
"The council and London Diocesan are telling us there aren't enough applicants and the school won't survive. It's heartbreaking after 300 years."
There were 29 youngsters offered places next September who are understood to have been told they can't go because school is closing.
A Town hall spokesman said: "Pupil numbers have been falling for several years, which has undermined the school's ability to remain financially sustainable. We have recommended to a public consultation on a proposal to close Raine's Foundation School, which remains open at least until August, 2020."
The school was founded in 1719 by Henry Raine, a devout Christian who used his merchant wealth to set up a school for poor children in Wapping to get a free education. He provided meals and learning for 100 boys and girls aged between eight and 18 who were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Girls were also taught to sew and cook, while boys had to shovel coal for the school's heating and scrub the floors between lessons. A boarding school was added in 1736.
The school expanded in 1820, inaugurated by the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV. It moved in 1883 to Whitechapel and new premises in Cannon Street Road, but not all places were free by then, with a weekly preparatory school fee introduced of 3d (just over 1p today) and 6d for the senior school.
Raine's moved again in 1913 to Arbour Square in Stepney, the building today now part of New City College. It had a gym, science labs, girls' cookery room and a rifle range on the open rooftop added in the First World War for boys to prepare for the Army.
The last move was 1985 to Bethnal Green. The Upper School took over the former Parmiter's grammar school building in Approach Road, which was redeveloped in 2010 as part of the government's 'Building Schools for the Future' scheme. Now Raine's may not have a future.