How mums stopped Tower Hamlets Council axing year 7 intake at Raine's Foundation School
PUBLISHED: 16:27 23 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 23 August 2019
Mums have taken up an 11th hour fight to stop Raine's Foundation School closing after legally preventing Tower Hamlets Council axing all Year 7 enrolments in three weeks' time.
They were canvassing outside the senior school gates on Thursday, August 22 when pupils arrived to pick up their GCSE results to tell other parents that the 300-year-old church school was "open for business".
Michelle Bolger, who has a son in Year 9, handed out promotion pens and wristbands with a "300 more years" slogan as part of the foundation trust's battle to stop the council handing one of its buildings to Bethnal Green's Oaklands Secondary for September.
"The council is trying to transfer our children to non-faith Oaklands school," she said. "My son won't be going there because Oaklands pupils are openly hostile to our children."
Members of Raine's foundation trust arrived at the Upper School in Approach Road to go through the books with headteacher Simon Ramsay and Sir Alastair MacDonald from the governing board responsible for finance.
It follows Tower Hamlets Council claims that Raine's faces a £2 million deficit, which the Foundation trust refutes.
Foundation chair Carole Day told the East London Advertiser: "Pupils are being told the school will close next year. We don't agree.
"The £2m deficit just isn't true. We have a £1m licensed debt agreed in 2018 and are determined to save Raine's, but haven't been allowed to take spreadsheet information away which is ridiculous. We need to see financial projections, but they don't want us to save the school."
The town hall has now agreed to enrol year 7 pupils who want to take up places in September, according to Judge Justice Farbey's High Court interim order dated July 17 in a legal action started by a Raine's pupil.
Letters were supposed to go out last month advising parents that they can apply for places after all—but campaigners say they haven't received them.
A council statement assured: "Families wanting to take up a year 7 place are free to do so, but it may be necessary to arrange education at another school if there are not enough children enrolled."
The head of pupil services, Terry Bryan, told a parents' meeting last month that admissions were definitely being stopped, to howls of protests. He was directly contradicted at the meeting by a schools adjudicator telling parents they had a legal right to send their children to Raine's.
The government ploughed £23m into modernising Raine's Upper School in 2011, which the council acknowledges was good decision at the time. Decline in pupil numbers since 2011, however, was "unforeseen".
A town hall spokesman said: "Closing a school is never easy. Investment is important, but can't be a reason to keep the school from closing."
The authority had asked the Office of the Schools Adjudicator in May to suspend year 7 entry, but has been refused, forcing a U-turn to allow this year's intake.
Campaign coordinator Mickey Ambrose, who joined families outside the school collecting their GCSE results, said: "This is a stand-off like Brexit, with us 'remainers' keeping Raine's going while the council wants it to 'exit'.
"But we are telling parents that Raine's is open for business."
The Foundation trust, meanwhile, is refusing to sign any lease allowing Oaklands onto its Lower School premises in Old Bethnal Green Road and says it is disappointed that the London Diocese isn't opposing 511 church school pupils being transferred to non-faith schools.