Fury over Tower Hamlets 'land grab' claim in fight to stop Raine's School closing
PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 July 2019
Local authority education chiefs in east London are being accused of a "land grab" by the Anglican trust that owns Raine's Foundation secondary school over one of its sites being handed to a non-church school.
Raine's Foundation, the oldest school in the East End which celebrated its 300th anniversary in May at St Paul's Cathedral, faces being shut down by Tower Hamlets Council because of "falling numbers".
Angry parents are planning to protest at the council's next meeting on Wednesday to hand in a petition with 2,800 signatures to stop the closure.
The Foundation Trust stepped in on Friday to prevent contractors taking down crosses and nameplates at the Lower School campus in Old Bethnal Green Road, which the council is handing over to nearby Oaklands Secondary on a lease next month after lashing out £4million to spruce up the building.
But the trust is refusing to sign the lease in a stand off with the education authority.
"We are not signing any lease—it's deadlock," the trust's chair Carole Day told the East London Advertiser. "This is land jointly owned by the trust and the Church of England.
"It's a land issue. The council is grabbing our land and handing it to non-church school."
The Lower School is 37 per cent owned by the trust with the rest held by the London Diocese, while the Upper School in Approach Road near Victoria Park is 100pc in trust ownership and isn't affected—although still facing closure as a school.
Many parents are unhappy at being told to transfer their children to Oaklands next term, which leaves them without a Christian education which is what they had signed up to when they applied to Raine's.
The council insists the Lower School building has been empty for six years, last used in 2012.
A town hall spokesman said: "The responsibility for the site is a matter for the governing body of Raine's who agree for its temporary use as a sixth form provision by Oaklands school.
"The council has spent a significant sum to enable the Diocese to bring this empty building back into educational use."
Yet the Foundation Trust says it has been "left out" of any talks the council has had with the Diocese.
It said in a statement to the Advertiser: "We have not agreed to a lease for any other school and have informed the council many times, but they persist. We've been under pressure to sign.
"We were originally told the £4m development was for Raine's sixth form to help the school get back on its feet.
"The trust believes in a future for Raine's and its Christian community and feel we are being bullied to submit."
Meanwhile, parents seeking a High Court injunction to stop Raine's being closed down plan a protest with banners at Wednesday's council meeting with a deputation to address councillors and a petition to stop the closure.
Their lawyers who are challenging "flaws in the consultation process" gave the authority until Friday to respond—the day contractors were about to remove the crosses.