“We are committed to being open and transparent about how we work, our decision-making processes and the services provided.” Fine words from Tower Hamlets council.
“A beacon council”
“The ambition of the Overview and Scrutiny Transparency Commission is to move Tower Hamlets Council forward to enable it to become a beacon council for openness, transparency and accountability,” said Cllr. John Pierce (Labour, Weavers) Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee at the time in the foreword to the final report [PDF].
Pity all these promises were without any substance.
Proof of this is the recent announcement by the council’s Head of Education Partnerships, Christine McInnis, to surprised parents that Raines Foundation school in Bethnal Green was to be closed.
The announcement was made the week before GCSE exams started. Good timing, huh?
Which was also the week that the East End’s oldest school celebrated its 300th anniversary.
Henry Raine was a (rich) and busy man
And yes Raines Foundation school was built in 1719 by the same Henry Raine who also built Raines House in Wapping in the same year.
Protest 3pm Friday 14th June
Local councillors Rabina Khan (Shadwell, Liberal Democrat) and Andrew Wood (Canary Wharf, Conservative) have been working with children’s parents to try and find out what is really going on at Raines Foundation school and have organised a protest outside the school on Approach Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9LY at 3pm Friday 14th June as well.
Tower Hamlets council has all sorts of reasons why it thinks Raines Foundation school should be closed, the main one being that the number of pupils has been falling and the school is now running at half capacity. It has places for 911 pupils, but only has 558 currently on its register.
Ofsted inspections have also been poor, although when LW read the Ofsted reports a while back it seemed that while two out of the last three were not good the most recent one seemed to indicate the school was improving.
The question as to how and why the school has been allowed to fail needs to be asked. Maybe there are too many schools in the borough and we need to get rid of a few?
But LW does not need to ask too many awkward questions (boo!) because Cllr. Andrew Wood has come up with a very long and detailed list of questions (hooray!) which he will be putting to Tower Hamlets council. And here they all are. Enjoy.
Raines Foundation school consultation
- When will the proposed consultation start?
- How will it be distributed?
- What is the purpose of the consultation?
- Why was the first public meeting held at 4pm when some parents could not attend, at short notice and why were pupils and parents not allowed to ask questions?
- When will the Council provide a second public meeting in the early evening for parents and pupils to ask questions, with advance warning, with a working microphone with senior Council officers and politicians present?
- When will this next be considered at Cabinet?
- What will be presented to the new Children’s Services Scrutiny Sub Committee meeting on the 25th June?
Financial & Pupil place planning
- What are the current actual pupil numbers and maximum capacity at Oaklands and Raines Foundation schools?
- Who owns the Raines Foundation school sites?
- What is the current deficit at Oaklands and Raines Foundation schools?
- Will LBTH provide clothing grants for pupils forced to switch schools?
- What is the religious breakdown of current Raines Foundation pupils as compared to Oaklands and Tower Hamlets as a whole?
- On the 28th November 2018 Cabinet looked at school place planning under item “6.1 Planning for School Places – 2018/19 Review and Recommendations” which included a “6.1a Appendix 1 – School Roll Projections and Methodology”. This included a table showing Year 7 projections to 2030/31. Can this table be updated to reflect the proposed closure so that we can see the revised numbers excluding Raines.
- What impact will the proposed closure have on the opening dates of new secondary schools in Wapping and at Westferry Printworks (assuming Raines closes)?
- What are the plans (if any) for the future use of the Raines Foundation school sites?
- Was any consideration given to announcing this a week before GCSE exams started?
- Will LBTH help pupils apply for special consideration in their exam results given the disruption this news must have caused in the run up their exams?
- Can you confirm that all pupils will be admitted automatically to Oaklands if that is their choice (there are rumours that Oaklands is cherry picking only pupils it wants)
- Have you provided any information to parents and pupils about A-level choices available at other secondary schools accessible by pupils (not just in Tower Hamlets) and whether those schools have any spare places in September 2019?
- Why was Oaklands picked as the partner rather than let’s say Morpeth or Sir John Cass?
- Who made the decision to merge with Oaklands?
- Why was no public consultation or engagement made with parents and pupils in advance of that decision?
- Why was that decision not taken to Cabinet or Overview and Scrutiny?
- Was any attempt made to look at options other than closure i.e. amalgamation?
- Was an options analysis produced?, if yes, can I have a copy, if not, why not?
- Has any consideration been given to moving Raines Foundation (or at least the name) to the Wapping Docks school site, given that Raines Foundation originally started in Wapping?
27. What are the statutory laws and regulations that LBTH has to follow as regards the proposed closure?
28(a) LBTH has already made three decisions:
– To prevent new year 7 pupils joining Raines
– That year 11 pupils will move to another school
– That pupils will move to Oaklands
28(b) The aggregate of these decisions is to effectively close the school as it would further reduce pupil numbers to a level which is not sustainable
28(c) Under what legal authority has it made these decisions?
29. What is legally different about the decision-making process which led to the closure of the four Tower Hamlets nursery schools in recent years and this decision-making process?
30. What protected characteristics do the pupils at Raines have?
From Councillor Andrew Wood on behalf of pupils and parents of Raine’s Foundation school
Nice work Cllr. W!
Related Internet Links
- Raine’s Foundation school site
- Raine’s Foundation school – Wikipedia
- Raine’s Foundation school Ofsted reports
The need for an opposition councillor to list 30 questions that pupils and parents need answers to indicates that Tower Hamlets council has once again not been open and transparent about how it works, its decision-making processes or the services it provides.
Andrew Wood’s question 28(b) is illuminating at it states that ‘The aggregate of these decisions [below] is to effectively close the school as it would further reduce pupil numbers to a level which is not sustainable’.
The decisions that LBTH has already made seem to be:
- Preventing new year seven pupils joining Raine’s Foundation school
- Announcing that year 11 pupils will move to another school
- Deciding that these pupils will move to Oaklands school
Curiously the opacity as to why Raine’s Foundation school mirrors the smoke and mirrors surrounding the council’s decision to splurge £1.3 million on Raine’s House in Wapping to turn a community centre into a, er, community centre.
If Moley should discover that the council was supposed to spend £1.3 million on supporting Raine’s Foundation school in Bethnal Green but some genius in the Places and Spaces Department thought the dosh was supposed to be spent on Raine’s House in Wapping he would not be at all surprised.
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