Parents have started a petition to keep the Guardian Angels Roman Catholic Primary School in Mile End from closing.
After a period of consultation with parents and other stakeholders, the school board has decided to recommend amalgamating the school with St. Anne’s, another Catholic school, to the Tower Hamlets local authority.
If the proposal moves forward, all students and some staff will be transferred to St. Anne’s, citing that school’s larger building site. It is located in Whitechapel 1.6 miles from Guardian Angels, which is currently based near the Green Bridge in Mile End.
It is not clear what the current building site will be used for after the merger, as it is not earmarked for a specific development purpose.
Currently, the Tower Hamlets Local Authority is considering the merger, and a final decision to close Guardian Angels will be made by the Cabinet Council some time in February.
However publicly available documents released on 18 December 2019 after initial consultations notes the concerns of parents, teachers and other stakeholders over this merger.
There is currently an ongoing petition to save Guardian Angels Primary School and prevent the school’s merger on Change.org , which at the time of writing has 795 signatures.
The school board defended its decision in an initial proposal released on 8 November 2019 , stating they believe a merger between the two schools is the most efficient way to cope with high rates of empty school places in Tower Hamlets and tightening public budgets.
The documents state: ‘By running only one school site, finances can be used to provide an environment for excellent Catholic education rather than trying to maintain two buildings which are taking financial resources away from the children and staff’.
But later documents also acknowledge specific challenges to merging the schools, which were brought up in consultations by concerned parents and other parties with vested interests.
These include worry over the additional distance to St. Anne’s that students will have to travel, job losses of staff and larger classes leading to loss of teaching quality.
Other concerns by who have signed the Change.org petition include worry over potential stress caused to children and parents, and a larger trend of faith schools in the area being shut down, including Raines Foundation School, which Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs approved to close last year.
Other commenters online raise the historical presence of the Guardian Angels Primary school, which was opened in 1868, as part of the local community.
‘If you live in Mile End or the immediate area, Whitechapel [the location of St. Anne’s ] isn’t your community.’ One member commented on the Guardian Angel Primary School’s Facebook group. ‘And herein lies the problem. You need the community to build upon. The church and the youth club was a good start.’
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