MPs back angry parents’ free school bid if closure plan goes ahead

Parents are angry about news that Cranbrook School in Ilford may close

Parents are angry about news that Cranbrook School in Ilford may close - Credit: Archant

MPs are working with parents to try and set up Redbridge’s first free school in place of Cranbrook School which looks likely to close.

Cognita, the company which run the independent school, announced in February that Cranbrook, in Mayfield Road, Ilford, could shut by July due to dwindling pupil numbers.

A consultation into the future of the establishment is ongoing, however numerous parents have complained to the Recorder that the school has been unhelpful at finding alternatives to closure.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes and Ilford North MP Wes Streeting have written to the chief executive of Cognita asking for the plans to be halted or delayed so parents can investigate setting up a free school.

A spokesman for Mr Gapes said: “The timing of the announcement has not allowed any scope for the parents to investigate the process, or time for them to be assessed by the Department for Education (DfE) as potential managers of a free school.”

Sheila Habib, secretary of the Save Cranbrook committee, said she was “furious” with the reaction of the school.

Mrs Habib, 31, of Albemarle Gardens, Gants Hill, has a daughter in reception. She said: “Cognita have obviously made up their minds to close the school and this is not a real consultation period.”

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Shafiq Zaman’s son only joined Cranbrook at the start of January, yet he was told nothing about the possibility of closure.

Mr Zaman, 48, of Wanstead Lane, Wanstead, said: “The issue is 28 days after my son starts, we get told the school has problems and will probably close. When I was being shown around and paying the fees we weren’t told anything.”

Margaret Kubicek, a spokeswoman for Cognita, said: “Closure is only ever a last resort and we are committed to looking at all possible alternatives as part of this consultation.”

She added Cranbrook could not be turned into a free school as it did not meet certain DfE criteria, so “there would be no point embarking on an application process”.

A report last week revealed Redbridge has the most over capacity schools in London.