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Chairman of trustees insists school will not close at end of the year

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:57 03 September 2019

Grangewood Independent School in Forest Gate. Picture: Ken Mears

Grangewood Independent School in Forest Gate. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

The chairman of trustees of a Forest Gate private school has insisted that the school will remain open.

Concerns were raised over the future of Grangewood Independent School after the site's owners, Associate Properties Limited (APL), said that no terms had been agreed to extend the lease beyond December.

The organisation feared that pupils could be returning for a new school year that they would not be able to see out.

But Jones Agyeman, chairman of trustees at Grangewood Educational Association (GEA), told the Recorder: "The school is not closing. We have got enough money to keep the school open.

"There is enough money in the bank account to keep going for the next three to four years."

Mr Agyeman would not comment on any potential renewal of the lease agreement.

GEA sold the freehold of the Chester Road site to APL in 2015 under a four-year leaseback arrangement, which is due to expire in December.

A year before, the charity had entered a company voluntary agreement following a period of financial difficulty.

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APL said the company had attempted to contact GEA over the past few months, having proposed terms for a long lease, but no "meaningful response" had been returned.

An APL spokesman said: "With just under a week to go until the school term starts, we are concerned students will be enrolled in a school despite its lease coming to an end on December 21, 2019.

"Terms for a lease extension were offered to the school back in March 2019 but they have yet to respond meaningfully to this, which is extremely disappointing.

"We want this situation to be resolved quickly, so that the school can remain on the site, or a new educational use can be found for it."

In mid-August, the charity commission published a report following its investigation into GEA, which revealed serious mismanagement had occured.

As such, APL has requested proof of funds from GEA to ensure the charity can meet its financial obligations. Without this, APL believes there may not be the means to find a lease extension or to acquire the freehold.

Grangewood Independent School was set up 40 years ago to provide a Christian education for two to 11-year-olds.

As of March 2018 - when the school was temporarily closed - there were 45 children on the register.

Parents occupied the building at the end of the spring term in a bid to keep it open and it has been operating as normal ever since.

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