Parents’ revolt over Bengali school name in Whitechapel

The school is located by Vallance Gardens, inspiring the name change. Pic: Louis Berk (Flickr)

Parents in Whitechapel were celebrating after derailing a move to change the Bengali name of their primary school. They took photographs outside the school gates and posted them on Facebook.

Osmani primary school parents in Whitechapel voted 236 to 44 to make the school keep its original name and oppose the proposed new name of Vallance Primary.

They had mounted a Facebook petition calling on the school governors, who have the final say, not to make the change.

They were backed by the mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs who welcomed the result, saying: “I am glad that parents have had their say and sent a clear message to the school governors that they value the historic Osmani name.

“I hope the governors will now listen to the vast majority of parents and abandon their plans to change the school’s name once and for all.”

Governors had said the school was struggling to fill empty places and that they believed their proposed new name would attract more pupils. They said Vallance was was picked as a neutral name that only reflects the location in Whitechapel.

Currently 98 per cent of children on the school roll are from the Bangladeshi community.

Last January, following community concern and intervention from Mayor Biggs, who has stressed the importance of the Osmani name to the community on multiple occasions, the school governors agreed not to change the name without consulting the parents first.

Only a month later, more than 1,000 people had signed the online petition, set up by parent and editor Kalam Choudhury, against the change.

Parents left their comments saying how shocked they were by this decision. Tower Hamlets Green Party has also supported the parents via Twitter, Facebook and their official website, where they called on governors to consult with the community before making such a huge change in the borough.

Doros Ullah, a former Tower Hamlets councillor, accused the school of “trying to take away the identity of the Bangladeshi community”, while parent Kalam Choudhury told  BBC Asian Network it was “an issue of our history and out heritage and culture”.

The school opened in 1986 on the site of the former Robert Montefiore Secondary and was named after General Muhammad Osmani, who fought in the British Army in the Second World War and was a leading figure in Bangladesh independence in 1971.

Mike Tyler, chair of governors at the school, said: “We thought Vallance Primary is a neutral profile that doesn’t deter potential parents from coming into the school and stopping this perception that it’s a faith school.”

The school governors will meet on March 28 to make the final decision on the school’s name.

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