Vigil to keep bilingual support staff at Whitechapel school

left Jubair Ali, Middle Cllr Shah Suhel Ameen right, Jamal Uddin
Pic: Astra McKenzie

Concerned parents and the local community held a peaceful vigil outside the Shapla primary school in east London today.

It was held in protest of the redundancies of 8 Bangladeshi teaching assistants, 7 of whom are female members of staff.

The vigil was organised in just a few days by aggrieved parents and members of the wider community, who felt the school did very little to consult them on the cuts, announcing them just 6 weeks before the summer holidays.

Many of those who attended felt that having bi-lingual TAs is important as they help to prepare students for both British and Bangladeshi communities.

The school’s population is over 90% Bangladeshi and has been a longstanding institution in the community since its inception in 1987.

Protesters gathered in support Pic: Astra Mckenzie

There are some who fear that the redundancies may be at the root, an issue of inequality.

Rabina Khan, former Cabinet Member for Housing in Tower Hamlets Council had a hand in organising the vigil. She told East London Lines: “A lot of women will be losing their jobs, that to me is a concern. (First of all) they’re women from ethnic minority backgrounds”

Khan went on to say: “The problem with Shapla is we are not talking enough, I think the headteacher should have been more proactive. Today’s vigil was very peaceful, just standing there not saying anything sends a really strong message”

According to a press release from the organisers John Musgrave Bolanos headteacher of Shapla Primary justified the cuts by suggesting that there has been a fall in the number of pupils at the school.

Mr. Bolanos who has been in his post since 2018 was approached by East London Lines to comment on the vigil and the redundancies, but no comments were offered.

Cllr Shah Suhel Ameen for Whitechapel spoke to East London Lines to express his concerns about the underfunding schools like Shapla primary is experiencing: “No school wants to have to lose valued members of staff or reduce support for children in (their) classrooms. Unfortunately, the scale of cuts by this Tory government, means schools are being forced to make difficult decisions”

Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of child poverty in London. In January the borough experienced a £24m government funding switch away from inner-city education.

‘Shapla’ is Bengali for ‘water lily’, the name is a reflection of the shifts in local demography when the school was first established.

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