The Swaminarayan School could stay open until 2021 – but parents won’t back down

Prep and senior school parents at the Swaminarayan School

Prep and senior school parents at the Swaminarayan School - Credit: Archant

Neasden’s embattled Swaminarayan School could stay open until 2021, bosses have said – their second concession since announcing its shock closure a fortnight ago.

Prep and senior school parents at the Swaminarayan School

Prep and senior school parents at the Swaminarayan School - Credit: Archant

The revelation comes on the heels of Wednesday’s meeting with worried parents.

The Akshar Educational Trust, which runs the school, said in a statement: “Provided there is commitment from both parents and teachers, the trustees are considering feedback to extend to a total of three years for both schools before closure in July 2021.

“We do recognise emotions have been running high as the parents have had to face this difficult situation. We sincerely regret the sadness that this has caused to pupils, parents and staff alike.”

But parents were angered at the lack of transparency.

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“The whole way this is being managed is not acceptable,” said Parag Bhargava. “Instead of telling us we have three years at the beginning, they’ve been drip-feeding us information.”

Questions posed by parents at the panel included whether the Avanti Trust, which is yet to find a new site for its mooted non-fee-paying Hindu school in Brent, is really a threat as claimed.

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When Jitu Patel, chairman of the board of trustees, was asked if the Swaminarayan School would be allowed to stay open for another seven years so all current pupils could finish their education, his answer was a firm no.

A source at the meeting said Mr Patel had told the room: “Don’t keep on asking me the same question about keeping the school open. The decision has been made. No one has thanked us that we have given you one year, and now two years [longer at the school].”

The meeting took a dramatic turn when senior teacher Charles Cotton was asked to leave by head Mr Manani. Mr Cotton has taught physics at the school for 20 years.

He had attempted to attend the meeting but was told teachers could not be present.

He received a formal letter from Mr Manani after the meeting. “When I asked you politely to leave the meeting you thought it necessary to provoke the situation by asking parents whether they thought it necessary for you to remain,” wrote Mr Manani. “You asked me what we have to hide in front of parents during a very sensitive time for the whole school.”

Mr Cotton responded: “What is it you do not wish me or other staff to hear directly?”

A meeting for teachers is scheduled for tomorrow.

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