Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
Church's Labour Team, led by our Councillor Ashley Pearce

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Monthly Archives: October 2017

JMA- “A rapid process of transformation”-Ofsted.

Ashley outside of JMA.

“Leaders have created a calm and orderly environment. Pupils treat each other with respect”-JMA Ofsted report.

It was the above quote from John Madejski academies latest Ofsted report that resonated with me most after just having visited the school and impressive new head Laura Ellener. As a teacher myself, Ward Coucnillor for many of JMA’s students and Chair of Governors of nearby Ridgeway Primary, I was delighted at the recent Ofsted report that showed great improvement. Work to do, but on the right track with the right people.

As soon as you walk through the gates you notice how calm and quiet the school is, there is clearly a purposeful atmosphere. The reception was warm and welcoming (always a good indicator of a school!) & I was met by the Principal Laura Ellener. The Principal brings with her a dedicated team driven by improving the school. A tour of the premises demonstrated some wonderful facilities including a pristine sixth form block, excellent sporting and ICT facilities. The classrooms I dropped into had an excellent learning culture and engaged students.

The school has been through many different guises and changes throughout the years but I am convinced it is finally on the right path. A strong Governing body including two head teachers, a new trust about to lend its support, local collaboration with the Whitley Excellence Cluster and a driven senior leadership team has seen this rapid process of transformation that Ofsted has noted. Hopefully Ofsted will be back in a couple of years to note even further improvement.

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November events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 4th November from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee meeting including some involving Church Ward will take place on Wednesday 8th October at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ward meeting: The regular meeting of Church Ward members and Councillors were we discuss local issues will take place on Thursday 9th November at 7.30pm at 101 Northcourt Avenue.
  • Ridgeway Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the second full Governors meeting of the year on Monday 20th November at 7pm at Ridgeway school.
  • Remembrance service– Church Ward Councillors will pay their respects on the morning of Sunday 12th at St Mary’s Butts before a march through town.
  • Canvassing: Councillors and members will be discussing parking issues with residents on Thursday November 9th at 6pm on Shinfield Road and on Saturday 25th November at 10.30am on Staverton Road.
  • Northcourt Avenue Residents Association meeting: Cllr Pearce will be attending the NARA meeting to discuss the St.Patrick’s hall redevelopment on Wednesday 1st November at 7pm.
  • Calendar collating: The South Reading calendar running from January to June is currently being collated. If you have any events for that period that you would like included, please email
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University of Reading consulting on St.Patricks hall redevelopment

Artists impression of the new halls.

The University of Reading is this week seeking feedback from residents on their proposed changes to St.Patrick’s hall before submitting a planning application. You can also view the proposals and submit comments online from Thursday 26 October to Thursday 9 November at

There will be a small exhibition of the proposal boards in the Lower Lobby of the Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) Building at our Whiteknights campus on Friday 27 October from 11am to 3pm. Students and staff are welcome to come along during the day.

Local residents and neighbours are encouraged to submit their thoughts on the proposal on the above email address. I will be meeting with resident groups, the Council’s planning department and the University before the application is submitted to hear from all sides.

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Alok Sharma’s thought & actions on education

I recently received a letter from Reading West MP Alok Sharma after I had emailed him as part of the NASUWT campaign on school funding. There appears to be a big disparity between Alok’s words and his actions, so I thought I’d have a go at translating.

He starts by saying “I am enormously grateful for the work they do to ensure  children have the best chance to succeed in life”. What he probably meant was, I’ve consistently voted to cut your pension. Mine’s gone up.

On teachers pay he says “The recommendations are consistent with the Governments 1% public sector pay policy”. What he probably meant was, I’ve consistently voted to cut teachers wages. Mine have gone up.


Alok says he wants fair public sector wages “while balancing this with being fair to other taxpayers”. What he probably meant was, we spent £1bn to cling on to power, cut taxes for the richest and most powerful.

On teacher numbers Alok says”Im encouraged that there are more teachers in our schools than ever before”. By this point I think Alok had just given up…..

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Nationalisation and Tory profiteering

I was interested to read Newbury MP Richard Benyon’s comment piece in this week’s Reading Chronicle. It would appear Mr Benyon is not a fan of nationalising industries. I won’t bore you with graphs, talk of natural monopolies, dynamic efficiency and elasticities. Instead I will just point out some facts and inaccuracies Mr Benyon appears to have missed. Mr Benyon says that “Nationalised industries were a shambolic drain on public finances”. I wonder if he includes in this the subsidies that are provided to our current “Privatised” system of railways. Whereby in 2015-16 the railways received £4.8bn in net Government support, double the level from 1985 under the oh so terrible British Rail. (Figures from the ONS). This of course has not stopped these private firms paying out dividends to shareholders. So, overall UK tax burden has gone up (we are paying more to the exchequer), Rail subsidies have risen and dividends paid to shareholders have risen. Or more simply, Robin Hood in reverse. The poor are paying more in tax to subsidise rail shareholders.

Mr Benyon goes on to say “If the national debt increased by this much we would have to spend at least £7bn more on debt repayments every single year”. This from a man in the Government that has increased the national debt to 88% of GDP, the highest level since 1996 and lest we never forget, the Tories in the last 7 years have increased national debt more than all Labour Governments put together, ever! Not finished there, Mr Benyon compares this figure to what we could spend it on. “The equivalent of 81,000 nurses, 69,000 teachers and 66,000 police officers”. Its so nice that he now cares. Nurse numbers have fallen by nearly 2000 between March 2016 and March 2017, 50,000 teachers left the profession in 2015, up from 10% in 2011 and police numbers have fallen by 20,000 since 2009 according to the home office. So we better not nationalise things otherwise what, the Tories will cut more public servants!? And he proudly proclaims “And that’s according to the Office for budget responsibility by the way”, yes, the same OBR that this week said there will be a huge whole in the public finances thanks to the UK’s poor productivity.

But it is the water industry where Mr Benyon proclaims the greatest expertise, he says that “around £120bn has been invested in water and sewerage infrastructure”. A very impressive figure although he doesn’t say what it was before so we have no idea if this is an increase or decrease. What I do know however is that when the water industry was privatised back in the 90’s, nearly £5bn of debt was written off. It’s easy to invest if the Government have picked up the debt tab. I also know that in the first 8 years of privatisation, profits went up by 142%. This could be due to huge efficiency increases of course. But I also know that the average water bill in 1995 was £315 per year (at current prices) but in 2015 it was £340 a year. So investment has gone up but so have prices. Or in other words, you are paying for the investment.
Benyon goes on to say “Since privatisation, Investment has been financed by an inflow of cash from around the world”. But prices have gone up? And this is one way of looking at it, the other way of looking at it is that these tax payer subsidised industries are paying out dividends to go abroad! My water company Thames water is part owned by the China Investment Corporation and the Abu Dhabi Investment authority. Why is it ok that foreign Governments can own and run our railways but not our own Government?

But maybe, just maybe Mr Benyon has his own agenda? I say maybe, a quick glance at the register of members interests tells me that he is director of UK Water partnership which is a not for profit company set up to promote the interests of the UK water sector. Not for profit for some but Mr Benyon is paid £15,000 a year for 12-14 days of work to do this job. So much like the railways, Governments are not to profit from it but fine for shareholders and individuals.

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John Madejski academy shows rapid improvement

South Reading secondary school the John Madejski academy has undergone a rapid improvement in standards in the last year, Schools regulator Ofsted have said. The school continues its journey to an outstanding school and is now out of special measures. The staff team lead by Principal Laura Ellener have shown great determination and spirit to keep the school improving. More can be read on the schools website

New Ofsted grading for JMA after “rapid process of transformation”

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Northumberland Avenue resurfacing work

A section of Northumberland Avenue between Hartland road and Honiton road will be resurfaced this month. The Highway Maintenance Team will commence a trial of an alternative pot hole repair system on roads where the depth of defects are below the current 50 mm depth investigatory level. The repair system is a quick / speedy solution that will seal the road in advance of the coming winter. It is not anticipated that much disruption will occur as the solution is a quick process and moves along the length of the road fairly quickly.  The works will take place sometime during the week starting 2nd October.

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Councillors help clean up Rabsons Rec.

Councillors and volunteers after a successful mornings clean up.

Church and Whitley Ward Councillors joined volunteers to help clean up Rabsons Rec. Church Ward’s Ashley Pearce and Eileen McElligott donned high viz jackets and grabbed litter pickers to work their way round the Rec. Half a dozen bags worth of rubbish was collected leaving the park in a cleaner state than before.




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