Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Accountability but little control

I asked the following question at this week’s Full Council meeting to Cllr Jones, the lead Cllr for Education:

“It was recently reported that Reading Borough Council will have 1887 more secondary school pupils by 2020 and will need two new secondary schools to accommodate these. Can the Lead Cllr update us on what is happening to ensure future provision?”
Council research shows the projected surplus of 60 year 7 places in 18/19 becomes a deficit of 190 in 19/20. An extra eight form entry school sufficient to accommodate 240 pupils will suffice through the 2020’s. So only one school is needed. The council is currently planning for this. Several sites for the school have been identified and a bidding process will shortly be started to find an academy sponsor. Before the opening of this school agreement has been reached with five local secondary schools to take sufficient extra bulge classes. These must be thanked.
It is the process here I’d like to focus on. I’ve been a teacher for ten years and a Governor for five years. I’ve met many parents and I’ve never encountered one who has asked or cares about who runs their school, they just want the best for their child. But this is where the Tories fragmented education system comes in.
The new school cannot be run or administered by the local authority. All new schools must be academy run.  We, as elected officials, and who parents hold to account, have no say in who gets to run our children’s schools. This is despite the fact that last year, 93% of local authority schools were rated good or better by Ofsted compared to 33% for academies. So who does choose the academy sponsor then….?
The academy sponsor is chosen by the Regional schools commisoner. Never heard of them? Well, that’s probably because our one for the South East, spans an area from Milton Keynes, half of London and across to West Berks. It includes hundreds of schools and there is no way, however good the member of staff, they know and can relate to the schools and areas. They also have a huge remit, from taking action on underperforming schools to finding sponsors. Residents will never meet them but it is these people who hold the responsibility of helping schools. Our new school will be under their remit too.
Lastly, the location of this school. Reading Council and Cllrs know the area and where the need is, so we decide right? Of course not! This is decided by the Department of education, suits in Whitehall with spreadsheets! We can recommend and research areas, but the final decision is not ours. But when it goes through planning, are the Dfe present to discuss? Of course not.
All parents want is the best education for their child, and I wholeheartedly agree. But the local authority is being given less and less chance to make this happen. Cut funding, mix up accountability, split school systems and then what? Privatise? We shall see.
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March events

Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 3rd March from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.

Planning meeting: This months planning committee of which Ashley is a member, will take place on Wednesday 7th March at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.

Full Council meeting: A budget for the Council’s next year will be proposed on Tuesday 27th March at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. 

Church Ward Rose delivery: The latest edition of the local Labour party newsletter the Church Ward Rose will be delivered through doors this month and can be viewed elsewhere on this website.

Canvassing: Doors on Cherry Grove will be knocked to ask residents concerns on Saturday 10th March at 10.30am, Foxhays Road on Sunday 11th March at 11am and Winton Road on Saturday 31st March at 11am.

Reading half marathon: Thousands of athletes and fun runners will be running through South Reading for the annual half marathon on Sunday 21st March, starting at 10am.

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Government not interested in Reading’s housing crisis

Reading Borough Council unanimously (all parties, all Councillors) agreed a motion put forward by me in January asking for Councils to be able to borrow to build homes and that all right to buy receipts should be kept to reinvest in housing stock.

I today received this response Reading Borough Council response letter 21 Feb 2018

As expected from this Government, no real response with smoke and mirrors leaving our housing crisis to get worse. Also not a surprise that housing Secretary Sajid Javid, doesn’t really care about Reading’s housing crisis. This is a man who was a director of his brothers £11m buy to let company and who is a landlord himself, he plays an active role on restricting housing supply. His voting record also shows he voted to phase out secure tenancies for the very poorest and voted against a bill that would have ensured properties were fit for human habitation.

The response is short, non specific and dismssisve, much like Tory housing policy. “Local authorities will be able to bid for increases in their caps”. Translated, we’ve kicked this into the long grass and we may help out some of our Tory mates in Surrey. “An additional £2bn to deliver more affordable housing at social rents”. Not quite what Housing Minister Dominic Raab said this week on his “ultras” WhatsApp group when he called for all social housing to be sold off. “You also proposed that local authorities keep all of the money received from right to buy”. At this point the response may as well say F off. But the Tory record on right to buy record is pretty appalling, between July 2016 and June 2017, 12,383 were sold but only 4813 were built. Or in other words, a 62% loss in affordable social housing.

The house price bubble suits the Tories, it suits the landlords amongst them and all of their landlord friends. The entire economic house of cards is built upon the inflated prices remaining high. They have no real interest in increasing the supply via building social housing, ending land banking or speeding up planning permission. Only Labour will do this. Every Tory policy is all about increasing demand (Help to Buy, Cutting stamp duty, help to buy ISA). This may help a few of the current generation get on the housing ladder but more importantly keeps the bubble in tact. A 1945 style approach to our housing crisis is needed, and Jeremy Corbyn will provide it.

 

 

 

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JMA to team up with White Horse Federation

This month, one of South Reading’s secondary schools found a new sponsor in the White horse foundation. As an academy school, John Madejski academy is not run by the local authority but a multi academy trust who over see numerous schools in the area.

Laura Ellener, the principal, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for all of the students families and staff at JMA, and will further accelerate our progress to becoming outstanding. “TWHF’s ambitions and values closely align with our own and so this collaboration was an obvious choice.

“We are looking forward to becoming part of TWHF family, continuing to create an exceptional educational community and achieving all the possibilities and opportunities that this will bring.”

TWHF currently supports 20 primary, secondary and special schools across Oxfordshire, Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. JMA will be its first venture in Berkshire. There website can be found below:

Our Schools

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Council listens to residents & asks Uni to be more considerate

The application was seen as an over development.

Tonight at the Councils planning applications committee, Reading Universities application to demolish and rebuild St.Patricks Court with a potential increase of 650 students was turned down.

Councillors and MP Matt Rodda have engaged with local residents and the University over a long period of time to listen to the desires and concerns of each.

Whilst it is understood that the University needs to expand, and Reading wants a thriving University, this should not be at the expense of local residents.
The St.Patricks hall site is ostensibly a residential area. As such, the increase in student numbers would have been an over development that would have exacerbated traffic and parking problems. Added to this was the potential for anti social behaviour and negative impacts on the locally listed Pearsons Court.
The University should continue to engage with local residents regarding the impacts the University is having on the local community, notably parking and noise. If a further proposal for the St.Patricks hall site was to come forward, I hope that the number of students and the issue of parking are seriously considered before any submission.
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