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

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Monthly Archives: June 2019

Busy night for Education at July ACE meeting

There are several important papers at Monday’s Adult Children and Education committee from Education.

Firstly there will be a presentation from secondary head teachers from the WREN, Kendrick, Maiden Erlegh Reading and Cranbury college. Heads were asked in to the committee so that Councillors, Council officers, and the public become more aware of the work we are doing and needs to be done to ensure Education in Reading is the best it can be. This is part of what is hoped will be a more open approach between our schools and Brighter Futures for Children to make sure we are focusing on the key areas in education.

There will also be a paper highlighting the work and resources that are available to help our youngsters who are struggling with mental health. In the absence of a full Government strategy, we are taking the lead in how we can get help to those who need it. With issues such as anxiety, stress and depression alongside many others on the rise, students and parents need to know where help can be accessed. The many areas of good work includes being a trailblazer for mental health, our therapeutic thinking schools strategy and identifying early help by agencies working closer together.

There is also a paper on School place planning. Predicted ing how many students will be coming through the system is a notoriously tricky art. People move home, students come into Borough and and new homes are built. But this paper sets out the information we have and what we see happening to student numbers across age ranges. It identifies some of our challenges and what we are doing to meet these in terms of increasing school capacity in the coming years. Again, it is hoped that this is an honest appraisal of where we are and will help us communicate this to all school stakeholders.

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July events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 6th June at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.
  • Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 15th July at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • ACE committee meeting: Ashley and Ruth will be in attendance at the Adult, Children services and education committee meeting on Monday 1st July at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. There will be a presentation from local head teachers, a report on mental health work with young people and a report on pupil place planning.
  • Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Thursday 25th on Hillbrow/Tamarisk (late afternoon), Saturday 27th on Highmead Close & Cherry Grove (morning) & Monday 29th on Ennerdale Road (morning).
  • NQT Celebration: Ashley will help congratulate newly qualified teachers at a celebratory event at The Civic centre on Wednesday 10th July at 4.30pm.
  • Whitley Wood fire station open day: Berkhire fire and rescue will be holding their annual open day including demos and a BBQ on Saturday 6th from 10am-4pm.
  • South Reading fun day- Councillors and activists will have a stall with games, prizes and competitions on Saturday July 13th, 12pm-3pm at John Madejski academy. As usual there will be many different stalls, free food and plenty for kids to do.
  • South Reading calendar: The latest version of the popular South Reading calendar with lots of dates for local events will be delivered to every household in the ward. If you have any feedback on this please contact us.
  • Children in Care film: A film made by youngsters and carers about their lives in Care will be screened on July 23rd at 6pm at Vue cinema.
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River Academy in Richfield Avenue to be run by Maiden Erlegh

Reading Council, Reading Labour and Brighter Futures for Children are delighted at the DFE’s decision to approve the new secondary school for Reading and that Maiden Erlegh trust will be the academy chain chosen to run the school.

The new school will increase secondary capacity in Reading as well as providing more choice for many parents with its central location. The school will be providing a rich and broad curriculum covering both academic and vocational routes.

Maiden Erlegh have a proven track record of running excellent schools locally as working well as with the local authority and in partnership with other schools.‎ We look forward to the school opening its doors to its first group of students.

More can be found out about the school here: http://www.maidenerleghtrust.org/page/?title=River+Academy+Project&pid=31

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Education Funding Crisis

There is a crisis in Education. Ours schools are being starved of cash from this Tory Government. Recently Michael Gove a Tory leadership candidate, promised an “extra” £1bn for education if he is selected as leader. This “extra” would not even come close to making up for all of the money this Government has already cut. The equivalent of someone burgling all of your belongings but then offering to hand back your alarm clock.

A recent briefing from the Local Government Association, which remember is a body made up of local Councillors from ALL parties set a damning picture for the education scene in the UK. Some of its key findings were:

“Schools will see a real terms cut of 4.6% in schools funding between 2015-2019”. This means less equipment for pupils, this means fewer teaching assistants, and this means fewer staff. This means our kids not getting the education they deserve. In Reading last year we passed a motion calling on Education Secretary Damian Hinds to at least halt these cuts, a motion shamefully not backed by our Tory colleagues. They need to answer, if they are not even willing to call for a halt to the cuts, what do they want? More severe cuts!?

“We remain concerned the National Funding Formula will not address the significant budgetary pressures schools are currently experiencing. The current local flexibility allowed under the soft implementation of the new NFF must continue beyond 2020”. At the moment Central Government funds schools from different pots of money in different ways. Some money goes directly to the schools and some to the local Council who can allocate to areas and schools in higher need. This will soon stop. Soon Councils will be by passed all together, leaving a Whitehall department making these decisions, taking all local accountability and over sight away. The new funding formula will also hit some areas much harder than others.

“Since 2014 the number of children and young people with Education Health and Care plans increased by 21.1% (or over 50,000). From 5.6% to 8.8%. The proportion of pupils with SEND who attend special schools has increased from 5.6% to 8.5%. Councils are particularly concerned about the proposed changes to high needs funding which will reduce Council and school flexibility”. Students with SEND have been hit the hardest by this Governments cuts. It is harder to get an EHCP, it is harder to find and see any specialist help and it is harder to get a suitable school place. Since 2010 all pupils have seen funding cuts of 8% per head but this figure more than doubles when we look at pupils with SEND. These students are also more likely to face exclusion. In Reading we are taking steps to increase capacity with The Avenue expanding, Blessed Hugh Faringdon opening its new ASC unit next month, we have approval for a new SEN school with a focus on helping our autistic students and 2 new Primary ASC units to open next year. But we are running just to stand still. The number of students that need help is rising but our funding is falling. We as a local authority are also not allowed by law to run and govern any of these new schools.

The Government’s Early intervention Grant has been cut by almost £60million since 2013 and is projected to drop by a further £183m by 2020”. Sure Start centres were one of the Labour Government’s greatest creations in my view. They were universal, helped those that needed it most at a time in a child’s development when it mattered most. They helped decrease inequality and boosted young people’s life chances. This Government’s destruction of these is a disgrace and shows what the Tory party really means, the party of inequality. It has no desire to help the many, just the few.

Since 2010 Council’s have created an extra 80,000 new school places. If we are to meet the demand for school places, councils should be given back the powers to open maintained schools”. Legally Councils MUST provide a school place for every child, and quite rightly. But we are unable to build and run new schools. If we need new school places or expansions, we must go to academy schools and ask them for help. What a strange system. It used to be that locally elected Councillors decided if a new school was needed, if, when and where it would be opened. That decision is now made from a faceless suit in Whitehall. No local accountability, no local democracy, no devolution. Surely local MP’s, Councillors and Governors would be better placed to do this?

Councils have an excellent track record in improving school, and should be given necessary powers to intervene and support schools”. It is a local Council’s job to maintain standards in ALL schools, but our powers are extremely limited in the case of academies. We can offer help, and have happily done so in many cases, but we have to wait to be invited in if a school requires help. It is down to the School and the regional schools commissioner (who for our area oversees all academies from Milton Keynes to Swindon) to check standards. One person for hundreds and hundreds of schools.

I am an Economics teacher and one of the greatest concepts in my subject is Opportunity Cost, basically consequences of choices. If I go to the Cinema one night I can’t go to the football on the same night. It is worth noting what this Government says we can afford: an income tax cut for millionaires, an inheritance tax cut for those lucky enough to inherit over £1m, a tax cut for the UK’s biggest companies, millions on the failure of Universal credit, billions on no deal Brexit preparations, even millions this week on a state visit from Donal Trump. Things we can’t afford according to them – adequately funding the education of our future. I know which I would prefer to happen.

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