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

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Monthly Archives: August 2019

Phoenix college relocation consultation

What the new centre could look like.

Phoenix college is looking to relocate its site to the Hamilton Centre off Bulmershe Road in the next couple of years.

Phoenix College is currently located in a very out dated building that is no longer fit for purpose for a School on Christchurch Road. The school is a special needs school that specialises in the education of secondary aged children with social emotional and mental health issues who cannot attend mainstream schools. It currently has a capacity for 64 students with around 50 currently on roll, whilst the new location, in time, would be able to cater for up to 96 pupils including females (Phoenix is currently all boys).

Phoenix recently received a disappointing Ofsted inspection result which has since seen a change in leadership and governance. The school is also currently going through the process of acadamisation with a trust with a proven track record of success ready to help the school. The next step in improving provision for some of Reading most vulnerable youngsters who attend, is to provide them with adequate facilities.

The Education Skills and funding agency will provide a sum of money to carry out the work necessary to repair and renovate the Hamilton Centre to ensure it is for modern education of these young people. It will also include a multi use games area with shared access to sports pitches.

A consultation to seek resident views will take place at the Hamilton Centre on Thursday 12th September from 3.30pm-6.30pm at Alfred Sutton Primary school (community room).

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Something good is happening in South Reading’s schools

The GCSE results were out this week, a nerve wracking but most often, ultimately rewarding time for our young people. It is the culmination of years of hard work from students, parents and teachers. At our two secondary schools in South Reading, we saw some impressive results.

At Reading Girls, they recorded their best EVER results. Progress 8 score was 0.89 meaning the girls achieved almost a grade better than their targets on average. This included 74% of students getting grade 4-9 in English and Maths, with 58% 5-9 in those subjects.

Down the road at JMA particularly impressive results (Grade 9-4 or equivalent) were achieved in Performing Arts with (100%). Physics, with (94%) and 12% of students achieving a Grade 9 ( only the top 4% of students in the country achieve this grade, it is higher than an A*). Catering (71%), Music (77%), Sport (89%), Business (89%), Biology (71%), Chemistry (76%) and Media (83%).

Good things are happening at our two secondary schools in South Reading, lead brilliantly by Jon Gargan at Reading Girls and Camilla Thornalley at JMA. Why don’t you pay a visit to see the great work for yourself?

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The results are in!

Over the last week our Secondary schools have seen both A-level results and GCSE results come in, and an improving picture is emerging. Overall school results will always be affected by cohorts of students, curriculum change, the mix of schools we have here in Reading as well as the in and out of Borough movement our students have due to us being such a small local authority. However these results tell a positive story.

Across the Borough as a whole results are improving at GCSE. Our attainment 8 was 51 this year (up by 2), our % achieving 4+ including English and Maths was 65% (up 4% on last year) and our % achieiving 5+ including English and Maths was 53% (up by 6%). These improvements are all down to the hard work of staff at our schools day in day out throughout the year for which we are always grateful.

The number of students achieving A-level grades A*-E has increased. 98% of students gained A*-E grades this year compared with 94% last year, an increase of 4%. There was a very slight dip in A*-B grades, with 58%of students achieved A*-B across the borough, in-line with the national picture, compared with 62% last year but this year beats 2017’s figure of 57%. The number of young people achieving A*-C passes was 78% compared with 77% in 2018.

Added to this, more parents have chosen to send their kids to Reading schools than ever before in the last admissions round, and two more of our schools (both rated good by Ofsted already) in Maiden Erlegh Reading and The Wren will see students sitting GCSE’s for the first time next Summer. We are also increasing our SEN capacity with a new school for our students with autism due in the next couple of years as well as the new block at Blessed Hugh Faringdon opened at the end of term.

We still have challenges which we will continue to work on. We want our exclusions down, we want the disadvantage gap closed, and we want SEN capacity increased, and there are steps in place already to help achieve this but it will take time. In the mean time I would like to welcome this set of results and thank everyone involved for their hard work: pupils, parents, teachers and Governors.

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September events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 7th September at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.
  • Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 7th on Northumberland Avenue (am) and Shinfield Road on Saturday 14th (am)
  • Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Thursday 16th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & campaigning on Monday 2nd at 7.30pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue. All local members welcome to join.
  • Governors briefing: Ashley will be meeting with School Governors from across the Borough to update on education issues on Tuesday 17th from 6pm at The Avenue School.
  • Bayliss Court meeting: Ashley will be meeting executives from Bayliss Court trust who run Reading Girls School to discuss how we can work together to improve education on Tuesday 24th at 3.30pm.
  • Reading Mencap Summer Fair: Harris Garden of Reading University (off Pepper Lane) will host numerous stalls for the Mencap Summer Fair on Sunday 8th September from 2-5pm.
  • Reading University community forum: Church Ward Cllrs will be in attendance to see how the University can work with the local community on Thursday 16th at 6.30pm.
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Record number of Reading pupils get grades A*- E this year

THE number of students achieving A-level grades A*-E has increased in Reading, according to provisional figures collated by Brighter Futures for Children.

Ninety eight per cent of students gained A*-E grades this year compared with 94 per cent last year, an increase of 4%.

There was a very slight dip in A*-B grades, with 58 per cent of students achieved A*-B across the borough, in-line with the national picture, compared with 62 per cent last year but this year beats 2017’s figure of 57 per cent.

A total of 606 students took A Levels in Reading this year, compared with 691 last year and 673 in 2017.

The number of young people achieving A*-C passes was 78 per cent compared with 77 per cent in 2018.

This is the first year that results have come out where education services are run by Brighter Futures for Children, the not-for-profit company which delivers children’s services, including children’s social care, early help, education and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) service on behalf of Reading Borough Council.

Tony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said:

‘These results show just how good Reading schools are. They’re a culmination of individual students’ hard work but also a great deal of effort by the schools themselves, and organisations like ours, which offers support to schools, to help them thrive and prosper. It’s no wonder that requests for secondary school placements in Reading are increasing.

‘So we congratulate all those students who got the grades they wanted but, if you didn’t, don’t worry. There are plenty of opportunities still available to you. We have recently taken over an advisory service for young people, and we can offer support and help on further training and employment opportunities.

‘Our advisors are based in Reading Central Library in Abbey Square on the third floor. You can contact them by email:  or call 01189 372 204.’

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said:

“Today the hard work of students and teachers in schools across Reading has paid off and I would like to congratulate all of those who have achieved great A-level results.

“Behind all the statistics are stories of individuals who have dedicated a great deal of time and effort over a number of years to achieve their grades. For those students that didn’t quite get the grades they were hoping for, I urge them to seek the available support and take time to find the correct next steps in their career path.

“I wish all young people who received their results today every success for the future whatever path they choose to take next.”

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Views sought on speed calming

Councillors have recently been speaking with residents regarding parking restrictions and speeding in the ward. After the successful introduction of waiting restrictions in Ennerdale Road & Northcourt Avenue, we are seeking resident views on whether these are needed in other roads.

As well as parking, we are aware of issues of speeding in the ward, especially around Cressingham Road, Hazel Crescent and Sycamore Road (amongst others). We will soon be meeting with Council officers in the transport department to discuss options available to us to help with speed in these and nearby roads. Any resident views, please get in touch.

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Ward news round up

It has been a busy few months for Councillors in Church Ward.

Ashley met with representatives from the Council, WCDA, Affinity and Food4 Families about a project with a piece of land in between Staverton Road and The Lawns flats. We are seeking to turn the unused piece of land (pictured above) to create a community garden for use of local residents. We will be having further meetings and pressing for progress.

The tennis courts on South Reading Leisure Centre on Northumberland Avenue received an upgrade just before the start of Wimbledon! We hope this will lead to greater use of the courts and local enjoyment.

Travellers encamped briefly in South Reading initially on Rabsons Rec and then Long Barn Lane. The initial encampment was able to be moved swiftly on after residents contacted Councillors who worked to get the right measures in place quickly. If there are any future encampments in the area, please pass on concerns caused to Councillors and police as quickly as possible as it helps the process of moving on.

The St.Patrick’s hall appeal from Reading University against the Council was dismissed. Ashley gave evidence at the appeal alongside residents where it was again affirmed that the proposed development was too large and for too many students. We hope any further proposals from the University fully consult and consider residents views.

The South Reading fun day this year moved to JMA school on Northumberland Avenue but was of course a huge success again. Many community groups, young people and locals came together for a fun day of art, crafts and information.

The Whitley Community Development Association celebrated its birthday in the Summer with a gathering of all those that have helped the project in the last few years. Part of the Big Local project, WCDA have been involved in a huge number of projects to help the community in the last few years including the opening of the Whitley Cafe amongst many others.

Remember, as well as our regular canvassing sessions to seek resident views, we have our regular advice surgery on the first Saturday of every month at the Whitley Cafe on Northumberland Avenue from 10.30am-12pm.

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Reading Council declare climate emergency

Reading Council recently passed a motion to declare a climate emergency in Reading after campaigners called for action.

Reading Borough Council has outlined its desire to eliminate Reading’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 . The resolution sets out a wide range of measures that need to be embraced and pursued by governments at all levels. Carbon dioxide emissions in the borough have fallen by 41% since 2005, the 20th highest reduction in the UK, while the council has reduced its own emissions by 53% since 2008.

Reading Council will also be becoming plastic free after another recent motion was passed. Plastic straws, packets and cutlery will all be on the banned list after council bosses voted to stop single use plastic.

The motion pledges a number of ways to achieve the reduction, including phasing out the purchase of single use plastics in all services commissioned by the council.

Church Ward Councillors showed their commitment to a cleaner, greener Reading with a recent clean up of Shinfield Rec off of Linden Road. The park will also soon see some new lighting installed as well as more bins.

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Education round up

There has been good news for two of our Education institutions in Church Ward recently. Ridgeway Primary School on Hillbrow received a Good Ofsted rating, fully deserved after the great work of the staff lead by Head teacher Jacky Steele. The report found the school good in all areas and particularly praised pupils relish in reading for pleasure. Huge congratulations to all!

Congratulations also to Barry Wren and his team at New Directions Adult education service located on Northumberland Avenue who also recently received a Good Ofsted rating. The report said learners benefit from high quality careers information, advice and guidance to help them.

There was also a farewell to one of South Reading’s education institutions. John Cosgrove had been head at Christ The King School on Northumberland Avenue for over a decade, helping countless numbers of children get the best start to their educational career through his dedication to inclusivity, passion for education and determination. A well earned retirement awaits!

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