Ashley speaking to students at Blessed Hugh Farringdon school.
Since becoming lead Councillor for education in Reading two months ago, I have been trying to gather as many different views as possible. I have visited over ten schools already, spoken with various head teachers, Governors, parents, teachers unions and pupils. It will not come as a shock to hear they all want the same thing, the best education possible for pupils in the system now and in the future. Parties from all sides also identified very similar challenges schools are facing, these were namely funding (SEN funding in particular), capacity and places, and staff retention & recruitment.
There is always a lot going on in education and we are facing many challenges but we are planning accordingly.
School capacity: Reading will need greater capacity in secondary schools and we are in discussions with schools who can take the additional bulge classes needed before our new Secondary school will open in 2021. The school to be placed on Richfield Avenue will be a 6 form entry class that will initially open for just year 7 & increase year groups year by year. Our next step is recommending our preferred provider to run the school to best meet Reading’s needs. At Primary level, our expansion over previous years leaves us with enough capacity in most areas, however we are being pro active and working with school providers and planning to ensure new schools in Green Park Village and Dee Park have enough capacity for new housing developments. We also have plans to increase our capacity for SEN students with the first piece being the new base at Hugh Farringdon for students with autism. This model with different hubs across the town enabling students to stay closer to home and in Borough is both good for the students and the Council’s budgets, and is one the authority will be pressing ahead with.
School funding: Nationally per pupil funding has been cut by 8%. In Reading pupils will have lost an average of £283 per head whilst seeing class sizes rising. These cuts in funding are something a Labour Government would reverse. In October I plan to table a motion asking for all Councillors in Reading to support us writing a letter to Damian Hinds, the education Minister, asking him to reverse these cuts to the education budget. The new schools funding formula will be fully implemented in 2020, leaving the local authority with very little control over schools funding. But in the mean time, schools forum will endeavour to smooth out funding mismatches in its final year that will hopefully see no school left completely adrift.
Staff retention & recruitment: As a county we are facing yet another teacher recruitment and retention crisis, with fewer teachers in our schools now compared to 2014 with more pupils. In Reading the costs of living, housing in particular makes this an even bigger issue. Matt Rodda MP is pressing Ministers in Parliament on a key worker housing scheme and the local authority will be helping schools wherever it can to identify and train new teachers. I will be welcoming our newest teacher recruits who have passed their NQT year to the education fold at a ceremony this week. Next week the teachers pay body will make their recommendation on the level of teachers pay increase. After 8 years of real terms pay cuts, this must rise but so must schools budgets to accommodate this increase other wise we will see many schools pushed over the edge.
Schools across the country are facing many challenges in education & Reading is no different. As lead Councillor for education I want to hear as many views as possible and come up with the best solutions we can.
Church Ward Councillors Ashley Pearce and Ruth McEwan joined Reading East MP Matt Rodda and Reading West candidate Rachel Eden at the South Reading Churches fun day this Saturday. The annual event organised by the different Church organisations in South Reading saw thousands come together in the sunshine to see what different organisations in South Reading have to offer. We would like to thank the efforts and energy of everyone involved, especially St.Agnes vicar Vernon Orr overseeing his last of these events before retirement.
Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 7th July from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Ashley will be in attendance in his role as lead for education at the meeting on Wednesday 11th Julyat 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
Ridgeway Governors meeting: Ashley will be discussing the schools end of year performance on Thursday 19th July at 7pm at Ridgeway.
South Reading Churches fun day- The hugely popular and established fun day will return again this year on Saturday July 14th, 12pm-3pm at Rabsons Rec. 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.
Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & celebrate the election result on Tuesday 3rd July at 7pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue.
NQT Celebration: Ashley will help congratulate newly qualified teachers at a celebratory event at The Civic centre on Tuesday 17th July at 4.30pm.
Canvassing: Ashley, Paul and Ruth will be out in the ward to discuss the local area and any issues on Saturday 21st at 12pm on Stanhope Road, Sunday 22nd at 12pm on Shinfield Road, Wednesday 25th at 11am on Northumberland Avenue, Thursday 26th at 5.30pm on Cressingham Road and Saturday 28th at 11am on Highmead Close.
The popular South Reading calendar citing all of the many events involving organisations in South Reading for the last 6 months of the year is nearly ready to be delivered to thousands of households again. The calendar includes events from local schools, sport clubs, libraries. Churches and many more organisations that help out the local community and organise events throughout the year. The calendar can be viewed below.
The Official opening it the new Whitley Community hub comprising the relocated library, Children’s centre, day nursery, social club and Cafe takes place this Tuesday. 3 guided tours will be taking place with the first being officially opened by Mayor of Reading Debs Edwards.
At this weeks planning committee meeting Councillors will discuss a proposed new 2 form entry primary school with associated playing space. The proposed school would be for 446 children, 26 nursery places and 60 per year group (2 classes). A breakfast and after school club is also planned and the planned opening will be the summer of 2019. The school will initially fill the nursery and reception classes with students increasing year by year as they progress through the school. With development increasing in the area from Worton Grange and Royal Elm Park, as well as Green Park Village, the Council is being proactive in providing sufficient school places and keeping school places as local as possible.
The school will be located at the corner of Longwater Avenue on what will be one of the main entrance routes to Green Park Village. The school will be two storeys consisting of three main accommodation blocks. The site will include a main hall and changing rooms, as well as a multi use games area and all weather playing pitch. It is considered that the main use of the school hall outside of lessons would be for the use of residents of Green Park for village events and meetings.
As with all new schools now, this school will be an academy but the Council is looking forward to working closely with the academy sponsors Reach2. This Multi academy trust already has active schools in Reading with Green Park Village school joining Ranikhet, Civitas and Palmer academy. The school are currently looking for a head teacher to begin working to make the school a welcome addition to Reading’s Primary schools. h
Kendrick school have recently announced plans to bid for capital investment from the Government’s selective school expansion fund to expand to become a four form entry school (128 places) from 2020.
As has been recently announced, Reading will have a new Secondary school on Richfield Avenue by 2021 to help accommodate our secondary needs. Kendrick’s proposed expansion will not impact upon the need for this school. The new school will provide 6 of the needed 8 forms of entry by this year.
At the moment the data indicates that Kendrick has 2.4% of Free School Meals students compared with an average for all Reading secondary schools of 12.6%, and for all Reading non selective schools of 15.7%. The percentage of students currently attending Kendrick who are not Reading students and travel into the borough to attend Kendrick is 74.7%. This compares to a figure of 28.1% across all Reading secondary schools and 15.4% of non selective secondary schools in Reading.
Initial discussions regarding the bid have been held between the school and the Council and these are on going. These discussions have been around whether any extension would directly benefit Reading students and also whether these would be focused on disadvantaged pupils. The school is aware of the local authority’s priority to improve provision for disadvantaged pupils in the borough and that there would potentially need to be some work done between Kendrick and primary disadvantaged pupils and their families to raise aspirations. No detailed plans or discussions have taken place around how Kendrick might undertake this.
The terms behind any direct bid to the DfE to access the additional funds for expansion of grammar school places is directly linked to improving access to disadvantaged pupils. Kendricks expansion document says “we propose to increase the number of disadvantaged students which we believe supports the LA & Governments aims to improve social mobility”, it goes on to say “Kendrick school would always seek to secure the support of the LA & work in collaboration to ensure the best possible outcomes for the young people of Reading”. Discussions will continue as to exactly how this will be achieved.
After the Council’s successful Primary expansion of recent years there is now a need for a new secondary school in Reading from 2021. This will eventually be a 900 place (6 form entry) secondary school which will open its year groups gradually so as not to impact on admissions at other local schools. At the beginning there will be no 6th form provision as the admissions data does not display a need in this area, however there will be space for this if needs arise in future.
After initial investigation of various sites, the Richfield Avenue site near Rivermead and the river Thames has been deemed by the Council and Councillors as the most appropriate for a new school. The land is not perfect and we are in discussions with Reading festival regarding the access they need but the site has many advantages. It is near where student need is highest, transport access is good and will be improved, leisure facilities are readily available and the space provides us with future room for expansion.
In terms of the running of the school the Local authority can only do so much. The new school has to be a free school as dictated by Government policy and so cannot be run by the Council. Bids will be made by academies and trusts to run the school. As a Council we will provide information to bidders and an endorsement of our preferred partner but the final decision lies with the DFE. Part of our criteria to be the Council’s preferred bidder will be the trusts ability to have a proven track record of getting excellent results that they have a history of working in collaboration with other schools and that they have a local reputation for providing excellent quality teaching.
Reading’s growth and success as a town means that we are in need of a new secondary school. We have have been proactive and made a good start in identifying an appropriate site, producing a selection framework for selecting an appropriate trust to run the school & in organising its funding. Councillors and officers will now work tirelessly to ensure that its doors open in September 2021.
More information will be available after the policy committee meeting on June 11th. http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/11423/Policy-Committee-11-JUN-2018
Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors, Matt Rodda MP and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 2nd june from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Ashley will be in attendance in his role as lead for education at the meeting on Tuesday 5th June at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
Ridgeway Governors meeting: Ashley will be discussing future strategy for the school on Wednesday 13th June at 9.30am at Ridgeway.
Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance for a full evening of business on Tuesday 26th at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
Northcourt Avenue street party: Ashley will be in attendance at the Northcourt Avenue street party as part of the Big lunch initiative which has enabled some roads to temporarily close & neighbours to gather. This will take place on Sunday 3rd June at 4pm.
Whitley Wood fire station open day: Berkhire fire and rescue will be holding their annual open day including demos and a BBQ on Saturday 2nd from 10am-4pm.
South Reading Community hub official opening: The renovated community centre on Northumberland Avenue incorporating library, cafe and community space will hav it’s official unveiling on Tuesday 26th June at 11am.
South Reading calendar: The final preparation of the calendar update will take place this month. If you want any events added please contact Ashley.
Bcoming the lead Councillor for education in Reading is a huge honour and privilege to take on. I want to thank the two previous incumbents of the post, John Ennis and Tony Jones. Their work has helped push Reading schools closer to our challenging targets for schools in Reading and on a personal level, both have helped me develop an understanding of the role.
I was educated in two of Reading’s primary schools and just over the border in West Berks for secondary school. I have been a teacher in a comprehensive school for ten years, where I have also served as the Union rep for over 5 years. Before this I worked at two very different schools as a teaching assistant, a learning support assistant and a cover teacher, which gave me an excellent grounding in how schools work. I have been an examiner at both GCSE and A level for nearly ten years. As well as this I have been a Governor at a primary school for 5 years, the last of those being as Chair of Governors. Since being elected in 2014, I have served on the ACE committee as vice-chair and been in attendance at the lead member briefings for Education.
The last few years have seen great changes in education both locally and nationally. Locally there has been a school expansion plan, the creation of the arm’s length children’s company, The Heights Primary School location as well as the changes in our SEN strategy and local offer. We are now also in the process of looking for a site for a new secondary school in Reading. Nationally there have been funding cuts, a recruitment and retention crisis, curriculum change and a range of new school types. As a Council we need to be there to offer schools help and advice when needed as well as providing our statutory services in providing a school place for every child.
Reading Borough Council has set some challenging goals in education over the next few years concerning Ofsted reports, student outcomes and progress. But I do not want these to be a top down straight jacket in which schools are told to work within. I see the Council’s role in education as one of facilitating, helping and advising schools, which we can only do with the help and communication from the Head teachers and staff at all of the schools across the borough. This includes our Free schools, Academies, Grammars and Local authority schools. I want the work between the Council and schools to be a conversation where we can provide what it is that schools want from us.
I am looking forward to the challenge of helping schools and education in Reading and want to meet as many of those involved as possible. That includes students, teachers, Governors, parents, trade unions and MP’s Matt Rodda and Alok Sharma. I look forward to hearing from and working with all involved.
Whitley art work unveiling: the official unveiling of the new art work in South Reading will take place on Friday 11th May at 11.30am at Rabsons Rec.
Reading Labour students AGM: A meeting of the Labour students society will take place on Friday 11th March at 5.30pm in the bottom floor of Edith Morley.
Whitley for real feedback: The Whitley researchers from the Whitley for real project will be feeding back results from their work on Wednesday 16th May at 5.30pm at the John Madejski academy.
Labour party AGM: The annual General meeting of the Labour party in Reading takes place on Thursday 10th May at 8pm in the civic centre.
Reading Borough Council AGM: The Council’s AGM takes place on Thursday 23rd May at 7pm in the Town hall.
South Reading calendar: Ashley will be collating dates and beginning designs for the next edition of the South Reading calendar to ruin from July to August. If you want any dates included please email them to Ashley.
Ward walk: Ashley will be walking the Ward to spot any issues and speak to residents on Saturday 19th Mayin the early afternoon.
Youth Council meeting: Ashley will be in attendance to meet and discuss young people’s issues on Monday 14th at the Civic centre.
Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & celebrate the election result on Thursday 17th May at 7pm 103 Northcourt Avenue.
Some new art work has been erected in Rabsons Rec to help celebrate Whitley’s past. The metal structure depicts the famous Rabsons Rovers football team that used to play in the park. The artwork was from part of the deal that Tesco struck with the Council when building the distribution centre in Whitley and promised to allocate funding to art work in South Reading.
Election results in Church Ward for the 2018 local elections.
Church Ward will have three Labour Councillors for at least the next 2 years after Thursday’s local elections. Cllr Ashley Pearce celebrated ‘re-election after first being elected in 2014 and Ruth McEwan will be welcomed onto the Council for the first time. After a positive campaign were hundreds of residents were spoken with and thousands of leaflets delivered, the people of Church Ward responded positively to the Labour candidates with a slightly higher turnout and many Labour votes. A huge thank you to everyone that helped with the campaign and of course our voters. Councillors are here to serve their community and Ruth and Ashley plan on doing just that in the next few years.
JMA Principal Laura Ellener has confirmed that JMA will continue to provide sixth form education to students of South Reading. Ashley recently asked the lead Cllr for education at a Full Council meeting:
Can the Lead Councillor for Education update us on the rumoured possibility that the John Madejski Academy in South Reading is considering the restructure and redundancy programme that would lead to the sixth form being “mothballed” ?
REPLY by Councillor Jones Lead Councillor for Education.
The John Madejski Academy is managed by the White Horse Federation Trust, a multi academy trust based in Swindon.
It has recently emerged that the trust has being considering a range of options to reduce costs. These include “mothballing” the sixth form and ending the academy’s elite sporting programme – a notable strength of the school which has been singled out for praise by Ofsted. Over the last few months, they have been working to plan the very best future for the school.
Despite the serious financial situation facing the academy, the Trust has confirmed that, with support from the government, JMA is going to be able to continue to offer education from 11 through to 18.
Their ambition is to ensure that over the coming months and years, they build on the good recent improvements to enable students to thrive from 11-16. They are also committed to work on enhancing the range of choices for students from 16 to 18 to study a range of academic, vocational, and sport-based education.
The Trust has confirmed its view that JMA’s role in the local community is of vital importance.
Any significant change to provision in the future will involve wide consultation with all stakeholders and, as a Council, we will clearly be central to these consultations due to our statutory responsibilities for pupil place planning.