Author Archives: Ashley Pearce

JMA confirms its sixth form will continue

Ashley outside of JMA.

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.

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Health care in South Reading still underfunded by Tory Government

Ashley asked the following question at this weeks Council meeting regarding health care funding in South Reading:

It was reported last year that the South Reading CCG saw a rapid increase in the number of patients registered at GP surgeries, up from 129,945 to 144,066 or over 10%. With the South Reading CCG still the most underfunded in the whole of the UK, can the Lead Councillor update us with what measures are being taken to help improve health services in South Reading?

REPLY by Councillor Hoskin Lead Councillor for Health.

NHS colleagues confirm that in 2017/18 South Reading was the lowest funded Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area in the country. In 2018/19 the new Berkshire West CCG which covers Reading will be the second lowest funded CCG in the country, with Oxfordshire being the lowest. Berkshire West CCG will also be £25m below its target allocation based on national funding formula. So not only does Reading lose out on a national funding formula that doesn’t properly take into account the health deprivation challenges Reading faces but we are even funded considerably below even that.

It is my view that Reading’s patients and NHS staff are particularly let down by government underfunding. Without action to save money and cut services our local NHS planning area of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire West faced a funding shortfall of just under half a billion pounds (£495,176) by 2020. Staffing shortages are another major concern. The impacts of shambolic Brexit negotiations are now being strongly felt across the NHS. In the 12 months following the referendum nearly 10,000 European Economic Area national quit the NHS, up 22% on the previous year, whilst recruitment has plummeted. In our NHS planning area of Oxfordshire, Bucks and Berkshire West there over 1,000 nursing post vacancies.

It is a tremendous credit to the dedication and hard work of local NHS staff that local NHS services perform relatively well compared to the country as a whole. Despite the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) recording its worst A&E waiting times ever, nearly a fifth of patients waited more than four hours for treatment last winter the RBH is rated “Outstanding” by the CQC and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust “Good”. These are tremendous achievements is such difficult circumstances and I am sure the whole council joins me in congratulating local NHS staff.

This council takes very seriously its role in working closely with the NHS in order to support local services to our residents. Working together and with the voluntary sector we are helping to keep people well and out of hospital and for the last two full years, Berkshire West has been in the top 4% in the country for emergency admissions to hospital.

 

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TWO votes for Church Ward residents in May’s local elections

Labour’s two candidates in Church Ward, Ashley Pearce and Ruth McEwan.

On Thursday May 3rd, local elections will be taking place across Reading including here in Church Ward. This is your chance to send a message to the Government to end their reckless Austerity regime. This Government has presided over real terms pay cuts to our teachers, police officers, nurses and care staff. This has seen fewer teachers in our classrooms, the worst winter performance in A&E at the Royal Berks and fewer police officers patrolling our streets. All this whilst the national debt has rocketed and real wages across the country have fallen. Austerity has failed and it’s time to change.

Here in Reading we have seen our Council’s budget from central Government cut by over 90%, stretching our resources to breaking point. The huge majority of your Council tax money goes on caring for our elderly, schooling your children and looking after the most vulnerable in society. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do this with the Government’s severe budget cuts to Reading, whilst wealthier Tory run Council’s such as West Berks and Wokingham see smaller cuts. There are many other things we would love to do as a Council but this Government is making it impossible.
Reading Council still has much to be proud of over the last few years, with a successful school expansion plan including Reading Girls School and Ridgeway Primary here in Church Ward, the works to develop the new community hub on Northumberland Avenue with the relocated library, café and meeting spaces, Academy Sport has seen its facilities upgraded and funding for Green Park station secured. We want to do more but we need a Labour Government to achieve this.
Due to one of our Councillors standing down, you have TWO VOTES in May’s local elections. Cllr Ashley Pearce will be seeking re-election and says “I have been a Councillor for 4 years & it has been a privilege to serve this community. I have engaged with residents, helped residents & spoken up for residents. If re-elected I will continue to be the residents voice on the Council.”

Candidate Ruth McEwan is looking forward to the challenge, she says “I look forward to working with all residents in Church Ward, getting to know people in the area and listening to their concerns. I will use my experience from my community and charity work to build links and relationships across the community.”
Use your TWO VOTES on Thursday May 3rd to elect Labour’s Ashley Pearce & Ruth McEwan.

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April events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 7th April from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Ward walk: Ashley and candidate Ruth McEwan will be walking the Ward to spot any issues and speak to any residents on Tuesday 3rd April in the early afternoon.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee of which Ashley is a member, will take place on Wednesday 4th April at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting:  Ashley will be in attendance and chairing the meeting on  Thursday 5th April at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ridgeway Full Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the Full Governors meeting at the school on Thursday 26th April at 7pm at Ridgeway.
  • Church Ward Rose and Reading Banner delivery: The latest editions of the local Labour party newsletter and the Church Ward Rose will be delivered through doors this month, informing residents about local election issues.
  • Canvassing: Doors on Alandale & Wentworth will be knocked to ask residents concerns on  at 12.30pm on Wednesday 4th April, Shinfield Road on Thursday 5th at 12.30pm, Hollydale & Wheatley on Friday 6th at 12.30pm, Axbridge & Torrington on Saturday 7th at 11am, Windermere on Monday 9th at 12.30pm, Barnsdale on Friday 13th at 12.30pm, Cressingham Road on Wednesday 11th at 5.30pm, Whitley Wood Road on Saturday 14th at 11am, Hartland Road on Thursday 19th at 5pm, Northcourt Avenue on Saturday 20th at 11am and Cherry Grove on Saturday 27th at 11am.
  • Reading youth Council event: Get involved, get voting. Event to inform young people about Reading Youth Council and give an insight into the work of local councils, councillors, and MPs. Tuesday 3rd April, 5.30pm at Civic centre.
  • WCDA: Remember the Whitley £1m- open evening showcasing current and future projects of Whitley community development association and the lottery money on Wednesday 11th April at 6.30pm at Whitley Cafe.

 

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Vote Pearce in Church Ward on May 3rd

I have had the privilege of serving this community for four years, I have met hundreds and hundreds of residents, all with different stories to tell and issues to help solve. I have attended many resident meetings and fun days, as well as knocking on countless doors all year round. Unlike some, we campaign and listen all the time, not just at election time or for a photo. 

I was born in Whitley and being able to give something back over the last few years has brought me great joy. I attended Geoffrey Field Junior School, and worked at Ryeish Green secondary School until a Tory Council closed it to save money. I have been a teacher at a secondary comprehensive for ten years and have been a Governor at Ridgeway Primary School for over 5 years. Education matters to me. Giving kids the best start in life can’t and shouldn’t be done on the cheap as this Government is attempting. We have excellent Primary schools here in South Reading but we know we have work to do with our secondary’s to improve provision. New head’s and sponsors have already started this process and I will do all I can to help this along.

I have been involved in some tough decision making at the Council that this Government’s reckless Austerity regime forced us into. I did not come into politics to cut public services, and a Labour Government will restore public provision to the levels it should be. Nevertheless, we have still managed many improvements in the area, including refurbishing local schools, creating the new Community and library hub as well as the renovations of Academy sport. I also personally oversee the creation of the South Reading calendar every 6 months, which I hope has helped bring people together and keep them informed of local events. Your voice matters and we will do all we can to support it.

I recently got married and like most people my age, will be looking to start a family and get on the housing ladder. Like everyone else I want fair wages and job security for me and my wife. I want more affordable housing that would shorten the time we’ve had to save for a gigantic deposit. I want good local schools and facilities for my family that are funded fairly.

I hope I have done enough over the past four years to merit another four years to help serve your wonderful community. I have enclosed a postal vote form in case you wish to make voting in the local elections easier. Vote Labour and Ashley Pearce on May 3rd.

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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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February events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 3rd February from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee including the St.Patricks hall application will take place on Wednesday 7th February at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Canvassing: Doors on Tamarisk Avenue & Hillbrow will be knocked to ask residents concerns on Thursday 8th February at 5.30pm and Blagdon Road on Saturday 11th February at 11am.
  • Full Council meeting: Ashley will be asking a question regarding secondary school provision as well as other business on Wednesday 28th February at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. 
  • Ridgeway Full Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the second Full Governors meeting of the school year on Thursday 8th February at 7pm at Ridgeway school.
  • Reading Banner delivery: The latest edition of the Reading wide Labour party newsletter the Reading Banner will be delivered through doors this month and can be viewed elsewhere on this website
  • Reading Council Big event: This years RBC big event will focus on ways to tackle loneliness in Reading. It will take place on Wednesday 21st February at the town hall from 5-8pm.
  • Labour AMM: The Labour All members meeting will take place on Thursday 22nd February at the Civic centre at 8pm. 
  • Ridgeway parents evening: Ashley will be meeting parents in his role as Chair of Governors on Thursday 22nd February at 6pm.
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Urgent action needed on housing

The Councils new homes for Reading company is helping but Central Government action is required.

At this month’s Full council meeting I will be submitting the following motion for discussion:
“This Council notes:
The average monthly rent in Reading is now over £1000 a month (valuation office agency)
The average house price in Reading is over £300,000 (according to the Land Registry)
The earnings to house price ratio in Reading is now 10:1.
The average house deposit in the UK is £33,960 and in Reading this is much higher (Halifax)
Reading Council is doing all it can to ease the housing crisis with the Homes for Reading company and the building of new Council houses including at Conwy Close.
This Council resolves to write to Housing Minister Sajid Javid to ask if he will support the Local Government association campaign that asks to enable Councils to:
Allow Councils to borrow to invest.
To keep all of the money received from the sale of homes on right to buy.
To use this and other funding to reinvest in building new homes that are good quality and affordable.”

I hope that this is able to gain cross party support as it is an issue in Reading that needs urgent action and spans party political lines. It supports a local Government campaign (again, cross party) that calls for local Councils to be able to borrow to build and help us solve our housing crisis.
Teresa May visited a first time buyer in Wokingham earlier this month which was reported on in Get Reading. Some of the kinder comments included: “How old is this first time buyer? 58?”, “first time buyer from a wealthy family who chucked 50 grand at them” and “First time buyers? Do they still exist?”

The number of first time buyers has dropped by nearly 250,000 in 20 years, the average age of home ownership has risen and the deposit needed is now somewhere in the region of £50,000. Without the bank of mum and dad, many people are unable to even entertain the idea and have simply given up on the prospect of home ownership. This has led to many people moving out of the area all together. For someone that has spent all of their life in Reading, seeing people having to up sticks due to housing costs is deeply saddening.

The tinkering in the budget was not enough, the crisis is now and needs immediate action to remedy it, not vague promises and targets that are tied to some artificial goal post. If Councils were able to borrow to build homes, for real people and families, not buy to let landlords for profit, then a future revenue stream or asset sale is created for the Council. An asset is on the books and welfare bills fall from lower housing benefits and B&B accommodation. It really is a win win situation.

The Conservative leader of Norfolk district Council John Fuller said after the budget that the opportunity to “Fully lift” the cap on local authorities ability to borrow and build has been missed. I hope that he is wrong, that this motion will pass and that housing Minister Sajid Javid will press for this change and help the residents of Reading.

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Ashley becomes Chair of Governors at Ridgeway

In September last year I became the Chair of Governors at Ridgeway and wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and my background.
My background and experience have both long been in education. I have been a teaching assistant in the past, and have been a teacher at a secondary school for ten years now. Further to this I am a local Councillor for Church Ward and sit on the ACE committee (which includes the education work of the Council) as Vice-Chair. In the last year I have visited and spoken to the Head teachers of our two most local secondary schools, John Madejski Academy and Reading Girls School in an attempt to aid improvement, and help bridge the transition gap.

I will have been a Governor at Ridgeway for 5 years this summer, and it has been a greatly rewarding experience. I have been on various committees to help oversee standards, and I have had particular responsibility for Pupil Premium monitoring. During my time as a Governor we have helped oversee the impressive expansion of the school and its buildings, curriculum overhaul and the appointment of our new head Ms Steele.

I have visited the school on many occasions to see the pupils and staff in action, and have always left impressed and full of pride. There are obviously always challenges and areas for improvement and I am working with the Head teacher to help implement the post- Ofsted action plan for school improvement. Budgets need to be fit for any future changes and, looking forward, pupil numbers and development in South Reading are ever-changing and contribute to the challenge we face.
I am always looking to hear parent’s views and opinions on the school and its future, so if you ever wish to contact me, please email or call on the contact details below.
Ashley Pearce

Chair of Governors

07950485497
ashleypearce84@yahoo.co.uk

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January events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 6th January from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee on which Ashley is a member will take place on Wednesday 10th January at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ward meeting: The regular meeting of Church Ward members and Councillors where we discuss local isues will take place on Thursday 11th January at 7.30pm at 101 Northcourt Avenue.
  • ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Church Ward Cllrs Eileen and Ashley will be in attendance as Chair & Vice Chair respectively on Wednesday 31st January at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Canvassing: Doors on Ashburton Road will be knocked to ask residents concerns on Saturday January 6th at 11am, Barnsdale road at 6pm on Thursday 11th January and Windemere Road on Saturday 13th January at 11am.
  • Full Council meeting: Ashley will be raising a motion about house building finances as well as other business on Tuesday 23rd January at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. 
  • Ridgeway standards Governors meeting: Ashley will chair the second standards & curriculum Governors meeting of the school year on Monday 29th January at 5pm at Ridgeway school.
  • South Reading calendar: The final copies 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.
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