Author Archives: Ashley Pearce

March events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 2nd March 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 11th March at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 26th March at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 23rd March at 11.30am on Whitley Wood Road.
  • WhitFest Showcase: A showcase of talent in Whitley as part of WhitFest will take place at the Whitley Cafe on Friday March 1st. More details can be found here: http://www.aspire2whitley.com
  • St.Patricks Hall appeal hearing: The appeal hearing in which Reading Borough Council and Councillors are fighting against Reading Universities aggressive expansion will begin on Tuesday 19th March at the town hall. Ashley will be speaking on behalf of residents.
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Spring newsletter

Labour Councillors and activists in Church Ward will be delivering the Church Ward Spring newsletter in February to keep residents up to date with the work Councillors are doing. A copy of the newsletter can be found below:

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Education Strategy for Reading

At this months ACE committee the Council and Brighter Futures for Children will be setting out our priorities for Education in Reading. The document will be a living document that will evolve and grow. The strategy has 7 main strands with our focus being on lowering the rate of exclusions, increasing capacity for our SEN students and closing the attainment gap with our pupils.

We have some excellent provision, great teachers, hard working staff and Governors across our schools in Reading, but we also realise there are areas we can improve. Resources are tight as budgets continue to be squeezed so we must focus our intervention and support to where the need is greatest. We must ensure provision and outcomes are more even so that ALL of our educators have the skills and capacity to learn from each other.

Our provision for SEN students will increase with 2 new ASC units in our Primary schools, a new ASC unit opening at Blessed Hugh Farringdon, the Avenue expanding, Phoenix college being relocated and a bid for a new SEND Free school. The aim of all of this is to increase expert capacity in Reading so students can be educated nearer to home.

Our exclusions are too high, and there is a big cross over with our disadvantaged and SEN students here. Schools cannot solve all of societies problems but we can do more to support schools and help them understand and work with these young people. Our trauma informed approach to managing behaviour has been discussed with schools and has been received well. We will be looking to extend practical use of this within our schools.

The strategy sets out a practical plan on what our education team will focus on, how we will achieve more for our students and how all of the organisations involved can work together to e sure our students get the start in life they deserve.

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Fair Workload Charter for Readings teachers

A new Fair Workload Charter for Readings teachers will be announced at the ACE committee meeting this month. The charter has been agreed with the Council, head teachers, and teachers unions as a blue print for teacher well being in Reading.

The charter will help both teachers and head teachers understand how to cut down workload to more manageable levels. It is workload over everything else that teachers cite as the main reason for leaving the profession, an issue becoming more and more important as the teacher shortage deepens. The charter contains practical examples and advice on how schools and teachers can cut down on workload in agreement with Ofsted and DFE guidelines. It also lets teachers know where to go and what they can do if their workload is getting too much.

This charter will form part of a wider package of measures that Brighter Futures for Children are currently working on to help with recruiting and retaining our teachers. Our teachers are probably under more strain that ever before, with dwindling resources, class sizes rising and demands increasing, we need to do all we can to let them know they are valued and supported.

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February Events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 2nd February at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.
  • ACE committee meeting: Ashley and Ruth will be in attendance at the Adult, Children services and education committee meeting on Thursday 14th at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. The Council’s Education strategy and a Fair workload charter for teachers will be discussed by Ashley as lead member for education.
  • Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 26th February at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 18th February at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Surgery at Reading Girls School- Ashley will accompany Matt Rodda MP on Friday 1st February between 5-7pm at Reading Girls School to answer resident concerns.
  • Whitley Community Development Association AGM- Councillors will be in attendance to hear of the work of WCDA on Saturday 9th February at 12.30pm at the Whitley Cafe.
  • Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 2nd February at 11.30am around Ashburton Road and Saturday 9th February at 11am on Elm Road.
  • Newsletter delivery: The latest edition of the Church Ward Labour Rose newsletter will be delivered to every household across the Ward by our Councillors & volunteers towards the end of the month.  
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Van tool theft should be a specific offence

Church Ward Councillors are backing a call from local trades people for action to stop tool theft from vans, which is an increasing problem. Theft from commercial vehicles has a huge impact on tradespeople and small businesses in Reading. Not only is there a high cost in time and money to replace tools and to fix the damage caused, it stops people being able to work, leading to loss of earnings and huge financial impacts.

A Home Office Research Study states that the average cost of theft from a commercial vehicle and contents compared to a domestic vehicle and contents is double. Despite this there is no separate crime theft from a commercial vehicle, creating a new offence of theft from a commercial vehicle could help to deter this crime. Local carpenters Micky Leng, Mark Russell and other trades people are campaigning for parliament to change the law to ensure that this carries a sentence which is proportionate to the cost which includes: replacements; repairing damage; business disruption; customer reimbursement and compensation. Micky Leng says “So many of us have had our vans broken into and it has a massive impact on our work.  There needs to be a stronger deterrent so people’s work isn’t affected. I hope everyone will sign our petition and get behind the campaign”.

Church Ward Councillor Paul Woodward added “With vehicle theft on the rise, it particularly affects van drivers – whether self employed or small businesses, I fully support the campaign and I’ll be working to help it succeed.

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Councillors call to fairly fund our Nursey Schools

The future of local Council run nursery schools in England is under threat after March 2020 as adequate funding from the Tory Government has not been confirmed. Church Ward Councillors are urging the Government to take action to ensure maintained nursery schools are financially sustainable into the future.  Nursery schools are vital for many children’s start in life and this uncertainty is putting their future in doubt. 
Labour believes all of our children deserve the best start in life and so our nurseries need to be adequately funded.

In South Reading we are proud of the work our nursery schools such as Blagdon, Little Owls and Geoffrey Field do with our youngsters but the job they do is becoming more difficult every day. Nurseries are facing budget cuts from Central Government of up to 17% and the number of places available has fallen as a consequence. If you want to help us let the Government know we want this to end, please sign the petition. 

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/237044
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Education wishlist from the Government for 2019

This is my personal wishlist as a teacher, Labour member and lead Councillor for Education for the Government to implement this year to help improve education in the UK.

  1. Fund schools properly (or at least tell the truth on the lack of funding). Our schools have seen per pupil funding cuts of 8% since the Tories took power. Education spending as a % of GDP has fallen substantially, class sizes have risen and sixth form funding in particular has taken a hit. Yet still the Government denies it. A Motion at Full Council from us in October to write to Education Secretary Damian Hinds was not supported by a Tory colleagues. The UK statistics authority repeatedly told off Ministers this year for being less than real with the truth. If they are not willing to spend more on our children’s future, at least say it and justify why.
  2. Pay teachers properly for their work. The school teachers review body recommended that ALL teachers should receive a 3.5% pay rise. Not just those starting out but those that are experienced and mid pay scale. It is these teachers that are mainly leaving the profession, those with a few years of experience and with time to seek a career change. The retention crisis will only worsen as teachers pay lags behind other graduate professions.
  3. Ofsted reform. Last year Ofsted said that there will be a new focus on curriculum and less on overall exam success. The new quality of education judgment will supposedly mean that so called exam factories won’t get an automatic outstanding judgment. I cautiously welcome these changes. But wait to see them happen. Schools in tough areas with a tough intake on the whole do such a good job for our disadvantaged youngsters. This doesn’t mean they can’t do more but it does mean schools can’t fix all of societies ills. When these schools are rewarded for their work we can start believing the rhetoric.
  4. SEN funding. There is undoubtedly a crisis in our education system for our youngsters with additional needs. Up to 4000 have no provision at all, demand is rising and needs are becoming more complex. This has seen tribunal appeals against councils rise and parent stress and anguish increase. High needs block spending (additional spending local authorities can transfer each year with schools approval to SEN funding) will soon no longer be able to be transferred from the main schools budgets. There is also an increasing number of SEN students going into private provision as the state is becoming less able to fund these places. A Tory ploy to privatise this part of education maybe?
  5. Trust teachers. A long term project this. Teachers in the UK are the most observed, have the heaviest workload, receive less pay and less appreciation than almost any other country in the world. Finland is often held up as a beacon of world education where teachers are given freedom, responsibility, flexibility and are treated with respect and professionalism. This should be our aim in the UK. It would help end the recruitment and retention crisis, provide a better environment for our children and ultimately better outcomes. Finland also has the lowest wage inequality in the EU whilst the UK’s is highest. Our education system won’t be able to sort all of societies problems but it can make a good start.
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St.Patrick’s Hall appeal submission

I have been a Councillor for Church Ward in which St.Patricks hall resides since 2014, so have had a lot of contact with residents, the Council, Matt Rodda MP, the University and UPP (the developers) for both the 2016 planning application and the 2018 application. This has taken the form of me being on the planning committee both times this went to committee, resident meetings as well as meetings with the University. This issue has also come up when speaking to residents on numerous occasions and is something many residents understandably feel very strongly about. I am also a former student and resident of the University, so understand its needs and want to see a strong, thriving University in Reading.


The original application gained a lot of publicity regarding the demolition of the historic Pearson’s Court site. This lead to lots of local (and some national) publicity, a petition that gained over 1000 signatures and eventually the local listing of the hall and the application being pulled by the University. This was the first time that it appeared the University (or more to the point UPP, whom they have commissioned out these services to) were in a rush to get the application through with little thought on the impact it would have on the local community.
I have had many discussions with local residents on the issue of the St.Pats hall expansion, not just the Northcourt Avenue residents association (NARA) but other residents of the street as well as other nearby streets such as Ennerdale Road, Stanhope Road and Weardale Close. Nearly every one of the residents I have spoken too are not against redeveloping this site. They realise the current facilities are tired and worn, and that students deserve better, more modern facilities. They also value the benefit of a thriving University, with many residents being ex or current employees of the University.


The main issues that have come up time and again are the lack of real engagement with the local public, that the current plans are an overdevelopment and that the planned building would be over bearing on the local streets. Resident meetings and exhibitions that the University have held, have taken the form of presenting a finished proposal. Any semblance of consultation has been lost on the residents. Changes that were made to the application were very minimal and never addressed residents overall concerns. This has always been the height and over bearing nature of the proposed site, and the large increase in the number of students in a predominantly residential area. The University and UPP would have gained public approval and support long ago, if only they had agreed that the height and storeys of these buildings were lower (4 storeys as on the other side of the University in Wokingham borough has been mentioned many times by residents) and that the number of students would be lower than the high figure sought. The residents have already been patient and supportive of the University in recent years, despite an increase in noise and sometimes anti-social behaviour, as well as huge strain being placed on local parking, to which the University have never attempted to come up with a credible plan to solve or even engage the issue. It has recently taken the University well over 6 months to respond calls from residents and Councillors for a public meeting regarding the behaviour of a minority of their students and the negative local impacts they are having. Sadly this is common in the Universities poor approach to engaging with the local community.

Lastly, whilst within the law, the application coming into the Council from the UPP rather than the University so as to swerve Community Infrastructure Levy payments was incredibly disappointing. This increase in student numbers will obviously put a great strain on local infrastructure and with Council budgets being so tight, this cannot be met by the Council. This may in some cases even lead to dangerous situations for students in terms of local road safety. Northcourt Avenue were the hall is located, runs parallel to Shinfield Road where the main Whiteknights entrance is. At the moment the nearest crossing is at a busy inter section of road and traffic lights near a parade of shops. This area is already a tricky intersection of road to navigate, and the huge increase in student numbers proposed will not help this. This will also cause pinch points at particular times of the day with schools and the hospital being close to this area. If the University wished to be a real contributing member of our community, it would be offering proposals to ensure the safety of its students and working with the local community and Council on this, not running away from their responsibilities. It sadly shows again that the University currently sees itself as separate to the local Council and community, rather than being an important partner alongside them.


The character and history of Northcourt Avenue is something the residents are rightly very proud of, and this includes the history and heritage of St.Patricks hall. The local listing of Pearson’s Court confirmed the special place it has in resident’s hearts. This planning application more than any other issue I have encountered since being on the Council, has fostered the most local concern. Not because the residents do not want development or a successful University but because they seek consideration from our University partners. The residents, Councillors and the Council would like to work with the University on an equal footing to come up with a suitable proposal that enables the University to grow and thrive, that protects the heritage of the local area, ensures safety and comfort for local infrastructure, and that is not over bearing for the rest of the local community. I do not believe the current proposals achieves these things but still believe if the University wanted too, that it could.

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January events

Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 5th January at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.

Calendar delivery: Copies of the latest edition of our popular South Reading calendar, with events from January to June will be delivered to households across the Ward by our Councillors & volunteers at the start of the month. This can be viewed under the News section of this site.

Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & campaigning on Monday 28th January at 7.30pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue.

Canvassing: Councillors and activists will be out meeting residents to discuss concerns on Monday 28th January at 6pm on Northcourt Avenue and Tuesday 29th January at 5pm on Shinfield Road.

Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 22nd January at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 14th January at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

Schools Forum: Ashley will be in attendance to hear concerns from school head teachers on Thursday 17th January at 5pm at the Civic Centre.

Governors briefing: Ashley will be meeting with School Governors from across the Borough to update on education issues on Tuesday 15th January from 6pm at The Avenue School.

Reading Girls School visit: Ashley will be visiting Reading Girls School on Northumberland Avenue to speak with the Head and meet students on Thursday 17th January at 2pm.

University of Reading community meeting: Local Councillors and residents will be meeting representatives from Reading University to discuss concerns that have arisen. The meeting will take place on Tuesday 29th January at 6.30pm in the Chancellors building.

Labour All Members Meeting : Members of the Reading Labour party will be able to input their views on our local election manifesto on Thursday January 24th at 8pm at the Civic Centre.


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ACE Committee to report on education standards in Reading

At this week’s ACE meeting the latest figures on Reading schools standards will be discussed. There is a mixed picture for Reading schools but a clear path of how we will improve. Reading has a very mixed school economy, with selective schools, Academies, Free schools, Council maintained, and technical colleges. As well as this, the small geographical nature of our Borough means nearly 10% of our primary age students are educated under other authorities, and nearly 30% of our Secondary age students. This is similar of students coming into the Borough.

At Key stage one for those having just started schooling, phonics is improving, Reading is secure, writing is lower than expected and Maths is at the national average. Our new education strategy will have a focus on writing for primary schools and facilitating peer working between schools to raise these outcomes. At Key stage 2 student results are increasing but not quite keeping pace with the increase in national results. This picture is still mixed as our schools do well with students exceeding expectations and our Council maintained schools do better than our Academies. Our strategy sets out closer working with the regional schools commissioner to help with this.

At Key stage 4 and 5, our schools progress scores are good and above national averages. With A levels in particular the towns outcomes are outstanding. But the picture here is also still mixed. Our disadvantaged students achievements are too low (another focus of our new strategy) and our selective schools schools are attended by just 24% of Reading pupils, but both Kendrick and Reading boys are making positive moves to increase these numbers.

The mixed nature of who runs our schools is getting more complicated every year. This is making monitoring our schools more difficult every year. But our new education strategy will take steps to prioritise and inform our education provision to help all Reading students achieve the best they can with the one chance at education they get.

The full report is available to read on the Council’s website.

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School cuts petition

At October’s Full Council meeting I put forward a motion to write to Education Secretary Damian Hinds to stop the crippling funding cuts our schools in Reading are facing. Sadly this was not supported by our Conservative colleagues. We want as many people as possible to sign our petition to get them to join us in campaigning for fair funding for our schools and our students futures. The link can be found below:

Stop school cuts petition

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Education discussion at December Labour All members meeting

On Thursday December 13th at the Civic Centre at 7pm the Labour parties all members meeting will take place (where any local Labour member can attend). At this meeting I will give a brief presentation regarding educational issues nationally and locally. Nationally this will include recruitment & retention, curriculum change and workload whilst locally it will include increasing school capacity, our SEND strategy and school improvement strategy. There will also be a chance to ask questions regarding education in Reading. To be able to give fuller answers emailing any questions ahead would be appreciated. 

Please email: Ashley.Pearce@Reading.gov.uk

 

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December events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 1st December at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.
  • Calendar delivery: Copies of the latest edition of our popular South Reading calendar, with events from January to June will be delivered to households across the Ward by our Councillors & volunteers at the end of the month. This can be viewed under the News section of this site.
  • ACE committee meeting: Ashley and Ruth will be in attendance at the Adult, Children services and education committee meeting on Tuesday 12th December at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. Education standards will be discussed by Ashley as lead member for education.
  • Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & campaigning on Monday 3rd December at 7pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue.
  • Carols by candlelight: Ashley will be attending local homeless charity Launchpads Carol service at Minster church on Thursday 6th December at 7pm.
  • St.Barbarus Christmas Service: The annual Christmas Service at St.Barnabus will be attended by Ashley on Sunday December 9th at 6pm at the Church on Elm Road.
  • Labour All Members Meeting: Ashley will be giving a short presentation and answering any questions regarding education issues at Labour’s AMM meeting at the Civic service on Thursday December 13th at the Civic Centre.
  • Head teachers meeting: Ashley will be meeting with head teachers from across the town on Thursday December 6th at 9.30am at John Madejski Acadmey to discuss education provision in Reading.
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November events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 3rd November at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.
  • Canvassing; Councillors and activists will be out meeting residents to discuss concerns on Saturday 24th November at 11am on Wentworth Avenue and Alandale Close as well as on Thursday 29th November at 5.30pm on Brybur Close.
  • Newsletter delivery: The final copies of the latest edition of the Church Ward Labour Rose newsletter will be delivered to households across the Ward by our Councillors & volunteers. This can be viewed under the News section of this site.
  • Remembrance service– Church Ward Councillors will pay their respects on the morning of Sunday 11th at St Mary’s Butts before a march through town.
  • Calendar collating: The South Reading calendar running from January to June is currently being collated. If you have any events for that period that you would like included, please email ashleypearce84@yahoo.co.uk
  • Redlands Labour fundraiser: Church Ward Councillors will be present to help colleagues in Redlands for the Fish & Chip fundraiser and Quiz on Friday 23rd November at St.Luke’s Hall at 7.30pm.
  • Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 26th November at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
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St. Patrick’s Hall appeal has a date

Local Councillors and MP Matt Rodda will be backing residents in the appeal.

The week beginning 19th March 2019 has been set as the date that the University of Reading will see its appeal against the rejection of St.Patrick’s Hall heard.
Reading Borough Councils planning committee rejected the plans back in February due to it being an inappropriate development along the lines of height, mass and impact on heritage. The Council will be sticking by its original decision and hope that the University will work with residents and come back with a more appropriate plan. Councillors have been working with local residents group Northcourt Avenue Residents Association on the detailed appeal plan and Ashley will be present at the appeal to help make the case for sticking with the original rejection of the plans. 
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Councillors decide priorities after CIL consultation

After the recent consultation regarding how the local element of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) would be spent in the Ward, Councillors have listened to residents and agreed on their priorities. The consultation saw nearly 100 respondents in the area vote for key improvements to the local community. The top 2 within Church Ward were to implement a zebra crossing at the top of Whitley Wood Road and to implement a 20mph zone on Northumberland Avenue by Reading Girls School. Both of these proposals will help keep our youngsters safe on their way to School and hopefully act as a natural speed calming measure. Also proposed just outside the Ward but very beneficial to residents are improvements to the Whitley Health Centre as well as the play area at Cintra Park. Despite savage cuts to the Council’s budget year on year, Church Ward Councillors are listening and implementing policies to help residents.

 

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Consultation Starts on School Admission Scheme & Policy

CHANGES to the Council’s school admissions arrangements are the subject of an eight-week public consultation which started this week.

The consultation is a result of the Council reviewing both its Co-ordinated Admissions Scheme for Primary, Infant, Junior and Secondary Schools for the 2020/21 academic year and Admissions Policy for Infant, Junior and Primary Schools 2020/21.

Parents, schools, governing bodies and any other interested parties are invited to take part in the consultation which can be found on the Reading Borough Council website at: www.reading.gov.uk/schooladmissions2020

The School Admissions Code requires all relevant authorities to consult on their admission arrangements at least every seven years and Reading is now due to undertake this process. The Council has taken the opportunity to review some areas and is now keen to receive feedback. Some of the changes are concerned with validating applications, late applications, disputes between parents and sibling protection. Respondents are invited to answer the survey questions on one, two or all three revised documents.

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said:

“Admissions schemes and policies are in place to ensure the Council has a fair, structured and transparent way of operating the admissions process.

“Councils with admissions responsibilities have to consult on their arrangements at least every seven years and Reading is now due to do so. We have taken the opportunity to review our admissions procedures and we are now inviting people to comment on the proposed changes.”

The School Admission Co-ordinated Scheme & Policy 2020/2021 Consultation can be found at www.reading.gov.uk/schooladmissions2020and the deadline for responses is 9th December 2018.

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Education funding cuts

At this months Full Council meeting I will be asking my fellow Councillors to support a motion to write to Education Minister Damian Hinds to ask to halt the Government’s funding cuts in education. But according to the Government these cuts don’t even exist. The parrot like line from the Government of “Record spending in education” was joined this week by “the UK is the 3rd highest spender of education in the world” after an OECD report was released. So all must be rosy in the education world then?

So why did 2000 head teachers recently march on Downing Street to protest about funding cuts? Why does the Institute of Fiscal studies say per pupil funding has been cut by 8% since 2010? Why does the National Education Union say 88% of schools face cuts between 2016-2020? Why does the School Cuts website say that here in Reading we will lose £281 per pupil? And why does every Head Teacher I meet, at every type of school raise funding as an issue?
Firstly the almost laughable misuse of statistics for “Record funding” claims. More money is going into schools than ever before because we have more students. Its that simple. Only PER PUPIL funding should be considered. When this is added to the fact that fully deserved (and not to the level even recommended by the teachers pay review body) teachers pay increases have not been funded, NI & Pension contributions have risen and general inflation is added, budgets have been hit hard. Much like local Councils, the “efficiency savings” are gone, only bone is left to cut. This means larger class sizes, fewer teachers, bigger workloads, less subject choice and less outside help for our children, especially the most vulnerable.
What of the OECD report? It did indeed say the UK is the 3rd highest spender on education in the world. But that’s the UK not the UK Government and education is not just schools. So it actually included private spending on education, including private school fees of thousands of pounds a year which only the wealthiest in society can afford. And it also included tuition fees spending of £9250 a year , which the report also pointed out where the highest in the world. This is not the glowing endorsement the Government would like us to believe. The OECD report also said teachers salaries have fallen in real terms, that early years funding is severely lagging and that as a share of GDP education funding has fallen.
The Tories in Government have never valued education and many never will. Former education Secretary Justine Greening said last week “It (the treasury) doesn’t have a framework for properly valuing investment in people whether it’s health or education. Instead it’s always been seen as a cost and the treasury likes to manage costs down”. Education is not a cost but an investment, it needs to be properly funded and our Heads and schools need to be listened too before it’s too late.

 

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