Author Archives: Ashley Pearce

One Reading Community hub

THE One Reading Community Hub action line is now live – a place where people in need of help are connected with volunteers, organisations and services who can support them during the Covid-19 outbreak.

If you are someone in very urgent need of help, then check the Government websites and the Council website for information first.  If you cannot get the help you need to stay safe and healthy, then the action line is there for you.

If you are a person, business or organisation that wants to offer support to voluntary organisations across Reading who are out on the ground helping people, please ring and the hub will pass your details on.

The number to call is 0808 1894325. The phoneline is open 9am-5pm and 5 days a week. Residents, volunteers, businesses and organisations can also get in contact with the One Reading Community Hub online atwww.reading.gov.uk/coronavirussupport

As the service is only just up and running today,  we would ask people to bear with us as the team works to become fully operational.  People are asked to only ring if their need is urgent and there is no other option.

The One Reading Community Hub will collect information and connect them with the right service or organisation in Reading to provide support, making full use of the town’s wide network of community and voluntary groups.

In terms of volunteers, there is a particular need for people with public service experience and who have counselling skills. It is also helpful if volunteers have a car,  but the hub will register anyone who can offer help.

The public is being urged to only contact the hub if they have urgent welfare needs which a family member or trusted friend cannot help them with. This is so that resources can be directed to the people that need it most at this challenging time. All offers of help and support are welcome from individuals, businesses and other organisations. The hub cannot provide health advice and will direct customers to NHS 111.

The One Reading Community Hub is a partnership between Reading Borough Council, Reading Voluntary Action and Reading’s wide and varied voluntary and community sector.

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School closures

What the Government/Dfe have said:

As of Friday afternoon (March 20th) many schools across the country will officially close.

Some schools will remain open to children of key workers as safe spaces. This list includes workers from the NHS, the military, teachers and childcare, care homes, social workers, police, fire, prison officers, delivery drivers, supermarket workers, infrastructure, highways agency, environmental health and local authority planners. This list may be added too. Those with EHCPs, Children looked after and children with a social worker will also be able to attend school. The Government expects this to be around 10% of the usual school population. These schools will remain open over the usual Easter holiday.

A plan is currently being worked on for a national voucher system that can be used in supermarkets for those on free school meals to ensure no child goes hungry when away from school.

There will be no formal exams this Summer, this includes year 6 SATs, year 11 GCSEs and year 13 A-levels. There will also be no school league tables published this year.

The Government have said that how grades will be awarded will be announced tomorrow (20/3) and the aim is to award grades under a different process and system in August.

Universities have said students should not lose out on the chance to go to University this year.

Trainee teachers have been told that they will pass their teaching qualification year and provide support in the next couple of years.

Here in Reading

Please check your individual School website for the best and most up to date advice. You can also check for updates on the Dfe website and the Brighter Futures For Children website. These will have the best, most accurate and up to date website.

We have been working on and speaking with our schools to decide which will be open and available for key workers in the coming weeks, we will let everyone know as soon as we can which and where these are. It is a huge logistical challenge with many people working round the clock to sort.

Working at home

I know that many Schools and many teachers would have already been in contact regarding working from home. But please remember that teachers are humans too. We have our own families we may well now have to look after, relatives to provide for and may be fighting illness themselves. I’m sure you’re aware of how much time, effort, energy and passion your child’s teachers put in and will continue to do so. In many ways schools have not closed, they have adapted. We are all getting used to this and will evolve. I couldn’t be prouder or more grateful for how much work the school staff across Reading’s schools have put in this week. To every one of them, thank you so much.

The Government

These are unprecedented times, this is all new and many people are working flat out. I would urge the Government to act quickly to provide clarity, guidance and assurance on a range of school issues however. Head teachers have been amazing this week but they deserve more help.

A personal view

I’ve been a secondary school teacher for nearly 15 years and have never known a day like today. I looked round many times today with a tear in my eye to other staff I’ve worked with for a long long time, we’ve seen and experienced many things but this was tough. We had to tell both years 11 and 13 that all the work they’ve put in over the years will not have a definitive end point. That we don’t know how their grades will be awarded. That we don’t know how their University places will be decided. That we don’t know when or if they will be back in school. That their last day is either now it tomorrow when they expected it to be 2 months away. That we dont know when they will get their prom. I know all of our teachers have had to have these discussions with worried students from all year groups and how hard it is. I have found the day incredibly emotionally draining and when I left school just burst into tears.

Thank you

But wanted to end with another huge thank you. These are incredible times but luckily Reading is lucky to have incredible people running and working in our schools. We will adapt, we will provide and we will educate. It’s what we do best.

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More secondary school students get first choice school in admissions round

Today’s national allocation day for secondary school places sees more Reading parents getting the first choice for their children than last year. 72.6% of students got their first choice secondary school up by 8.6% from last year. With 11.8% getting their second choice and 5.85% getting their third choice, that means over 90% of our students were offered one of their top 3 choices. Of the students that will need to be diverted, most have been offered places in Reading schools.

These admissions show the faith Reading parents have in our schools with more parents than ever choosing to send their children to our schools. It also demonstrates the good pupil place planning and efficiency of the admissions team at Brighter Futures For Children. We would like to thank them for their hard work as well as all of the teams at our Secondary Schools.

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Ward news round up

Waiting restrictions: Shinfield Road has become a problem area for parking in recent months and has now been replaced on the waiting restrictions review list. This will be heard at March’s transport committee meeting where if passed, Council officers will undertake further investigations into what actions we can take.

Speeding: on the same agenda at the March transport meeting as the above is potential speeding restrictions on Northcourt Avenue and the surrounding roads. If passed the same process of further investigation by the Council will take place.

Road resurfacing: the Council will soon put into place the biggest investment into repairing our roads ever. This includes many roads in Church Ward to be repaired in the next 3 years. Roads in most need will be prioritised and the full list of roads will be available soon.

Local CIL spending: a small pot of money is available to spend on local projects every couple of years from Community Infrastructure Levy payments. At the end of this year we expect the crossing to Ridgeway School on Whitley Wood Road and on Northumberland Avenue by Reading Girls School to be completed. The next round of funding will be discussed soon and I’m happy to hear from residents. Currently improvements to Shinfield Rec park off Linden Road and improving the Christchurch Road shops area are high on the priority list.

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March events

Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 7th March at 10.30am-12pm at Ridgeway School on Hillbrow.

Reading Families Forum Fun day: RFF will be holding an SEND information and fun day event at South Reading Leisure centre on Saturday 7th March from 2.30pm-5pm.

Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 24th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre where the Council’s budget for next year will be discussed.

Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 9th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

Labour party Preston model meeting: Martyn Rawlinson the co-founder of the Preston community wealth building model will be in Reading to discuss how this was achieved on Thursday 12th (venue the).

Whitley logo judging: The winners of the Shift youth and community Whitley logo competition will be announced after judges including Ashley decide on the winner on Monday 23rd March.

Reading University community forum: Church Ward Cllrs will be in attendance to discuss how Reading University can work more closely with the local community on Thursday 26th at 6.30pm.

ROC conversation Whitley: community engagement charity ROC will be at John Madejski Academy on Monday 30th from 7-9pm to discuss ways local organisations can work together for the good of the local community.

Canvassing: Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 7th on Holberton Road and Exwick Square (am), Thursday 19th on Brybur Close and Winton Road (later afternoon), and on Saturday 21st on Whitley Wood Road (am).

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School streets trial could come to South Reading

A School Street is a road outside a school with a temporary restriction on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times. The restriction applies to school traffic and through traffic. The result is a safer, healthier and pleasant environment for everyone.

School Street schemes offer a proactive solution for school communities to tackle air pollution, poor health and road danger reduction. A School Street scheme will encourage a healthier lifestyle and active travel to school for families and lead to a better environment for everyone.

A traffic management order is applied to a street around a school, temporarily restricting access to motorised vehicles. That street will in, effect, become a pedestrian and cycle only zone. Times for the restrictions are determined in agreement with the school. These can be for between 30-45 minutes and only on weekdays and term times.

At a recent Clean Air Safer Transport forum meeting the issue of School Streets was discussed and pilot schools have been sought to test the scheme. Two of our local schools in Whitley have expressed an interest in becoming an area this could be implemented. Discussions with these schools will continue and our ambition to introduce this scheme is also clear in the new transport plan.

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JMA receive Ofsted praise

Reading’s John Madejski Academy has been praised by Ofsted in a recently published inspection report.

Following a visit in January, Ofsted’s inspectors noted that “the academy is improving” and identified many areas of progress at the secondary school.

Camilla Thornalley, principal at John Madejski Academy, said: “There has been no better time for young people at JMA. We are undergoing a rapid rate of growth and improvement, which is underscored by feedback we are receiving from pupils, parents, and the wider community.”

Among the ongoing improvements highlighted by Ofsted was the relationship between staff and students, with the report reading: “pupils feel safe and well supported”. It also states that: “pupils and staff get along well together and there is a friendly feeling to the school.”

John Madejski Academy offers both girls’ and boys’ elite sports performance programmes in conjunction with Reading Rockets basketball and Reading Football Club. These initiatives are commended in the report, which reads: “Pupils on elite sports programmes appreciate the opportunity they have to develop into high-level athletes.”

The programmes also received support from a parent, who is quoted in the report as saying: “my child’s confidence has grown and both his academic and sports progress shows.”

The report marks Ofsted’s first visit to John Madejski Academy since the school joined The White Horse Federation multi-academy trust in February 2018.

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