Author Archives: Ashley Pearce

Lord Agnew writes positively about Reading’s schools

Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education Lord Agnew recently wrote to Brighter Futures for Children with some praise and recent statistics from our Schools.
The highlights included (Primary):

-Between 20010-2018, Reading created 4095 new primary School places. This was due to the successful expansion of many of our Primary Schools across the Borough who agreed to increase their capacity to cope with the increased level of Primary aged pupils, up 40% in the last decade.
-12,108 Reading primary School students attend a School rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted (86% of the total).
-96.4% of Primary School applicants received one of their top 3 School preferences, and we would always encourage parents to put down more than one choice on their child’s application.
-The Local Authority also has a good record on forecasting Primary pupil numbers. In terms of predicting Primary numbers a year ahead, numbers were just 2.5% higher than predicted, whilst over a 3 year prediction period this was out by 6.9%, with the highest outliers nationally being some LA’s predicting numbers 6.4% under and some predicting 13% over.

(Secondary):
-Between 20010-2018, Reading created over 3000 new Secondary School places. This was done by the building of 2 new secondary schools in the Borough (with a third on the way) and some of our secondary’s agreeing to expand. This was to cope with a 64% increase in secondary pupil numbers in the last decade.
-85.1% of Secondary School applicants received one of their top 3 School preferences, and again, we would always encourage parents to put down more than one choice on their child’s application. Last year more Reading parents chose Reading schools than previous years.
-Our attainment 8 score at GCSE was 51 this year (up by 2 from last year), the % achieving 4+ including English and Maths was 65% (up 4% on last year) and the % achieving 5+ including English and Maths was 53% (up by 6%). The number of students achieving A-level grades A-E has increased. 98% of students gained A-E grades this year compared with 94% last year, an increase of 4%. With the number of young people achieving A*-C passes was 78% compared with 77% in 2018.
-The Local Authority also has a good record on forecasting Secondary pupil numbers also. In terms of predicting secondary numbers a year ahead, numbers were just 0.5% lower than predicted, whilst over a 3 year prediction period this was out by 7.4%, with the highest outliers nationally being some LA’s predicting numbers 5.3% under and some predicting nearly 15% over.

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Key stage 2 results

Reading’s score of 63% of pupils achieving the expected results in reading, writing and maths at KS2 puts us on a par with both E Sussex and W Sussex (which face very different challenges) in the South East. The national average is 65% and we continue to work with our primary schools to improve standards and achievements through our Schools Standards Service.

Of the 13,688 primary school pupils in Reading, 12,008 are in Outstanding or Good schools.

But we know we have work to do to get KS2 results up. The gap in results at KS2 between our schools and the national average is falling but there is still a gap. Whether locally maintained, Academies or Free schools these are the young people of Reading and all deserve the best start, so we need to find a way of working with our non LA schools to drive improvement. We will be bringing a report to the ACE committee in the Summer that details KS2 results and our plan across Reading Primary Schools to help achieve this.

Further up the school process, our schools results continue to impress. Our Progress 8 score, which measures progress from KS2 to KS4 is the ninth best in the South East (out of 20 local authorities) but the achievements of pupils in our secondary schools are above the national average, both in terms of GCSE and A Level results. In fact, Reading schools produced the top A level results in the country last year and our Attainment 8 score of 50.4% puts us as the fourth highest in the South East.

But none of this is in isolation. Our schools have seen 8% per pupil funding cuts since 2010. Fewer teachers, fewer Learning support assistants, fewer resources and bigger class sizes. Many of our students are also starting school at lower levels than a decade ago. Child poverty is higher, housing and jobs are often more insecure and pre school services have been cut to the bone. By the time our students leave KS2, and then when they leave the School system at KS4 or KS5, they are in a much better position than they started. That is thanks to the incredible work of our schools and teachers not the slash and burn policy of this Tory Government. 

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February events

Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 1st February at 10.30am-12pm at Kung Fu kitchen on Christchurch Road.

Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 15th on Elm Road at 10.30am, Cressingham/Blagdon/Birdhill & Foxhays on Sunday 16th from 11am, Linden Road on Tuesday 18th & Staverton Road on Thursday 20th.

Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 25th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 17th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

JMA Visit: Ashley will be paying a visit to local school John Madejski Academy to see the good work going occurring on Wednesday 5th at 2pm.

Johnny Ball Maths event at Madejski stadium: Ashley will be in attendance to see Legendary TV performer Johnny Ball inspire some of Reading’s young students to study Maths on Friday 7th at Madejski Stadium at 1pm.

WCDA AGM: Local charity Whitley Community Development Association will be holding their Annual General Meeting at the Whitley Cafe on Northumberland Avenue on Saturday 8th from 12.30pm-2.30pm.

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 throughout the month.  

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Schools climate change work

At Monday’s policy committee meeting i will respond to a question on eco schools. I would like to take the chance to talk more widely about the work our schools are doing to help meet the challenge of climate change.

There are 49 eco-schools in the borough, of which 28 have achieved the bronze award and 15 the silver award.

But as well as this there is a lot of work going on in our schools after a climate emergency was declared by the Council last year. 

There are 2 main branches of the work on this-in classrooms and out of classrooms. In classrooms, last November Brighter Futures for Children held their first ever climate emergency summit at Alfred Sutton School that was well attended by Schools across Reading. The aim of this is for every school in Reading to have at least one lead teacher for climate change. Once qualified, the teachers will be collectively tasked with helping pupils learn about the causes, extent and solutions to the climate issues facing the world today.

In December last year Reading Council also hosted a climate summit for students based on its UN equivalent. Here students debated how each country can cooperate to reduce carbon emissions, and proposed everyday actions that can make a difference in their own schools and wider school communities across the Reading area. On top of this I know that many schools have their own eco reps and have won individual prizes for their schools for green initiatives and raising awareness of climate issues, and many are also using the Clean Air Schools resources in classrooms that have been provided by Friends of the Earth. . All of these things help arm our young people with the knowledge and importance of the climate emergency going forward. 

We have also been doing our bit outside of the classroom. We recently undertook a heating and electrical review of our schools, approved at a policy committee meeting last year that will help improve the energy efficiency of our schools lowering both their costs and energy use. Our new secondary school to be located on Richfield Avenue will be built to BREEAM standards which gives third party certification of the assessment of an asset’s environmental, social and economic sustainability performance. 

We are encouraging Schools, local residents and ward Councillors to get into contact with us if they believe their area will benefit from the introduction of School streets, a campaign aimed at reducing danger and pollution around pick up and drop off times for students. Alongside these, we are encouraging our schools to review and update their travel plans to ensure that safety and sustainability are at the forefront of thinking when it comes to pupils getting to School. 

Lots of work has been undertaken already but we are aware there is lots still to do and look forward to meeting this challenge. “

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Phoenix college planning application

Phoenix college is a School for some of the most vulnerable young people in the Reading area. All pupils on roll are statemented and many have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools. Safeguarding is paramount for these students, even more so than in mainstream schools. When Phoenix moves site it is planned to have capacity for 64 students aged between 11-18 with social, emotional and mental health disorders. Currently the school has 43, male only, students on roll but the new school will also accept females.

Transport

The aim of the schools transport plan is to “encourage use of more sustainable models of travel to car use, to reduce car alone journeys to and from school to keep the impact of travel to school on the local community at a minimum”.

Cycle parking for 10 bikes will be provided for staff and visitors in the car park area. It is anticipated that students will, in the main, arrive by minibus or taxi. It could also be possible for more able students to use the bus to get to college. Many of the students will travel by transport provided by Reading Borough Council. School travel and sustainable travel is to be embedded in the curriculum and the school has already started a bikeability program with students.

In the 2018/19 school year, 3 students came to school by taxi, 3 dropped off by a parent, 6 cycled and the rest came by public transport. Parents of the students and staff will be provided with a simple survey to complete to gather general information about travel trends. A detailed transport plan will be available.

Local community and environment

The school will be available for the community in the evenings from 6pm-9pm Monday to Friday. Local football teams currently use the field on Saturday and new changing facilities will be provided to support this use. The far eastern end of the site will become an orchard/wildlife area creating a buffer zone between the school and its closest neighbours. There will be works to improve drainage of the playing field to reduce waterlogged pitches in the winter. There will be a new artificial turf pitch to replace the out dated tennis courts.

The relocation of this school gives us the chance to give some of Reading’s most vulnerable young people the facilities they deserve to start their lives.

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Ashley visits Reading Girls school

Ashley paid a visit to Reading Girls School on Northumberland Avenue this month alongside Whitley Councillor Rachel Eden. Educational issues including admissions and Ofsted were discussed with the Principal Jon Gargan. The school was this year the highest performing non selective school in Reading, being in the top 5% in the country for progress.

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New Reading station Green Park opens in 2020 – final details confirmed

Reading’s new Green Park train station is still set to open by the end of 2020 after plans for its building were finalised.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Transport and Planning, said the station is scheduled to open by the end of 2020 but “hopefully a bit earlier” and is now fully funded.

Green Park train station’s building was given the green light by councillors in September with the condition that the issues over the disabled toilet are resolved.

The building will include a ticket and enquiry desk, ticket office, staff rest and toilet facilities, male and female toilets, one accessible outside toilet, a baby change facility, self-service ticket machines and shops.

The station will be part of the Reading to Basingstoke Line run by GWR.

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Food waste collection coming to Reading in 2020

Between 30% and 40% of the household rubbish put into our grey bins in Reading is food waste. This often ends up in landfill where it rots and releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. When recycled, food waste can be turned into fertiliser for farming and energy. It’s also cheaper – every time we compost a lorry load of food instead of sending it to landfill it saves £100.

We’re introducing weekly kerbside food waste collections from October 2020. Over the coming year we’ll provide you with all the information and equipment you need to take part.

The benefits include:

  • Composted food waste can be turned into electricity fertiliser for farming.
  • Composting food instead of burying it in landfill reduces the amount of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) released into the atmosphere.
  • It’s cheaper – every time we compost a lorry load of food instead of sending it to landfill it saves £100.
  • Separating food waste means you have more room in your black bin to put things you cannot recycle.

You will have two food waste containers, a small indoor kitchen caddy (5 litre) to put in your kitchen and a larger outdoor caddy (23 litre) for you to put outside for collection. These will be delivered to everyone’s home.

The food waste will be collected weekly.

You’ll receive more details nearer the time, including all the information and equipment you need to take part.

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Matt Rodda’s ‘re-elected in Reading East

Labour candidate and MP for Reading East Matt Rodda held on to his seat and increased his majority. He received 27,102 votes – beating Conservative candidate Craig Morley by 5,924 votes. Matt has been an MP since 2017 and is a regular in Church Ward at surgeries and canvassing with local Councillors.

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£9 Million Proposed for Reading’s Biggest Ever Road Investment Programme

Reading Council will embark on the Borough’s biggest ever road repair programme as part of a new £9 million investment package being proposed.

Over the next three years, every resident and road user in Reading will benefit from newly laid local road surfaces, newly laid pavements and footpaths and a purge on potholes,  which is being proposed as part of the Council’s new budget for 2020 -2023.

While the Council carries out a main road resurfacing programme every year, an estimated 80% of the current maintenance backlog in Reading relates to residential roads and pavements. Most of the complaints received by the Council and local Councillors are about the condition of residential roads.

As a result, around £2.5 million – the bulk of the proposed new capital funding – would be invested next year on new road surfaces and repairs for residential streets and housing estates, with more than £500,000 spent on new pavements surfaces. The Council will continue to invest up to £900,000 of the annual Local Transport Plan capital award, received from central Government, on main roads.

Roads will be selected using the Council’s existing road priority selection criteria, where they are repaired in order of condition. It is envisaged that Councillors will be provided with the prioritised road list for their ward and will then be able to feed their local knowledge into the process, as they are often the first lobbied by residents about priorities in their areas. The rolling list of roads would be reviewed annually to ensure the money is being spent where it will make the most impact.

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January events

Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 4th January at 10.30am-12pm at St.Barnabus Church hall from 10.30am-12pm.

Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 18th on Alandale and Wentworth from 11am

Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 28th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 20th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

ACE committee meeting: Ashley and Ruth will be in attendance at the Adult, Children services and education committee meeting on Thursday 9th at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. A report on School admissions will be discussed.

Schools Forum: discussions between school head teachers will take place on Thursdaty 16th 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 14th from 6pm at The Avenue School.

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.

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November events

Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 2nd November at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café. The rugby world cup final will also be showing at the same time!

Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Sunday 3rd November at 11am on Foxhays Road, Northumberland Avenue, Blagdon Road & Cressingham Road.

Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Monday 4th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre where Ashley will be proposing a motion against high stakes testing in primary schools.

Remembrance service– Church Ward Councillors will pay their respects on the morning of Sunday 10th at St Mary’s Butts before a march through town.

Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 18th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

Head teachers climate change conference: Ashley will introduce an afternoon of events that will help head teachers from across Reading have a greater focus on climate change in each of their respective schools. The event starts at 1pm at Alfred Sutton school on Monday 4th November.

Prospect school visit: Ashley will be visiting Prospect School in West Reading to meet head teacher David Littlemore to discuss the good work happening there on Friday 8th November.

General election: As you may have heard, a general election has been called for Thursday December 12th. Here in Reading East you get to vote for the excellent Matt Rodda for Labour. If you would like a postal vote please contact us or the Council. Remember polling stations on the day are at Ridgeway school, scout hut on Northcourt Avenue, Christ The King Church on Northumberland Avenue and the community centre on Northumberland.

Church Ward news: Also this month Councillors will start asking groups for dates to input into the updated South Reading calendar due in January, will be exploring speed calming measures with Council officers regarding Cressingham Road/Northcourt Avenue area, and various planning matters are also being investigated.

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We are Whitley logo design competition

Shift youth and community will soon be launching a logo design competition for youngsters living or attending school in Whitley. Details are set out below.

We are Whitley’ Logo Design Competition
The purpose of this competition is to give young people an opportunity to create a unique logo that celebrates the Whitley community.
It is being organised by Shift Youth + Community (SYC), a local charity working with disadvantaged children, young people and communities in Whitley.

Eligibility Criteria
Participants must be either residents of Whitley or study at one of the primary or secondary schools.

Entry Requirements and Important Dates
Competition begins on Thursday, 2nd January 2020.
One logo design per participant is permitted.
Participants can choose to design a paper-based or digital logo.
Paper-based logos should be submitted to the teacher in-charge. SYC will collect them from your school starting 10th Feb. to 14th Feb 2020. Designs could also be posted or dropped off to this address by Friday, 14th February 2020: Shift Youth + Community, c/o Tyndale Baptist Church, 2-4 Cressingham Road, RG2 7JE.
Digital logos must be emailed to reneta.kuttan@syc.life by 14th February 2020 in JPEG format (file size should be 2 MB or less).
Designs must be created using no more than 4 colours. A short description of 250-300 words explaining the rationale of your logo design must be provided.
Participants need to provide the following information for contact purposes: Full name, date of birth, school, year group, teacher in-charge, and postcode.
(Note: Participant information will be discarded at the end of the competition.)

Judging Process
Once all the designs have been submitted, they will be judged by a panel of representatives from the Whitley community.
Designs will be marked on the following criteria: Originality, aesthetic quality, relevance to the theme, adaptability to different platforms.

Other Terms and Conditions
By submitting the design, you confirm that it is original and not copied from any other source.
The winning designs will be used at the South Reading Churches Fun Day, Whitley notice boards, and community centres. The designs may be further incorporated on the different promotional materials for Whitley.
SYC will contact winning participants by 24th March 2020. Incase, SYC is unable to reach you, the runner up from shortlisted entries will be given the winning position. So, please ensure you share the correct information.

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High stakes testing motion

These tests are flawed and have a detrimental effect on students, teachers and parents. The stress, worry and anxiety add hugely to teacher’s workload, they worsen students experience and view of education whilst adding to mental health problem and add undue pressure to households as we’ve heard from fellow Councillors tonight. And for what end? All educational research points to regular LOW stakes testing being the key to raising pupil retention of knowledge and then attainment, not the extreme pressure testing that SAT’s provide. This is not to say that there doesn’t need to be some form of assessment of pupil performance, but this system needs to be a more flexible and more practical system that trusts and empowers teachers. At the moment, teachers are being forced to teach to the test when they could be doing so much more to enrich students lives with the opportunity’s education gives us. Virgin have recently said that they will no longer be looking at exam results when recruiting staff, this may be a bit further up the education timeline than SAT’s but echoes what Jeremy Corbyn recently said and I wholeheartedly agree with-“We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams”. The full motion is set out below.

This council believes that campaigning, by those who work in primary schools, parents and academics, to end the current high-stakes system of primary assessment should be welcomed, in particular the More Than A Score campaign.
Reading Borough Council resolves:
1) To express its support for campaigns against the current system of primary assessment from parents, Governors, Schools and teaching unions.
2) To call a meeting of all interested parties to discuss the council’s position on these matters and to coordinate a response.
3) To lobby the Secretary of State for Education to listen to the growing number of voices who are calling for the abolition of high-stakes testing in primary schools.
4) To offer support and guidance to schools within the area which adopt an alternative approach to assessment

Reading Borough Council welcomes the commitment of the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party to abolish SATs and other high-stakes testing in primary schools.
It notes that:
1) Statutory testing in primary schools has increased since 2010 and is increasing further: by 2020, children will be tested in Reception (the Baseline Assessment), Year 1 (the Phonics Screening Check), Year 2 (SATs), Year 4 (the Multiplication Tables Check) and Year 6 (SATs).
2) The pressures of statutory assessment contribute to the crisis of teacher morale, workload, recruitment and retention.
3) Tests are focussed on the requirements of school accountability and league tables rather than on support for children’s learning.
4) The pressures of testing in primary schools have a detrimental effect on children’s mental health.
5) Educational research has demonstrated repeatedly that teaching to the test narrows the curriculum and the educational experience of children, focussing on labelling, learning how to pass a test but not learning.

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School standards and attainment: 2018/19-October ACE report

At my school we have a marking policy not unfamiliar in many schools, ours is WWW and EBW or What Went Well and Even Better When. This is a system that works as it picks out the positives in students work but also gives pointers as to where improvements can be made. I think this is also an apt way of looking at school standards in Reading from the last year. Difficult to some in this politically divided day and age where everything is either all good or all bad but in reality, the truth lies somewhere in between.

So to start with the WWW. More parents are choosing Reading schools to educate their children than previously, bums on seats is one of the best indicators of progress for schools. Exclusions are falling, both the rate of them and the number of them. This is in no small part to the work across our schools of the Therapeutic Thinking approach which the majority of our schools have signed up to. The percentage of our schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted has increased from 77-85%. Despite my many misgivings regarding Ofsted, this must be celebrated and huge congratulations to those schools who have recently endured the stress and addition to workload of a visit and come out the other side. When we get the validated results, we can say more at a future ACE meeting regarding overall A-level and GCSE scores but initial indications show us that these are also on the increase from last year.

But we know we also have some work to do to be even better. At key stage 2 the gap in results between our schools and the national average is falling but there is still a gap. Whether locally maintained, Academies or Free schools these are the young people of Reading and all deserve the best start, so we need to find a way of working with our non LA schools to drive improvement. There is a similar picture with our disadvantaged students which is one of the focuses of our education strategy, the gap is falling but there is still a gap which we must close. We also know that we need to improve our provision and offer with regards to SEN, another focus of our education strategy, and steps are in place to increase capacity in the first instance.

So it is a mixed picture across education in Reading but I would like to stress schools don’t operate in a vacuum. Schools operate in a society and context that other factors, especially Government driven factors have a massive impact. Some areas of Reading have an 11-year difference in life expectancy from one another, but we don’t bang on the doors of GP surgeries and blame them. But we do with schools. A decade of austerity has seen teachers’ pay cut massively with workload rising, funding per pupil in schools has fallen by 8% (nearly double this for SEN students), constant meddling of curriculum but also wider social factors have a massive impact-universal credit, low wages, poor and temporary housing, the closing and thinning out of youth services and early years help. All of these things have an impact on our young people’s lives and education, its just often teachers and schools that carry the can.

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Road safety improvements for ward

There is a proposal from Ashley for an extension to the existing 20mph zone on Northumberland Avenue, extending beyond Reading Girls School. The request also includes an improved crossing facility outside the school. The element to extend the 20mph zone has received CIL funding and we have commenced initial investigations.

A recommended concept design has been developed that we believe to be deliverable. The proposed scheme includes a combination of traffic calming measures and also two informal crossing points with herringbone imprints – we felt that these would be a welcome enhancement.

A proposal to install a zebra crossing on Whitley Wood Road to improve pedestrian access to The Ridgeway Primary School has also been put forward. The proposed scheme includes a zebra crossing on Whitley Wood Road at the top of the hill (between Hillbrow and Rushden Drive), and an informal crossing point with a herringbone imprint between the existing traffic island at the bottom of the hill (by the roundabout with Hartland Road). The design shows the introduction of some waiting restrictions, therefore a statutory consultation will be required.

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Community safety survey

Overview

The purpose of this survey is to ask residents their views about issues such as crime and disorder and other local issues, to help identify priorities across Reading.  The Safer Neighbourhood Forums are required to consult on priorities with a community safety focus every 2 years.  

Why We Are Consulting

This community safety survey is being carried out across Reading to inform our neighbourhood working and local safer neighbourhood forums to find out what issues residents consider to be their highest priority at present.  Whilst we will look at all issues raised in this survey in order to compare local concerns to previous consultations, we will not be able to impact on all of them and issues such as pot holes and parking may be referred back to the relevant service if there are sufficient concerns.  Feedback from this survey will be looked at in conjunction with the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) priorities for Reading and locally reported crime across the Borough alongside the British Crime Survey and priorities identified by Thames Valley Police.  Priorities will then be set accordingly.

https://consult.reading.gov.uk/dens/community-safety-survey-2019/
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School Funding promises not enough

Whilst any additional funding to schools is welcome this is not sufficient to plug the gaps schools have suffered at the hands of nearly a decade of Government cuts. This still leaves schools with less funding than 2010 as schools have seen budgets slashed every year of this Conservative Government.

Teachers wages have also seen a huge real terms decline whilst workload has increased. A decade of slashed funding has seen buildings become outdated, teaching assistants let go, teachers not being replaced, dwindling resources and in some cases, parents being asked to cover costs that Government should be funding. During this time schools costs have also rocketed-with salary increases, pension contributions and NI contributions all rising but not funded by Government. 

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