Author Archives: Ashley Pearce

October events

ACE committee meeting: Ashley and Ruth will be in attendance at the Adult, Children services and education committee meeting on Thursday 4th October at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. Ashley will be presenting the new teachers Fair workload charter for teachers in Reading. 

Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 6th October at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.

Canvassing; Councillors and activists will be out meeting residents to discuss concerns on Saturday 6th October at 11am on Birdhill Avenue and Sunday 7th October at 11am on Windemere Road & Barnsdale Road.

Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 16th October at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre. Ashley will be forwarding a motion regarding education cuts that can be found under Education on this site.

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. This can be viewed under the News section of this site.

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The accountability of Academy Schools

This week’s BBC Panorama programme focused on Academy schools in Britain. I am not going to be critiscing Academy schools as the huge majority are governed and run by hard working people seeking the best for the students that come through their doors.

It does give an opportunity to explain their relationship with the local Council however. Councils used to be able to open and run their own schools, this ended with the Tory Government in 2010. Academies are able to appoint their own Governors, set their own curriculum and admissions criteria with little oversight from the local Council. It is our job to monitor them and ask questions, but if something is not right, we have very little power to intervene. For academies, this is the role of the regional schools commissioner.

The commissioner for Reading is the South East commissioner whose role stretches from Milton Keynes to West Berks with all the academies in between. This encompasses hundreds of schools across a huge geographical area. I am not saying the old local authority system was perfect but a degree of local knowledge and democratic accountability has now been lost with the expansion of the Acadamies programme which has left our school system more open to manipulation as the programme explained.

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Impressive GCSE results for Reading’s pupils

Pupils in Reading have performed well in the face of further changes to this year’s GCSE examinations, with tougher exams and now no coursework elements being applicable. Provisional figures from schools in the borough show that 62% of GCSE pupils achieved grades 9 – 4 in English and Maths (broadly the same as the old A*-C measure), matching last year’s figure. 

The number achieving the higher 9 – 5 grades, similar to A* – bottom B/high C, was 48 per cent compared with 50 per cent last year.
Initial figures show an increase in the percentage of students achieving Ebacc subject qualifications from 28 per cent in 2017 to 30 per cent. Attainment 8 scores which measure student progress were similar with 49.35 this year compared with 49.60 last year.
Congratulations to all the students who have worked so hard to attain these results and to their teachers for their commitment and dedication.
Behind these statistics are stories of individual effort and achievement and I’d like to wish every student future success in their chosen paths.

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A-level results in Reading

Last Thursday saw hundreds of students, their families and their teachers receive their A level results. This one grade on a sheet of paper is often seen as the culmination of 15 years of education in schools. Students should be rightly proud of the results they achieved. Exams are stressful, difficult and require hard work over a number of years to pass. But as a teacher of many years I have seen many factors out of students hands that can effect performance. Nerves and stress on the day, the questions that come up, the examiner that marks it and grade boundaries all play a part. If students didn’t get the results they wanted, there are still many opportunities and many avenues to go down. It’s the beginning not the end.

In Reading we had nearly 700 students taking A level exams in our schools, more than last year. But we cannot forget that as a small authority, many of our students that live in the Borough go to schools on the outskirts and vice versa. West Berkshire and Wokingham schools will also educate many of our young people. In terms of percentages, there was a slight increase in those students achieving the top end marks and a slight dip in those achieving a pass. Every one of our schools, is striving year on year for improvements in exam performance against the backdrop of lower funding from central Governemt and a difficult recruitment arena. Overall, students across Reading continue to achieve excellent results in their A level exams, with increases in the top grades achieved across many of our schools, alongside more pupils sitting these tougher exams. 

Every students succesful result is the culmination of years of hard work from themselves, their teachers and their parents. Everyone involved is a vital part of the school system and each should be congratulated. Overall results and percentages tend to be looked at on days like this, but it is the importance of these results to each individual student that really counts and the difference they can make to these young people’s lives.

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September events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 1st September from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & campaigning on Tuesday 18th September at 7pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue.
  • Ridgeway Governors meeting: Ashley will be discussing the schools new year in his last meeting as Chair of Governors on Wednesday 26th September at 7pm at Ridgeway.
  • Canvassing: Ashley, Paul and Ruth will be out in the ward to discuss the local area and any issues on Saturday 22nd at 11am on Foxhays Road, Tuesday 18th at 5.30pm on Hazel Crescent & Sycamore Road and Wednesday 26th at 5.30pm on Rushden Drive & Hollydale.
  • I, Daniel Blake at Reading Film Theatre: The RFT will be showing Ken Loach’s film about someone living life on Universal Credit on Thursday 13th September starting at 7.30pm.
  • Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 24th September at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Governors briefing: Ashley will be speaking with Governors from across the town at The Avenue School on Tuesday 11th September at 6.30pm.
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SEN provision in Reading

The 2014 Childrens and Families Act made it law that special educational needs provision must be constantly under review. This means that we are always looking at ways to improve the education provision for our youngsters with additional needs all the time. Here in Reading around 15% of our school students have some form of special educational need with around 3% having an EHCP (Educational health and care plan), that identify and tailor support to students with additional funding.

Reading Council has been working with Reading Families Forum (parents of pupils with SEN) and Special United (some of our young people with SEN) to help shape the future provision in Reading as best we can to help meet young people’s needs. Some of our main priorities and projects over the next year include:

  • Improve early identification of need within our youngsters. In 2017/18 the Council turned 401 statements into EHCPs which was a vast improvement on the 463 in the previous 3 years and was praised by Ofsted. It is vital we work with schools, nurseries, GPs and pre schools to identify as early as possible the needs of our students.
  • Extending The Base for students with autism at Blessed Hugh Farringdon. This will involve a new building being built that will increase capacity from 15 to 30 students. This will mean more students being able to stay in mainstream provision within the Borough.
  • At Primary level we are looking at replicating the Ark centre for primary students with autism in two other schools across town. The Ark caters for 21 students at Christ the King in South Reading, and we will be looking to replicate this in a school in the north and the west of the town. This will increase capacity and cut down on these students having to travel across town. These schools will then be able to provide expert outreach to other schools to help improve provision.
  • The Avenue school is in the process of applying to extend an area of the school to provide additional spaces for 25 students with differing needs.
  • Phoenix College which provides education for students with SEMH (Social, Emotional, and Mental Health) needs is currently based at an outdated building on Christchurch Road. We are actively looking at sites for a new modern facility at a different site in Reading. This will provide a better learning environment for students in the future.

These improvements are against the back drop of Government cutting funding per pupils by 8% and our SEN youngsters often suffer worse than this.
This week there is a Disability Awareness Fun day at The Weller Centre in Caversham. The day runs from 11a.m.-2pm and is a great way to learn more.

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Survey on how to spend neighbourhood levy in Church Ward

Every time the Council agrees for a large building project to go ahead, the developer has to pay the Council what is called Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL which is used to help the town prepare facilities Unocal areas. Some of this money is kept back for the specific area involved, the Council wants to hear your view on how this should be spent.

CIL consultation link

The above link will enable you to fill out your details and say how you would like the money to be spent in your area. All of the projects we hope would benefit the local area but pleases let us know your thoughts.

Consultation Doc

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Reading University to appeal St.Pats Hall planning decision

The University of Reading today advised that they will be appealing the decision of Reading Borough Councils planning committee in February to reject the plans to redevelop St.Patrick’s hall on Northcourt Avenue.

The decision at the meeting in February was unanimous in its rejection of the proposals based upon the scale of the proposals in terms of over development and student numbers, impacts on local residents in the area and historic buildings nearby. A media report from the time can be found below:

https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/news/university-dealt-blow-as-st-patricks-hall-plans-are-rejected/

Cllr Ashley Pearce and MP Matt Rodda are meeting with the Universities new Vice Chancellor Robert Van Der Noort later this month to discuss the appeal. We will also be discussing the issue with Reading Councils planning department and residents of Northcourt Avenue.

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Council letter to Kendrick regarding expansion proposal

The Local Authority recognises from Kendrick School ‎a genuine desire to increase their admissions to the school for both Reading students and those eligible for Pupil Premium. The changing of their admissions criteria to encourage those eligible for Pupil Premium as well as those from specific postcodes is to be welcomed, as is their detailed plan for outreach work after negotiation with the authority that will open up opportunities for able girls from within Reading’s most disadvantaged areas.

However we are unable to offer our full backing to this proposed expansion. At a time when other schools are facing a per pupil funding cut of 8%, we believe that this additional funding should be helping all schools and all pupils. ‎We would welcome a commitment from the school to fill all of the additional places available with Reading students eligible for Pupil Premium.

The school has demonstrated it’s willingness to co-operate and adapt to help meet the Council’s educational aims and we hope that this can continue.

Below is a link to Kendrick’s proposed expansion plans:

Kendrick-School-Reading-LA-further-information

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Education challenges in Reading

Ashley speaking to students at Blessed Hugh Farringdon school.

Since becoming lead Councillor for education in Reading two months ago, I have been trying to gather as many different views as possible. I have visited over ten schools already, spoken with various head teachers, Governors, parents, teachers unions and pupils. It will not come as a shock to hear they all want the same thing, the best education possible for pupils in the system now and in the future. Parties from all sides also identified very similar challenges schools are facing, these were namely funding (SEN funding in particular), capacity and places, and staff retention & recruitment.

There is always a lot going on in education and we are facing many challenges but we are planning accordingly.

  • School capacity: Reading will need greater capacity in secondary schools and we are in discussions with schools who can take the additional bulge classes needed before our new Secondary school will open in 2021. The school to be placed on Richfield Avenue will be a 6 form entry class that will initially open for just year 7 & increase year groups year by year. Our next step is recommending our preferred provider to run the school to best meet Reading’s needs. At Primary level, our expansion over previous years leaves us with enough capacity in most areas, however we are being pro active and working with school providers and planning to ensure new schools in Green Park Village and Dee Park have enough capacity for new housing developments. We also have plans to increase our capacity for SEN students with the first piece being the new base at Hugh Farringdon for students with autism. This model with different hubs across the town enabling students to stay closer to home and in Borough is both good for the students and the Council’s budgets, and is one the authority will be pressing ahead with.
  • School funding: Nationally per pupil funding has been cut by 8%. In Reading pupils will have lost an average of £283 per head whilst seeing class sizes rising. These cuts in funding are something a Labour Government would reverse. In October I plan to table a motion asking for all Councillors in Reading to support us writing a letter to Damian Hinds, the education Minister, asking him to reverse these cuts to the education budget. The new schools funding formula will be fully implemented in 2020, leaving the local authority with very little control over schools funding. But in the mean time, schools forum will endeavour to smooth out funding mismatches in its final year that will hopefully see no school left completely adrift.
  • Staff retention & recruitment: As a county we are facing yet another teacher recruitment and retention crisis, with fewer teachers in our schools now compared to 2014 with more pupils. In Reading the costs of living, housing in particular makes this an even bigger issue. Matt Rodda MP is pressing Ministers in Parliament on a key worker housing scheme and the local authority will be helping schools wherever it can to identify and train new teachers. I will be welcoming our newest teacher recruits who have passed their NQT year to the education fold at a ceremony this week. Next week the teachers pay body will make their recommendation on the level of teachers pay increase. After 8 years of real terms pay cuts, this must rise but so must schools budgets to accommodate this increase other wise we will see many schools pushed over the edge.

Schools across the country are facing many challenges in education & Reading is no different. As lead Councillor for education I want to hear as many views as possible and come up with the best solutions we can.

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Labour at South Reading Churches fun day

Church Ward Councillors Ashley Pearce and Ruth McEwan joined Reading East MP Matt Rodda and Reading West candidate Rachel Eden at the South Reading Churches fun day this Saturday. The annual event organised by the different Church organisations in South Reading saw thousands come together in the sunshine to see what different organisations in South Reading have to offer. We would like to thank the efforts and energy of everyone involved, especially St.Agnes vicar Vernon Orr overseeing his last of these events before retirement.

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July events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 7th July from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Ashley will be in attendance in his role as lead for education at the meeting on  Wednesday 11th July at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ridgeway Governors meeting: Ashley will be discussing the schools end of year performance on Thursday  19th July at 7pm at Ridgeway.
  • South Reading Churches fun day- The hugely popular and established fun day will return again this year on Saturday July 14th, 12pm-3pm at Rabsons Rec. As usual there will be many different stalls, free food and plenty for kids to do.
  • South Reading calendar: The latest version of the popular South Reading calendar with lots of dates for local events will be delivered to every household in the ward. If you have any feedback on this please contact us.
  • Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & celebrate the election result on Tuesday 3rd July  at 7pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue.
  • NQT Celebration: Ashley will help congratulate newly qualified teachers at a celebratory event at The Civic centre on Tuesday 17th July at 4.30pm.
  • Canvassing: Ashley, Paul and Ruth will be out in the ward to discuss the local area and any issues on Saturday 21st at 12pm on Stanhope Road, Sunday 22nd at 12pm on Shinfield Road, Wednesday 25th at 11am on Northumberland Avenue, Thursday 26th at 5.30pm on Cressingham Road and Saturday 28th at 11am on Highmead Close.
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South Reading calendar update

The popular South Reading calendar citing all of the many events involving organisations in South Reading for the last 6 months of the year is nearly ready to be delivered to thousands of households again. The calendar includes events from local schools, sport clubs, libraries. Churches and many more organisations that help out the local community and organise events throughout the year. The calendar can be viewed below.

South Reading events calendar A5 06 Jul-Dec 2018 v1.7-pr

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Official opening of Whitley Community hub

The Official opening it the new Whitley Community hub comprising the relocated library, Children’s centre, day nursery, social club and Cafe takes place this Tuesday. 3 guided tours will be taking place with the first being officially opened by Mayor of Reading Debs Edwards.

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New school planned for Green Park Village

At this weeks planning committee meeting Councillors will discuss a proposed new 2 form entry primary school with associated playing space. The proposed school would be for 446 children, 26 nursery places and 60 per year group (2 classes). A breakfast and after school club is also planned and the planned opening will be the summer of 2019. The school will initially fill the nursery and reception classes with students increasing year by year as they progress through the school. With development increasing in the area from Worton Grange and Royal Elm Park, as well as Green Park Village, the Council is being proactive in providing sufficient school places and keeping school places as local as possible.

The school will be located at the corner of Longwater Avenue on what will be one of the main entrance routes to Green Park Village. The school will be two storeys consisting of three main accommodation blocks. The site will include a main hall and changing rooms, as well as a multi use games area and all weather playing pitch. It is considered that the main use of the school hall outside of lessons would be for the use of residents of Green Park for village events and meetings. 

As with all new schools now, this school will be an academy but the Council is looking forward to working closely with the academy sponsors Reach2. This Multi academy trust already has active schools in Reading with Green Park Village school joining Ranikhet, Civitas and Palmer academy. The school are currently looking for a head teacher to begin working to make the school a welcome addition to Reading’s Primary schools. h

ttp://reach2.org/vacancies/listing/headteacher-designate-green-park-village-academy

 

 

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Kendrick school proposed expansion

Kendrick school have recently announced plans to bid for capital investment from the Government’s selective school expansion fund to expand to become a four form entry school (128 places) from 2020.
As has been recently announced, Reading will have a new Secondary school on Richfield Avenue by 2021 to help accommodate our secondary needs. Kendrick’s proposed expansion will not impact upon the need for this school. The new school will provide 6 of the needed 8 forms of entry by this year.

At the moment the data indicates that Kendrick has 2.4% of Free School Meals students compared with an average for all Reading secondary schools of 12.6%, and for all Reading non selective schools of 15.7%. The percentage of students currently attending Kendrick who are not Reading students and travel into the borough to attend Kendrick is 74.7%. This compares to a figure of 28.1% across all Reading secondary schools and 15.4% of non selective secondary schools in Reading.

Initial discussions regarding the bid have been held between the school and the Council and these are on going. These discussions have been around whether any extension would directly benefit Reading students and also whether these would be focused on disadvantaged pupils. The school is aware of the local authority’s priority to improve provision for disadvantaged pupils in the borough and that there would potentially need to be some work done between Kendrick and primary disadvantaged pupils and their families to raise aspirations. No detailed plans or discussions have taken place around how Kendrick might undertake this.

The terms behind any direct bid to the DfE to access the additional funds for expansion of grammar school places is directly linked to improving access to disadvantaged pupils. Kendricks expansion document says “we propose to increase the number of disadvantaged students which we believe supports the LA & Governments aims to improve social mobility”, it goes on to say “Kendrick school would always seek to secure the support of the LA & work in collaboration to ensure the best possible outcomes for the young people of Reading”. Discussions will continue as to exactly how this will be achieved.

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A new Secondary school for Reading.

Image of what the new school could look like.

After the Council’s successful Primary expansion of recent years there is now a need for a new secondary school in Reading from 2021. This will eventually be a 900 place (6 form entry) secondary school which will open its year groups gradually so as not to impact on admissions at other local schools. At the beginning there will be no 6th form provision as the admissions data does not display a need in this area, however there will be space for this if needs arise in future. 

After initial investigation of various sites, the Richfield Avenue site near Rivermead and the river Thames has been deemed by the Council and Councillors as the most appropriate for a new school. The land is not perfect and we are in discussions with Reading festival regarding the access they need but the site has many advantages. It is near where student need is highest, transport access is good and will be improved, leisure facilities are readily available and the space provides us with future room for expansion.

In terms of the running of the school the Local authority can only do so much. The new school has to be a free school as dictated by Government policy and so cannot be run by the Council. Bids will be made by academies and trusts to run the school. As a Council we will provide information to bidders and an endorsement of our preferred partner but the final decision lies with the DFE. Part of our criteria to be the Council’s preferred bidder will be the trusts ability to have a proven track record of getting excellent results that they have a history of working in collaboration with other schools and that they have a local reputation for providing excellent quality teaching.

Reading’s growth and success as a town means that we are in need of a new secondary school. We have have been proactive and made a good start in identifying an appropriate site, producing a selection framework for selecting an appropriate trust to run the school & in organising its funding. Councillors and officers will now work tirelessly to ensure that its doors open in September 2021.

More information will be available after the policy committee meeting on June 11th. http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/11423/Policy-Committee-11-JUN-2018

 

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June events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors, Matt Rodda MP and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 2nd june from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • ACE (adults, education & children’s services) committee meeting: Ashley will be in attendance in his role as lead for education at the meeting on  Tuesday 5th June at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • Ridgeway Governors meeting: Ashley will be discussing future strategy for the school on Wednesday 13th June at 9.30am at Ridgeway.
  • Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance for a full evening of business on Tuesday 26th at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. 
  • Northcourt Avenue street party: Ashley will be in attendance at the Northcourt Avenue street party as part of the Big lunch initiative which has enabled some roads to temporarily close & neighbours to gather. This will take place on Sunday 3rd June at 4pm.
  • Whitley Wood fire station open day: Berkhire fire and rescue will be holding their annual open day including demos and a BBQ on Saturday 2nd from 10am-4pm.
  • South Reading Community hub official opening: The renovated community centre on Northumberland Avenue incorporating library, cafe and community space will hav it’s official unveiling on Tuesday 26th June at 11am.
  • South Reading calendar: The final preparation of the calendar update will take place this month. If you want any events added please contact Ashley.
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