Author Archives: Ashley Pearce

September events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 7th September at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.
  • Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 7th on Northumberland Avenue (am) and Shinfield Road on Saturday 14th (am)
  • Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Thursday 16th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & campaigning on Monday 2nd at 7.30pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue. All local members welcome to join.
  • Governors briefing: Ashley will be meeting with School Governors from across the Borough to update on education issues on Tuesday 17th from 6pm at The Avenue School.
  • Bayliss Court meeting: Ashley will be meeting executives from Bayliss Court trust who run Reading Girls School to discuss how we can work together to improve education on Tuesday 24th at 3.30pm.
  • Reading Mencap Summer Fair: Harris Garden of Reading University (off Pepper Lane) will host numerous stalls for the Mencap Summer Fair on Sunday 8th September from 2-5pm.
  • Reading University community forum: Church Ward Cllrs will be in attendance to see how the University can work with the local community on Thursday 16th at 6.30pm.
This entry was posted in Events on by .

Record number of Reading pupils get grades A*- E this year

THE number of students achieving A-level grades A*-E has increased in Reading, according to provisional figures collated by Brighter Futures for Children.

Ninety eight per cent of students gained A*-E grades this year compared with 94 per cent last year, an increase of 4%.

There was a very slight dip in A*-B grades, with 58 per cent of students achieved A*-B across the borough, in-line with the national picture, compared with 62 per cent last year but this year beats 2017’s figure of 57 per cent.

A total of 606 students took A Levels in Reading this year, compared with 691 last year and 673 in 2017.

The number of young people achieving A*-C passes was 78 per cent compared with 77 per cent in 2018.

This is the first year that results have come out where education services are run by Brighter Futures for Children, the not-for-profit company which delivers children’s services, including children’s social care, early help, education and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) service on behalf of Reading Borough Council.

Tony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said:

‘These results show just how good Reading schools are. They’re a culmination of individual students’ hard work but also a great deal of effort by the schools themselves, and organisations like ours, which offers support to schools, to help them thrive and prosper. It’s no wonder that requests for secondary school placements in Reading are increasing.

‘So we congratulate all those students who got the grades they wanted but, if you didn’t, don’t worry. There are plenty of opportunities still available to you. We have recently taken over an advisory service for young people, and we can offer support and help on further training and employment opportunities.

‘Our advisors are based in Reading Central Library in Abbey Square on the third floor. You can contact them by email: ParticipationandEngagement@brighterfuturesforchildren.org  or call 01189 372 204.’

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said:

“Today the hard work of students and teachers in schools across Reading has paid off and I would like to congratulate all of those who have achieved great A-level results.

“Behind all the statistics are stories of individuals who have dedicated a great deal of time and effort over a number of years to achieve their grades. For those students that didn’t quite get the grades they were hoping for, I urge them to seek the available support and take time to find the correct next steps in their career path.

“I wish all young people who received their results today every success for the future whatever path they choose to take next.”

This entry was posted in Education on by .

Views sought on speed calming

Councillors have recently been speaking with residents regarding parking restrictions and speeding in the ward. After the successful introduction of waiting restrictions in Ennerdale Road & Northcourt Avenue, we are seeking resident views on whether these are needed in other roads.

As well as parking, we are aware of issues of speeding in the ward, especially around Cressingham Road, Hazel Crescent and Sycamore Road (amongst others). We will soon be meeting with Council officers in the transport department to discuss options available to us to help with speed in these and nearby roads. Any resident views, please get in touch.

This entry was posted in Ward News on by .

Ward news round up

It has been a busy few months for Councillors in Church Ward.

Ashley met with representatives from the Council, WCDA, Affinity and Food4 Families about a project with a piece of land in between Staverton Road and The Lawns flats. We are seeking to turn the unused piece of land (pictured above) to create a community garden for use of local residents. We will be having further meetings and pressing for progress.

The tennis courts on South Reading Leisure Centre on Northumberland Avenue received an upgrade just before the start of Wimbledon! We hope this will lead to greater use of the courts and local enjoyment.

Travellers encamped briefly in South Reading initially on Rabsons Rec and then Long Barn Lane. The initial encampment was able to be moved swiftly on after residents contacted Councillors who worked to get the right measures in place quickly. If there are any future encampments in the area, please pass on concerns caused to Councillors and police as quickly as possible as it helps the process of moving on.

The St.Patrick’s hall appeal from Reading University against the Council was dismissed. Ashley gave evidence at the appeal alongside residents where it was again affirmed that the proposed development was too large and for too many students. We hope any further proposals from the University fully consult and consider residents views.

The South Reading fun day this year moved to JMA school on Northumberland Avenue but was of course a huge success again. Many community groups, young people and locals came together for a fun day of art, crafts and information.

The Whitley Community Development Association celebrated its birthday in the Summer with a gathering of all those that have helped the project in the last few years. Part of the Big Local project, WCDA have been involved in a huge number of projects to help the community in the last few years including the opening of the Whitley Cafe amongst many others.

Remember, as well as our regular canvassing sessions to seek resident views, we have our regular advice surgery on the first Saturday of every month at the Whitley Cafe on Northumberland Avenue from 10.30am-12pm.

This entry was posted in Ward News on by .

Reading Council declare climate emergency

Reading Council recently passed a motion to declare a climate emergency in Reading after campaigners called for action.

Reading Borough Council has outlined its desire to eliminate Reading’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 . The resolution sets out a wide range of measures that need to be embraced and pursued by governments at all levels. Carbon dioxide emissions in the borough have fallen by 41% since 2005, the 20th highest reduction in the UK, while the council has reduced its own emissions by 53% since 2008.

Reading Council will also be becoming plastic free after another recent motion was passed. Plastic straws, packets and cutlery will all be on the banned list after council bosses voted to stop single use plastic.

The motion pledges a number of ways to achieve the reduction, including phasing out the purchase of single use plastics in all services commissioned by the council.

Church Ward Councillors showed their commitment to a cleaner, greener Reading with a recent clean up of Shinfield Rec off of Linden Road. The park will also soon see some new lighting installed as well as more bins.

This entry was posted in Ward News on by .

Education round up

There has been good news for two of our Education institutions in Church Ward recently. Ridgeway Primary School on Hillbrow received a Good Ofsted rating, fully deserved after the great work of the staff lead by Head teacher Jacky Steele. The report found the school good in all areas and particularly praised pupils relish in reading for pleasure. Huge congratulations to all!

Congratulations also to Barry Wren and his team at New Directions Adult education service located on Northumberland Avenue who also recently received a Good Ofsted rating. The report said learners benefit from high quality careers information, advice and guidance to help them.

There was also a farewell to one of South Reading’s education institutions. John Cosgrove had been head at Christ The King School on Northumberland Avenue for over a decade, helping countless numbers of children get the best start to their educational career through his dedication to inclusivity, passion for education and determination. A well earned retirement awaits!

This entry was posted in Ward School News on by .

August events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 3rd August at 10.30am-12pm at The Whitley Café.
  • Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Thursday 1st on Sycamore Road and Hazel Crescent (late afternoon), Saturday 10th in Staverton Road area & Ashburton Road (morning), Tuesday 6th on Monksbarn & the top of Cressingham Road & Thursday 8th on Winton & Brybur Roads (afternoon).
  • A-level & GCSE results days– students in South Reading attending JMA & Reading Girls as well as schools further afield will be receiving A-level results on Thursdays 15th with GCSE’s on Thursday 22nd. Good luck to all.
  • Disability Awareness day-Featuring local organisations supporting people with a long-term health condition and their carers, and showcasing activities including basic sign language training, hearing test, and hand massage and nail painting. Will be held on Wednesday 15th from 11am-3pm at The Oracle shopping centre.
  • NARA meeting- The Northcourt Avenue residents association is having its next meeting on Thursday 8th to discuss local issues. Venue the.
  • Ward issues: across the month Councillors will be working with the Council on issues affecting the ward including the travellers on Long Barn Lane, potential use of the land between Staverton Road & The Lawns flats, student behaviour concerns and various planning applications.
This entry was posted in Events on by .

Labour against private schools

I was recently contacted by the Independent Schools Council who were putting forward the merits of private education in response to the recent formation of the Labour against private schools group, below is my response:

Thanks for your recent correspondence advocating the contribution of independent schools to the UK. I am aware of the campaign Group “Labour against private schools” to which I believe you are referring. We are appreciative of the work of staff and teachers in all types of school that are educating our young people across Reading to provide them with as bright a future as possible.

The Labour party will create a National Education Service when it forms the next Government that will focus on “tackling structural, cultural and individual barriers which cause and perpetuate inequality”. As I am sure you are aware, around 7% of the UK population attend private schools but contribute 65% of UK judges, 49% of army officers and 29% of MP’s, as well as a disproportionate number of Oxbridge candidates. Labour’s current policy to help aid attainment and pay for free school meals for all school children, is to remove the VAT exemption on private school fees.

The proposed motion from Labour against private schools wishes to go further, to integrate all private schools into the state sector, including the withdrawal of charitable status, and to then democratically redistribute the educational institutions. This motion will be discussed at the parties’ conference later this year.

I have worked as a teacher in a comprehensive school for over a decade and hugely value the contribution they make to society. These schools are where the huge majority of our young people are educated and not selected based upon ability from a young age or their parents income. These school foster an environment of collaboration, fairness and equal value that the Labour party holds dear.

You discuss the economic contribution that independent schools make to the UK in terms of tax and GDP. Currently, independent school fees are averaging around £17,000 per year which are largely funded by parents of the children that attend your schools. If Independent schools were incorporated into a fully comprehensive system (as was undertaken in Finland), then this large sum of money could be used by parents in a range of other ways, contributing to the UK economy. In terms of tax, as an employee of a state school I am aware that funding for each individual secondary school student per year is around £4000, some way short of the £17,000 average charged in independent schools. To my knowledge the motion is not advocating getting rid of these schools as educational institutions but changing how they are run to reflect a fairer and modern society.

You say that “Independent schools provide excellence, capacity and innovation in our education system. Abolishing independent schools would fail to improve provision for state pupils. The state sector would face higher costs and bigger class sizes.” This is a somewhat debatable point. A recent policy exchange report showed that, while some private schools do a good job of educating children and young people, many do not. The value added scores of the top comprehensive schools at A-level and GCSE out do those from the independent sector, often with far fewer resources.

Under this Government our school pupils have seen an average funding cut of 8% per student whilst tax policies are still benefiting schools serving Britain’s richest. The Labour party’s vision is of a country that works for the many, not just the privileged few. This needs to start from how we educate our children, in a fair and equal way from the very start.
Yours sincerely

Ashley Pearce
Lead Cllr for Education

This entry was posted in Education on by .

Busy night for Education at July ACE meeting

There are several important papers at Monday’s Adult Children and Education committee from Education.

Firstly there will be a presentation from secondary head teachers from the WREN, Kendrick, Maiden Erlegh Reading and Cranbury college. Heads were asked in to the committee so that Councillors, Council officers, and the public become more aware of the work we are doing and needs to be done to ensure Education in Reading is the best it can be. This is part of what is hoped will be a more open approach between our schools and Brighter Futures for Children to make sure we are focusing on the key areas in education.

There will also be a paper highlighting the work and resources that are available to help our youngsters who are struggling with mental health. In the absence of a full Government strategy, we are taking the lead in how we can get help to those who need it. With issues such as anxiety, stress and depression alongside many others on the rise, students and parents need to know where help can be accessed. The many areas of good work includes being a trailblazer for mental health, our therapeutic thinking schools strategy and identifying early help by agencies working closer together.

There is also a paper on School place planning. Predicted ing how many students will be coming through the system is a notoriously tricky art. People move home, students come into Borough and and new homes are built. But this paper sets out the information we have and what we see happening to student numbers across age ranges. It identifies some of our challenges and what we are doing to meet these in terms of increasing school capacity in the coming years. Again, it is hoped that this is an honest appraisal of where we are and will help us communicate this to all school stakeholders.

This entry was posted in Education on by .

July events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 6th June 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 15th July 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 Monday 1st July at 6.30pm at the Civic centre. There will be a presentation from local head teachers, a report on mental health work with young people and a report on pupil place planning.
  • Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Thursday 25th on Hillbrow/Tamarisk (late afternoon), Saturday 27th on Highmead Close & Cherry Grove (morning) & Monday 29th on Ennerdale Road (morning).
  • NQT Celebration: Ashley will help congratulate newly qualified teachers at a celebratory event at The Civic centre on Wednesday 10th July at 4.30pm.
  • Whitley Wood fire station open day: Berkhire fire and rescue will be holding their annual open day including demos and a BBQ on Saturday 6th from 10am-4pm.
  • South Reading fun day- Councillors and activists will have a stall with games, prizes and competitions on Saturday July 13th, 12pm-3pm at John Madejski academy. 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.
  • Children in Care film: A film made by youngsters and carers about their lives in Care will be screened on July 23rd at 6pm at Vue cinema.
This entry was posted in Events on by .

River Academy in Richfield Avenue to be run by Maiden Erlegh

Reading Council, Reading Labour and Brighter Futures for Children are delighted at the DFE’s decision to approve the new secondary school for Reading and that Maiden Erlegh trust will be the academy chain chosen to run the school.

The new school will increase secondary capacity in Reading as well as providing more choice for many parents with its central location. The school will be providing a rich and broad curriculum covering both academic and vocational routes.

Maiden Erlegh have a proven track record of running excellent schools locally as working well as with the local authority and in partnership with other schools.‎ We look forward to the school opening its doors to its first group of students.

More can be found out about the school here: http://www.maidenerleghtrust.org/page/?title=River+Academy+Project&pid=31

This entry was posted in Education on by .

Education Funding Crisis

There is a crisis in Education. Ours schools are being starved of cash from this Tory Government. Recently Michael Gove a Tory leadership candidate, promised an “extra” £1bn for education if he is selected as leader. This “extra” would not even come close to making up for all of the money this Government has already cut. The equivalent of someone burgling all of your belongings but then offering to hand back your alarm clock.

A recent briefing from the Local Government Association, which remember is a body made up of local Councillors from ALL parties set a damning picture for the education scene in the UK. Some of its key findings were:

“Schools will see a real terms cut of 4.6% in schools funding between 2015-2019”. This means less equipment for pupils, this means fewer teaching assistants, and this means fewer staff. This means our kids not getting the education they deserve. In Reading last year we passed a motion calling on Education Secretary Damian Hinds to at least halt these cuts, a motion shamefully not backed by our Tory colleagues. They need to answer, if they are not even willing to call for a halt to the cuts, what do they want? More severe cuts!?

“We remain concerned the National Funding Formula will not address the significant budgetary pressures schools are currently experiencing. The current local flexibility allowed under the soft implementation of the new NFF must continue beyond 2020”. At the moment Central Government funds schools from different pots of money in different ways. Some money goes directly to the schools and some to the local Council who can allocate to areas and schools in higher need. This will soon stop. Soon Councils will be by passed all together, leaving a Whitehall department making these decisions, taking all local accountability and over sight away. The new funding formula will also hit some areas much harder than others.

“Since 2014 the number of children and young people with Education Health and Care plans increased by 21.1% (or over 50,000). From 5.6% to 8.8%. The proportion of pupils with SEND who attend special schools has increased from 5.6% to 8.5%. Councils are particularly concerned about the proposed changes to high needs funding which will reduce Council and school flexibility”. Students with SEND have been hit the hardest by this Governments cuts. It is harder to get an EHCP, it is harder to find and see any specialist help and it is harder to get a suitable school place. Since 2010 all pupils have seen funding cuts of 8% per head but this figure more than doubles when we look at pupils with SEND. These students are also more likely to face exclusion. In Reading we are taking steps to increase capacity with The Avenue expanding, Blessed Hugh Faringdon opening its new ASC unit next month, we have approval for a new SEN school with a focus on helping our autistic students and 2 new Primary ASC units to open next year. But we are running just to stand still. The number of students that need help is rising but our funding is falling. We as a local authority are also not allowed by law to run and govern any of these new schools.

The Government’s Early intervention Grant has been cut by almost £60million since 2013 and is projected to drop by a further £183m by 2020”. Sure Start centres were one of the Labour Government’s greatest creations in my view. They were universal, helped those that needed it most at a time in a child’s development when it mattered most. They helped decrease inequality and boosted young people’s life chances. This Government’s destruction of these is a disgrace and shows what the Tory party really means, the party of inequality. It has no desire to help the many, just the few.

Since 2010 Council’s have created an extra 80,000 new school places. If we are to meet the demand for school places, councils should be given back the powers to open maintained schools”. Legally Councils MUST provide a school place for every child, and quite rightly. But we are unable to build and run new schools. If we need new school places or expansions, we must go to academy schools and ask them for help. What a strange system. It used to be that locally elected Councillors decided if a new school was needed, if, when and where it would be opened. That decision is now made from a faceless suit in Whitehall. No local accountability, no local democracy, no devolution. Surely local MP’s, Councillors and Governors would be better placed to do this?

Councils have an excellent track record in improving school, and should be given necessary powers to intervene and support schools”. It is a local Council’s job to maintain standards in ALL schools, but our powers are extremely limited in the case of academies. We can offer help, and have happily done so in many cases, but we have to wait to be invited in if a school requires help. It is down to the School and the regional schools commissioner (who for our area oversees all academies from Milton Keynes to Swindon) to check standards. One person for hundreds and hundreds of schools.

I am an Economics teacher and one of the greatest concepts in my subject is Opportunity Cost, basically consequences of choices. If I go to the Cinema one night I can’t go to the football on the same night. It is worth noting what this Government says we can afford: an income tax cut for millionaires, an inheritance tax cut for those lucky enough to inherit over £1m, a tax cut for the UK’s biggest companies, millions on the failure of Universal credit, billions on no deal Brexit preparations, even millions this week on a state visit from Donal Trump. Things we can’t afford according to them – adequately funding the education of our future. I know which I would prefer to happen.

This entry was posted in Education on by .

June events

  • Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 1st June 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 10th June at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Labour party AGM: The annual General meeting of the Labour party in Reading takes place on Thursday 20th May at 8pm in the civic centre.
  • Church Ward Labour party meeting: members of the local party will be meeting to discuss issues & campaigning on Wednesday 19th June at 7.30pm at 103 Northcourt Avenue.
  • Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 25th June at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.
  • Rading buses open day-the Council owned and run bus company, and winner of a string of national bus awards will be holding its annual open day on Sunday June 30th from 10am at Great Knollys street. Many stalls, food and behind the scenes tours are available.
  • South Reading calendar: The final preparation of the calendar update will take place this month. If you want any events added please contact Ashley.
  • New Directions visit: Ashley will visit Reading’s excellent adult education service based on Northumberland Avenue, speaking with the Head & teachers on Thursday 6th June at 1.30pm.
  • ABC to read AGM: Ashley will be delighted to attend the ABC to read AGM on Thursday 27th June at Waterside centre at 11am.
This entry was posted in Events on by .

Send the Government a message on school funding in Reading.

Schools in Reading are struggling with a £16.8m shortfall in funding since 2015.

44 out of 45 local schools have suffered Government cuts to per-pupil funding since 2015. I have visited over 35 of our schools in the last year and every Head teacher has discussed with me the impact school cuts are having. There are fewer teachers, bigger class sizes, redundancies, less equipment and fewer services for students. Our schools are at breaking point.

Sign the school network petition and join parents, heads and teachers in Reading to send a message to the Government. The following text will be sent to the Government with your signature:


We the undersigned call on you to reverse the cuts to schools in Reading.
44 schools in Reading have suffered Government cuts to per-pupil funding since 2015.
These cuts threaten the continued provision of high-quality education in our area. They are leading to class sizes going up, subjects being dropped from the curriculum and resources being cut back. Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are being hit especially hard, as funding shortfalls mean that vital specialist provision has had to be limited, despite rising need.
Parents are being sent begging letters to cover funding shortfalls as schools are finding it increasingly difficult to support their pupils as their budgets are slashed – councils would have lost out on 60p of every £1 of their funding between 2010 and 2020.
Children and young people only get one chance at school and we know that education cuts never heal. We call on you to take urgent action to reverse the cuts and invest in this and future generations of young people.


You can find the petition here:
https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/reverse-the-cuts-to-schools-in-reading?source=facebook&&fbclid=IwAR0bmsitDEpfb60t_w2g7Gu7of3aCjDNxhlqCbi_UqHj5tvZkB_72zjPLm4

This entry was posted in Education on by .

St.Patrick’s Hall appeal dismissed

The planning inspectorate today decided that the University of Readings appeal against the Council’s decision to turn down the planning application for the expansion of St.Patrick’s Hall on Northcourt Avenue would be dismissed. Residents including the Northcourt Avenue residents society have worked tirelessly on this appeal to show the strength of feeling amongst locals. The plans were too large, with too many students in a building that was too big. Residents are not against development however and would welcome dialogue with the council on any future development plans.

This entry was posted in Ward News on by .

University consulting local residents

Reading University want to hear the views of local residents regarding their place in the local community, and what they can do to help. The consultation is open until June 7th and can be found here:

https://reading.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/university-strategic-principles-consultation-ext

Councillor Pearce’s submission can be found below:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Ward News on by .

All of Readings primary students offered a School place

Reading has made sure all primary school pupils in the borough have a place for September, with 87% (1,644 pupils) getting their first choice and only 1% (36 pupils) offered a divert option.

The number of applications for places at Reading’s primary schools has decreased but more parents have been allocated their first choice for their children than in previous years.
A total of 2,110 places were available on National Offer Day (16 April ) in Reading primary schools and there were 1,882 applications. This contrasts with the number of secondary school places applied for this year, which left schools oversubscribed, although places were still found for students.
Late applications have still to be processed.

In addition, there were 159 pupils who needed an infant to junior school transfer. Reading has only two schools for which this transfer is necessary. 99.37% of Reading residents’ on-time applications received their first preference. There were two pupils who were not offered a place at their preferred school but they are not attending an infant school. Late applications for these, too, still have to be processed.

This entry was posted in Education on by .