Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
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Academy sport swimming pool to be updated

Academy Sports swimming pool will temporarily close on October 2nd for urgent refurbishment works. The Northumberland Avenue pool was transferred back into the management of Reading Sport and Leisure this year, after being operated and managed by the John Madejski Academy since 2007.

The Council is now replacing much of the original plant and equipment at the pool as part of a major investment programme which will allow the pool to operate in future years. Work on the site will include fitting a new boiler to heat the pool and installing a new ventilation system. The council has reprogrammed school swimming lessons while it is closed.

Councillor Sarah Hacker, lead member for sport, said: There is never an ideal time to close a pool, particularly for this length of time, but I hope regular users of the facilities will appreciate that these are major improvement works, which make a complete closure unavoidable.

“Much of the fabric of the pool at Academy Sport has been in place since it opened in 1983 and now needs complete replacement. Officers are taking the opportunity to carry out a number of improvement works at the same time to avoid future inconvenience. We expect the pool to be open again early in the New Year when swimmers can look forward to a much more pleasant swimming environment and more reliable facilities.”

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New Directions reopens in Whitley

Mayor Rose Williams opening the new facility by JMA.

Ofsted rated good adult education centre new directions reopened its doors after a quarter of a million pound refurbished. The new site is next to John Madejski academy on Northumberland Avenue and will now again being providing a range of courses to help adults learn. More can be read here.

*Photo courtesy of The Whitley Pump.

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The road to Privatisation in education?

“Defund, make sure things don’t work, get people angry, you hand it over to Private capital”- Noam Chomsky.

This is the view of historian and economist Noam Chomsky on the standard model of neo-liberalism in privatisiations. This argument is currently being used more for how the NHS is being treated but is education really that far behind? Since 2015 when the Conservatives won a Parliamentary majority, the number of schools in deficit has risen from 8% to 18%. This is a huge number of schools that are dipping into reserves, making staff redundant or cuttiing down on resources. The graph below shows spending per pupil in both Primary and secondary schools over the last 25 years. From 90-97, under John Major’s conservative government, spending broadly remained flat. Then from 97-2010, spending increased hugely under Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown’s Labour Governments. Now, this money may not have been spent completely wisely or efficiently as I hear some Tories say but few people say spending money on education is a bad thing. In Economics we call it a “supply side policy” or basically an investment. The country spends money now so that workers of the future have higher skills, produce more and earn more money. Simple. I would also argue that this large increase was due to 25 years of under investment by Tory Governments in buildings, resources and staff wages that were all hugely neglected and had left education in a crumbling state come 1997. From 2010-2015, education spending is broadly flat under the coalition Government, so maybe the Lib Dem’s did tame the Tory free marketers in education. Then from 2015-17 education spending per pupil falls, for the first time since the mid 90’s. No wonder many young people and parents of young people believe this Government doesn’t care about them. Then there are predicitions based on the parties 2017 manifestos, only Labour said they would increase education funding. In short, the Tories have not increased education spending in around 20 years of Government. A shocking endigtment.

But, a spokesman from the Department of education says “The Government is spending £40bn more in 2016-17, the highest amount on record”. This claim is frankly laughable. Well not the claim, but what it hides. Let’s take a family of 3, 2 parents and 1 child. Currently they spend £250 a week on shopping. A second child comes along and now they now spend £251 a week on shopping. This is the highest amount ever!! True but this in no way reflects the true cost reality, and this is what schools are facing. Below is the only graph that matters when it comes to this. Spending PER PUPIL is to fall by nearly 10% between 2015-2020. The other bars show why, pupil numbers have jumped considerably, as have costs such as the apprenticeship levy and national insurance contributions that Government has placed on schools. The Government was also fond of saying that “Budgets have been protected”, at worst this is an outright lie, a clear deception at best. The overall (nominal) budget remains broadly the same for 5-16 education, but this does not include the cost increases pointed out or post 16 education. These budgets therefore have been cut. Why do our 16-18 year olds deserve less than their predecessors or those in the year below them? The excellent NUT campaign at this year’s election pointed this out and poll numbers as well as my own experience on the doorstep show that parents felt the same.

So spending has gone down, only the most deluded or Tory amongst people will deny this. But what about the rest of the developed world? I’m not a great fan of international comparisons, PISA tests are not a reliable comparison, and anecdotal stories of great education systems in Singapore or Finland are just that really. Every countries context and circumstances is different. But we can compare how much each country spends on education as a proportion of GDP. GDP measures what a country produces each year so its equivalent of saying what percentage of your income per year do you spend on housing say. Below is the OECD (major economies) and what % of their GDP they spend on education. The UK is 18th below the OECD average. But it is something else about the graph I’d like to focus on. The blue bar is the amount spent on private education. The UK’s is around a third of overall spending, higher that the “free market” USA. Part of this is the UK’s historic class system and huge private school fees for the top 7% of the population. But part is also the fragmenting of schools. Academy chain bosses can now pay themselves large salaries. Schools can “buy in” services. Parts of schools are contracted out. All of this is money that you pay in tax and is finding its way to private shareholder hands to educate your children. I received a brochure through the post recently in my role on the Council’s education committee from a company that provided “education solutions”. It was a glossy 8 page booklet that I read from cover to cover several times. I had no idea what they actually did. They introduced their team, a lawyer, a marketing manager and yes some ex teachers, but I had no idea what “solutions” they provided. Is this the future?

The other part of this private education spend is on the explosion in private tuition. I am in no way speaking out against tuition, I have been a tutor for students in the past and I know that many of my students have used a tutor and found it useful. But the graph below demonstrates many interesting things. Firstly, tutors are used to get into grammar schools. One of the Tories great policies for social mobility does nothing of the sort and they know it. You need to pass a test to get in and those with the most money and sharpest elbows will always find a way to boost their child’s chances in this. The graph on the left also says that the average fee per hour of tutoring is £40. To put this into context, the minimum wage per hour is £7.50. I know many parents struggle to get their kids the best education, some working all the hours God sends to fund a private school place or private tutor and I am not knocking that. But the more there is a creep or expectation of private tutoring, the greater the gap will become because many cannot afford this. The graph on the right below shows that to tutor a 5 year old, people are charging £30 an hour. Just think about that, a FIVE YEAR OLD! After school they are not playing, discovering, enjoying life, they are being tutored. To me that is frankly ridiculous but is part of a culture where all that matters is exams, even at key stage 1.

I don’t know if this is or was a great plan by Cameron and now May to defund the education system so much that privateers step in. But it is what is happening. Chomsky said people get angry as the service fails, I would like students and parents to get angry. But not at the schools or teachers, I’d like students and parents to get angry at this Government who have wilfully underfunded and fragmented education.

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September events

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 2nd September from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Ward meeting: The regular meeting of Church Ward members and Councillors were we discuss local issues will take place on Monday 4th September at 7.30pm at 101 Northcourt Avenue.
  • Planning meeting: This months planning committee meeting including some involving Church Ward will take place on Wednesday 6th September at 6.30pm at the Civic centre.
  • St Barnabus Church fun day- The Church on Shinfield Road will be hosting a free fun day on Saturday 9th September from 12-3pm. More can be found here
  • Northcourt Avenue Residents Association meeting: Cllr Pearce will be attending the NARA meeting to discuss parking issues on Wednesday 13th September at 7pm
  • Freshers week: This years intake of new students at Reading University arrive the week beginning Monday 18th September. Local members will be manning a stall at the event.
  • Ridgeway Governors meeting: The first Governors meeting of the new school year will take place on Thursday 28th September at 7pm at Ridgeway school.
  • Canvassing: Councillors and members will be discussing parking issues with residents on Northcourt Avenue on Thursday 28th September at 5.30pm and Saturday 30th September at 11am. 
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Potential new artwork for Church Ward

One of the potential new art installations I

Church Ward could potentially gain 2 new art installations soon if passed at this month’s planning committee. The art work is part of the funding received from the new Tesco depot in Whitley, part of which promised money for new art in South Reading. The wire structures will be on Northumberland Avenue by Geoffrey Field School, one of a Rabsons Rivers player and the other a set of dinnerladies from the school.

More information on the application can be found here

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Jeremy Corbyn visits Reading-Again!

Reading East MP Matt Rodda with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid a visit to Reading for the second time in three months to speak to local residents about fuel poverty and the housing crisis in Reading. Mr Corbyn, alongside our new MP Matt Rodda, spoke with homeless charity Launchpad about the acute housing shortage in the South East and the problems it is causing. He also blasted the Government for not allowing Reading Council to build more Council homes. Mr Corbyn said “The root cause of homelessness in places like Reading is expensive private sector houses. Ultimately the answer is investment in council housing, but it is also giving local authorities the power to convert former industrial properties and office properties into social housing.” Mr Corbyn then visited a resident in Whitley to discuss the growing problem of fuel poverty and rising energy prices. Labour would cap energy prices and provide a boost to all households.


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Secretive NHS plans move forward

The 4 local Clinical commissioning groups or CCG’s that make the decisions on health care planning for the Royal Berks and local GP’s are to merge. This has been done due to Tory Government NHS budget cuts and takes decisions further away from local people. These plans have been drawn up behind closed doors and without any accountability.

More can be found here.

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Cressingham Road repairs take place

The dip in the road now repaired.

The long standing issue of a dip in the road surface of Cressingham Road has finally been repaired after months of Councillor complaints passed on from residents. If there are any issues on roads near you, please let us know and we will do all we can to get the Council to take action.

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Council owned company to run children’s services

Reading Borough Council proposes to move to a new model for delivering children’s services in the form of a Council-owned company.

As part of its ongoing improvement journey, the Council is recommending setting up a wholly-owned Council company to build on progress made to date and to deliver long-term and sustainable improvements for children and young people in Reading.

The stand-alone company will focus solely on the operation of children’s services, allowing social workers and other staff to concentrate on their core day to day activity of helping to keep children safe and delivering a range of other services to children, young people and their families.

It would have its own independent board and a decision-making process, separate to the Councils. It would also operate within its own ring-fenced budget. The Council will however, continue to hold the company to account for performance.

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Church Ward survey

As Councillors we are your representatives to Reading Borough Council. We want to hear your views so we can help shape your community in your vision.

We have created a short survey that will only take a few seconds to fill in. This will help us understand what national and local issues are important to you, and if you are a Labour member, how you may be able to help us.

The survey will only take around a minute and can be found here.

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August events in Church Ward

  • Councillors surgery: Ward Councillors and the Whitley area PCSO will be at The Whitley Cafe on Saturday 5th August from 10.30am-12pm. Please come along and discuss any local issues.
  • Summer canvassing: Ward Councillors and Labour activists will be out across the summer to speak with residents about local issues and concerns. These dates will include:

-Thursday 3rd August (top of Blagdon road) at 6pm.

-Thursday 10th August at 5.30pm (Elm Road)

-Saturday 12th August (top of Cressingham road) at 11am

-Wednesday 16th August (Stanhope Road) at 5.30pm

-Saturday 19th August (Barnsdale road) at 11am

-Wednesday 23rd August (Northcourt Avenue) at 5.30pm

-Wednesday 30th August at 5.30pm (venue to be confirmed)

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WhitFest 2017 a big success!

Cllr Ashley Pearce helping to run one of the WhitFest stalls.

This year’s WhitFest (the arts festival for South Reading) was excellently hosted by the John Madejski academy. There were various stalls for kids and adults to enjoy as usual, with charities such as Age Concern and ABC to read represented as well as local crafts people displaying their works. Cllr Pearce and Reading East MP Matt Rodda helped run the WhitFest doodle stall where youngsters were encouraged to write down what Whitley meant to them. The day was topped off with some excellent entertainment in the form of singing and dancing from the JMA students themselves. The event continues to grow every year and I look forward to being involved again next year.

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Good bye and thank you to Primary heads


Two of our Primary school head teachers in South Reading have recently retired after many years service in our schools. Charlie Clare after many years dedicated service heading up Geoffrey Field Junior took a hugely deserved retirement. As well as Charlie, Madelaine Cosgrove retired after overseeing The Ridgeway school expansion in recent years. We wish them the best of luck and rest in their future endeavours.

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Matt Rodda Reading East MP

Matt Rodda as the MP for Readng East wants to be an accessible MP who is there to serve his constituents. There are numerous ways you can keep in contact with Matt:



Twitter: @MattRodda

Phone: 07746 642938


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Labour party manifesto-For the many not the few

The Labour party general election manifesto is one of the most read political documents of all time. The document, entitled for the many, not the few has been incredibly well received by the public and sets out a platform for a brighter future for Britain. The party promises to renationalise the railways, increase the minimum wage, end NHS privatisation, properly fund our schools and put an end to tuition fees. The full document can be read here.

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South Reading events calendar

The latest version of the South Reading events calendar will soon be dropping through letter boxes if it has not already!

Thanks to everyone that has contributed and we hope more people will contribute in future. The online calendar can be viewed here

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