Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
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Education

Education Updates from Reading’s schools

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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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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Nursery funding question response

For years our governments have neglected fundamental educational issues – such as funding and teacher recruitment – in favour of what are, at best, secondary issues, and at worst mere ideological passions.

Early years education has not been spared such treatment. “There seems to be little strategic direction to government policy on early years,” concluded the House of Commons Education Select Committee in February – and this is, in truth, an understatement. 
The Department for Education and Ofsted have devoted much of their energy to promoting sweeping and contentious changes to the early years curriculum, while studiously failing to address what is for many providers an existential crisis of funding.

Nowhere is this tension clearer than in the maintained nursery sector. While ministers and inspectors talk as if one of the main factors to prevent the narrowing of the attainment gap is the reluctance of the sector to adopt a more formalised curriculum, they overlook far more potent problems: the effect of benefit cuts, the rise in child poverty, and the decision to drain away resources from forms of provision that could work against such a programme of social destruction.
The achievements of maintained nursery schools are well-known. They demonstrate the difference that specialist, integrated provision can make. Concentrated in the poorest areas, they give priority in their admissions to disadvantaged children and children with special educational needs and disabilities. And they have the expertise and skills to support them successfully. 

As research quoted by Early Education points out, in 2018 maintained nurseries had the highest percentage of children who were at risk of developing special educational needs. Yet many children identified as “at risk” at age 3 had caught up with their typically developing peers by the age of 5. 
In a country where education policy was based on reason, evidence and a commitment to social justice, achievements like these would be studied, celebrated and copied. 

But, as England enters its 10th year of austerity, the opposite is happening. These nurseries will lose nearly a third of their funding in 2020 if supplementary funding is not continued.  Uncertainty hangs over the whole sector. In July, three in 10 told Early Education that they were unsure about their immediate future, Chancellor Sajid Javid and education secretary Gavin Williamson have announced what they claim are “step-change” increases in educational spending. But they have said nothing about maintained nurseries, other than a promise to keep the issue of funding under review.
This isn’t good enough. Guaranteeing to fund maintained nursery schools at 2016-17 levels should be among the top items on Javid’s list. Its absence is a scandal. 

In the face of this neglect, we on this side are supporting the School Cuts petition on nursery funding. Autumn will be a turbulent time for politics in Britain. But, whatever happens, we will make sure that the needs of the youngest, most vulnerable sections of our population are not forgotten. 

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Phoenix college relocation consultation

What the new centre could look like.

Phoenix college is looking to relocate its site to the Hamilton Centre off Bulmershe Road in the next couple of years.

Phoenix College is currently located in a very out dated building that is no longer fit for purpose for a School on Christchurch Road. The school is a special needs school that specialises in the education of secondary aged children with social emotional and mental health issues who cannot attend mainstream schools. It currently has a capacity for 64 students with around 50 currently on roll, whilst the new location, in time, would be able to cater for up to 96 pupils including females (Phoenix is currently all boys).

Phoenix recently received a disappointing Ofsted inspection result which has since seen a change in leadership and governance. The school is also currently going through the process of acadamisation with a trust with a proven track record of success ready to help the school. The next step in improving provision for some of Reading most vulnerable youngsters who attend, is to provide them with adequate facilities.

The Education Skills and funding agency will provide a sum of money to carry out the work necessary to repair and renovate the Hamilton Centre to ensure it is for modern education of these young people. It will also include a multi use games area with shared access to sports pitches.

A consultation to seek resident views will take place at the Hamilton Centre on Thursday 12th September from 3.30pm-6.30pm at Alfred Sutton Primary school (community room).

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The results are in!

Over the last week our Secondary schools have seen both A-level results and GCSE results come in, and an improving picture is emerging. Overall school results will always be affected by cohorts of students, curriculum change, the mix of schools we have here in Reading as well as the in and out of Borough movement our students have due to us being such a small local authority. However these results tell a positive story.

Across the Borough as a whole results are improving at GCSE. Our attainment 8 was 51 this year (up by 2), our % achieving 4+ including English and Maths was 65% (up 4% on last year) and our % achieiving 5+ including English and Maths was 53% (up by 6%). These improvements are all down to the hard work of staff at our schools day in day out throughout the year for which we are always grateful.

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%. There was a very slight dip in A*-B grades, with 58%of students achieved A*-B across the borough, in-line with the national picture, compared with 62% last year but this year beats 2017’s figure of 57%. The number of young people achieving A*-C passes was 78% compared with 77% in 2018.

Added to this, more parents have chosen to send their kids to Reading schools than ever before in the last admissions round, and two more of our schools (both rated good by Ofsted already) in Maiden Erlegh Reading and The Wren will see students sitting GCSE’s for the first time next Summer. We are also increasing our SEN capacity with a new school for our students with autism due in the next couple of years as well as the new block at Blessed Hugh Faringdon opened at the end of term.

We still have challenges which we will continue to work on. We want our exclusions down, we want the disadvantage gap closed, and we want SEN capacity increased, and there are steps in place already to help achieve this but it will take time. In the mean time I would like to welcome this set of results and thank everyone involved for their hard work: pupils, parents, teachers and Governors.


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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.”

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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A World Without Ofsted

I listen the TES podcast every week and this one really struck a chord with me, entitled “A World without Ofsted”.
(https://www.tes.com/news/tes-fe-podcast-world-without-ofsted). I then saw the Get Reading headline “See how many Reading Schools are performing badly” and couldn’t help but equate the two.

Firstly, this is not to say we are complacent and that the Council, Brighter Futures for Children and all of Reading’s Schools do not seek improvement and realise that in some areas and some schools we need to do better. We have an education strategy launched last month alongside an SEN strategy that seeks improvement in our Schools.

Schools and teachers are quite possibly the most judged places and professions on earth. There is so much data to weigh up and compare. Base lines, SAT tests, GCSE progress 8, A level results and of course Ofsted. I teach at a School whose GCSE results and A-Level results in both attainment and progress have been in the top 5% of the country for the last couple of years and we received an Ofsted in that time. Not many schools get those recently so must have been an Outstanding judgement right? No. A Good due to an anomaly really, despite far better results on any measure compared to many other Schools with an Outstanding rating.

And that’s just one of the problems with Oftsed. Things they don’t really consider: numbers of SEN students. Many of these will make progress at different rates in their own way but Ofsted seem not to care. Exclusions. What if one school gets good results and outcomes but excludes many students that other local schools pick up? Not Ofsteds problem. Starting points, what if students have made great progress from their starting points but still don’t make Ofsteds floor standards? Still “failing” then. Funding. Not a mention in any Ofsted report I have ever read that funding per pupil has fallen 8% since 2010 or SEN funding by 16%. No mention of crowd funding or donations being sought from parents just to keep schools ruining. It’s almost as if Oftsed is an arm of Government and that criticism wouldn’t go down well? Deprivation. Ofsted does not mention or care about the area in which a School resides. Glasgow has a life expectancy about 15 years lower than Kensington, do we blame GP’s for this? No, but with Schools apparently there is no other contributing factor to educational outcomes than a School and its staff.

And then what? Ofsted give its “failing” rating and then provide on going support, expertise, finance and guidance. Well no. They say they will be back to judge again in a year and if an academy put you in contact with the hugely over stretched regional schools commissioner. The success of schools can be judged in many ways, and a good school may show it in many different ways. The best way to see and get a feel for a School as a prospective parent is to always pay a visit. Since becoming lead Councillor for education last summer I’ve visited nearly 40 of Readings schools that have obtained all Oftsed gradings. Each different, each working incredibly hard on diminished budgets and each deserving of greater credit that a two word Oftsed rating. It’s time to look beyond an outdated inspection regime.

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Reading Labour Councillors demand a halt to school cuts

Locally-elected council members from across the country have backed the campaign by the NEU’s Councillors Network, which is supported by education fair funding campaign group f40, in expressing concern about the desperate state of school funding in England and Wales.

They are urging Government to invest more money in schools in the Spending Review this year to help meet the huge funding crisis across education, which is resulting in growing budget deficits, cuts in teaching staff, a reduction in some subject areas, and a poorer education for children.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (2) states that schools have suffered a cut of 8 per cent per pupil since 2010. The Education Policy Institute (3) has said almost a third of all council-run secondary schools are now in deficit and, according to last year’s Kreston UK report (4), eight in ten academies are in deficit.

Campaign group f40, which started more than 20 years ago with the aim of influencing significant change in the way government allocated funding to local authorities and schools, threw its weight behind the NEU’s letter to Damian Hinds.

Cllr Ashley Pearce, lead member for Education said: “This situation cannot go on. Schools and colleges in Reading desperately need additional funding to ensure our children and young people get the education they deserve. Reading schools, have on average, lost £370 per pupil between 2015 and 2019 alone. There needs to be a reversal of cuts to school budgets since 2010, and for the funding of schools and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision to be of a level that ensures all children and young people get the education they deserve, regardless of where they live.” The full letter can be read below.

Dear Damian Hinds MP,

As councillors, we are writing to express our grave concerns over the Government’s ongoing cuts to school funding.

Our excellent state-funded schools have lost out in billions of pounds in funding since 2015. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has equated this to an 8 per cent real cut per pupil in real terms, since 2010. The funding crisis has become so overwhelming that according to the Education Policy Institute, almost a third of all council-run secondary schools are now in deficit, and eight in ten academies are in deficit according to last year’s Kreston UK report.

Many schools are now desperately overwhelmed, as more and more students are competing for fewer and fewer resources. Compounded by biting cuts to local council services, in addition to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, the current settlement is not tenable.
We demand that the Government address this funding crisis in its Spending Review by:
• Reversing the cuts to school funding since 2010.
• Giving our schools the funding they need.
• Funding Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision properly.

Our children only have one chance to go through the school system. By cutting funding to schools, the Government is failing them. It must change course urgently, and give our schools, education professionals and students the proper funding they need.

Your sincerely,

The Undersigned

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School parking ban

https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/should-schools-ban-parents-driving-16022926

Various schools from across the town have contacted us regarding issues with drop off and pick up congestion around their schools. However a full ban on cars and parking nearby schools may well create the unintended consequence of clogging up nearby roads as parents may well just park as near as they can. We are also aware that some parents and pupils live further away from their schools and that driving is the only suitable methods of transport.

In specific instances, parking measures such as double yellow lines or bollards to prevent pavement parking have been introduced for specific schools when the need has arisen. The Council already has a strategy to tackle air pollution as well as a campaign to stop cars idling. Each individual school also has its own transport plan that encourages pupils to walk or cycle to school wherever this is possible, which is of course also beneficial for pupils health. But if the need for greater action at any individual school is required, we would be happy to work with schools on this.

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Reading to get new SEN School

Reading Council learned today that they have been successful in their bid, made jointly with West Berks and Wokingham Councils, for a new SEN free school that aims to open its doors in 2022.

The School will have a capacity for 150 students that will be shared amongst the 3 local authorities. The school will welcome students on the autistic spectrum as well as students with SEMH (social emotional and mental health) needs.

The exact location is to be confirmed but it is planned that the school will be in Reading of the 3 local authorities.

In terms of running the new school, an engagement event will be organised to provide information on bidding. Those trusts who wish to bid to run the school will be invited once the specification is complete. This will then likely involve interviews before the Regional Schools Commissioner selects the trust that will sponsor the school.

This new school forms part of our wider SEN strategy to provide more suitable spaces for Reading’s youngsters in Reading schools.

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More parents choose Reading Schools

Every Reading student has been allocated a secondary school place this year, despite higher pupil numbers than ever before.


This year, Reading schools have been more popular than ever, with a greater number of residents choosing schools in the Borough than schools outside it.
Reading Girls has increased in popularity this year and the WREN School, Highdown School and Maiden Erlegh, Reading all continue to be popular choices.

First preference offers stand at 64% this year, compared to 66% in 2018. The number of students not allocated any of their preferences decreased slightly from 12.58% last year to 12.28% this year.
On National Offer Day there were no surplus places in Reading schools this year, compared to 85 on offer day in 2018, 221 in 2017 and 274 in 2016.

A shortage of spaces and our statutory duty to provide every child who had an on-time application with a school place on National Offer Day meant we had to ask a number of schools to either to take an additional class or additional children per class.  

Extra classes have gone in at Highdown School, The Wren School and Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School. Maiden Erlegh in Reading has taken an additional 12 students.

The percentage of pupils allocated to schools outside Reading fell to 26.44% this year from as high as 34.78% in 2016.

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Education Strategy for Reading

At this months ACE committee the Council and Brighter Futures for Children will be setting out our priorities for Education in Reading. The document will be a living document that will evolve and grow. The strategy has 7 main strands with our focus being on lowering the rate of exclusions, increasing capacity for our SEN students and closing the attainment gap with our pupils.

We have some excellent provision, great teachers, hard working staff and Governors across our schools in Reading, but we also realise there are areas we can improve. Resources are tight as budgets continue to be squeezed so we must focus our intervention and support to where the need is greatest. We must ensure provision and outcomes are more even so that ALL of our educators have the skills and capacity to learn from each other.

Our provision for SEN students will increase with 2 new ASC units in our Primary schools, a new ASC unit opening at Blessed Hugh Farringdon, the Avenue expanding, Phoenix college being relocated and a bid for a new SEND Free school. The aim of all of this is to increase expert capacity in Reading so students can be educated nearer to home.

Our exclusions are too high, and there is a big cross over with our disadvantaged and SEN students here. Schools cannot solve all of societies problems but we can do more to support schools and help them understand and work with these young people. Our trauma informed approach to managing behaviour has been discussed with schools and has been received well. We will be looking to extend practical use of this within our schools.

The strategy sets out a practical plan on what our education team will focus on, how we will achieve more for our students and how all of the organisations involved can work together to e sure our students get the start in life they deserve.

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Fair Workload Charter for Readings teachers

A new Fair Workload Charter for Readings teachers will be announced at the ACE committee meeting this month. The charter has been agreed with the Council, head teachers, and teachers unions as a blue print for teacher well being in Reading.

The charter will help both teachers and head teachers understand how to cut down workload to more manageable levels. It is workload over everything else that teachers cite as the main reason for leaving the profession, an issue becoming more and more important as the teacher shortage deepens. The charter contains practical examples and advice on how schools and teachers can cut down on workload in agreement with Ofsted and DFE guidelines. It also lets teachers know where to go and what they can do if their workload is getting too much.

This charter will form part of a wider package of measures that Brighter Futures for Children are currently working on to help with recruiting and retaining our teachers. Our teachers are probably under more strain that ever before, with dwindling resources, class sizes rising and demands increasing, we need to do all we can to let them know they are valued and supported.

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