Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
Church's Labour Team, led by our Councillor Ashley Pearce

Contact Ash

Education

Education Updates from Reading’s schools

Lord Agnew writes positively about Reading’s schools

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

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

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

This entry was posted in Education on by .

Key stage 2 results

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

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

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

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

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

This entry was posted in Education on by .

Schools climate change work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This entry was posted in Education on by .

Phoenix college planning application

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

Transport

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

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

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

Local community and environment

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

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

This entry was posted in Education on by .

Ashley visits Reading Girls school

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

This entry was posted in Education on by .

High stakes testing motion

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

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

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

This entry was posted in Education on by .

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.

This entry was posted in Education on by .

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. 

This entry was posted in Education on by .

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. 

This entry was posted in Education on by .

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).

This entry was posted in Education on by .

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.


This entry was posted in Education 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 .

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 .

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 .

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 .

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 .

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.

This entry was posted in Education on by .