Bcoming the lead Councillor for education in Reading is a huge honour and privilege to take on. I want to thank the two previous incumbents of the post, John Ennis and Tony Jones. Their work has helped push Reading schools closer to our challenging targets for schools in Reading and on a personal level, both have helped me develop an understanding of the role.
I was educated in two of Reading’s primary schools and just over the border in West Berks for secondary school. I have been a teacher in a comprehensive school for ten years, where I have also served as the Union rep for over 5 years. Before this I worked at two very different schools as a teaching assistant, a learning support assistant and a cover teacher, which gave me an excellent grounding in how schools work. I have been an examiner at both GCSE and A level for nearly ten years. As well as this I have been a Governor at a primary school for 5 years, the last of those being as Chair of Governors. Since being elected in 2014, I have served on the ACE committee as vice-chair and been in attendance at the lead member briefings for Education.
The last few years have seen great changes in education both locally and nationally. Locally there has been a school expansion plan, the creation of the arm’s length children’s company, The Heights Primary School location as well as the changes in our SEN strategy and local offer. We are now also in the process of looking for a site for a new secondary school in Reading. Nationally there have been funding cuts, a recruitment and retention crisis, curriculum change and a range of new school types. As a Council we need to be there to offer schools help and advice when needed as well as providing our statutory services in providing a school place for every child.
Reading Borough Council has set some challenging goals in education over the next few years concerning Ofsted reports, student outcomes and progress. But I do not want these to be a top down straight jacket in which schools are told to work within. I see the Council’s role in education as one of facilitating, helping and advising schools, which we can only do with the help and communication from the Head teachers and staff at all of the schools across the borough. This includes our Free schools, Academies, Grammars and Local authority schools. I want the work between the Council and schools to be a conversation where we can provide what it is that schools want from us.
I am looking forward to the challenge of helping schools and education in Reading and want to meet as many of those involved as possible. That includes students, teachers, Governors, parents, trade unions and MP’s Matt Rodda and Alok Sharma. I look forward to hearing from and working with all involved.