Ash pearce - Labour Church Ward Councillor
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Monthly Archives: January 2020

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.

-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.

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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. 

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February events

Councillor’s advice surgery: Church Ward Councillors will be available to discuss any issues with residents on Saturday 1st February at 10.30am-12pm at Kung Fu kitchen on Christchurch Road.

Canvassing– Councillors and activists will be out speaking to residents on Saturday 15th on Elm Road at 10.30am, Cressingham/Blagdon/Birdhill & Foxhays on Sunday 16th from 11am, Linden Road on Tuesday 18th & Staverton Road on Thursday 20th.

Full Council meeting: Church Ward Councillors will be in attendance at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 25th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

Policy Committee meeting: Ashley will be present in his role as Lead member for education on Monday 17th at 6.30pm at the Civic Centre.

JMA Visit: Ashley will be paying a visit to local school John Madejski Academy to see the good work going occurring on Wednesday 5th at 2pm.

Johnny Ball Maths event at Madejski stadium: Ashley will be in attendance to see Legendary TV performer Johnny Ball inspire some of Reading’s young students to study Maths on Friday 7th at Madejski Stadium at 1pm.

WCDA AGM: Local charity Whitley Community Development Association will be holding their Annual General Meeting at the Whitley Cafe on Northumberland Avenue on Saturday 8th from 12.30pm-2.30pm.

Newsletter delivery: The latest edition of the Church Ward Labour Rose newsletter will be delivered to every household across the Ward by our Councillors & volunteers throughout the month.  

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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. “

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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.


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.

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