Pages

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Temporary site for The Heights primary school announced

This afternoon The Heights primary school has announced it will be located on the old Caversham Nursery site, off the Gosbrook Road, this September when it opens its doors for the first intake of pupils.

Karen Edwards, Head Teacher of The Heights, said “Whilst we had hoped to find somewhere within catchment, this site will ensure The Heights can open in 2014 which has to be our primary goal, particularly when it will only be our home for a short time. The site offers us a fantastic opportunity to establish a school that is purpose built to our needs for the longer term. We are really excited with the prospect of welcoming the first pupils of The Heights in September.”

Parents who have filled out their primary school admissions application form will for starting this September will be receiving offer letters on 16 April.  It is great that parents now have the certainty of the temporary location of The Heights as it enables the school and families to plan accordingly.

I know some families will be disappointed that in the short term the school is beyond the catchment, however it will only be for a fraction of the pupil’s 7 years before The Heights will relocate into its permanent school building. 

Although I haven’t been into the old Caversham Nursery site I believe this empty building could easily be adapted into an effective and suitable learning environment for young children, with a large amount of open space for play.  Reading Borough Council will be providing the new school with resources for the temporary site to ensure that pupils attending the school have a great start to their education in Reading.

The agreement for the temporary site provides for up to two years support. Over the longer term the Education Funding Agency (EFA) which is part of the Department for Education, is working to secure a permanent site.  The Heights Trust and Education Funding Agency have confirmed that detailed terms have been agreed and solicitors instructed. They hope to be able to make further announcements on the permanent location in late April. 


Update:

GetReading report

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Mapledurham Miscellaneous

As the local councillor for Mapledurham Ward I am chairman of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Management (MPFM) committee.  Below is an update on various matters:

The Pavilion's car park is pot holed and in need of repair.  Remedial works had originally been scheduled to start today, Saturday 29 March, at 7 am.  However I asked officers to reschedule the works - which will be noisy - as I didn't think residents backing onto the car park would have welcomed being rudely awoken this morning at 7 am!  Added to which the Saturday footballers, who come from far and wide (many by car) are heavily dependent upon the car park.

The MPFM committee last year reaffirmed & minuted its stance against any of the playing fields (land which was left in Trust to the people of Reading and the parish of Mapledurham) being sold.

As I have said publicly before, The Heights primary free school will not be built on Mapledurham Playing Fields.  The temporary location of the school, which will open this September, will be announced very soon and its permanent location will be announced thereafter.  Neither site is on Mapledurham Playing Fields.

Fund raising for the regeneration of the Pavilion continues.  The 3rd dinner dance, which was held last month when I was abroad, raised approximately £6,000 bringing the Warren & District Residents' Association (WADRA) fund raising to over £44 k.  An account to collect donations for the Mapledurham Recreation Ground Charity was set up last year so that Gift Aid (the tax element) can be reclaimed, thereby boosting funds.  To donate go to:  Virgin Money Giving's website

Other monies promised and or collected for the Pavilion's regeneration include:
  • £100 k from Section 106 developer contributions
  • £50 k from Festival Republic
The next fund raising event is this year's summer fete which is happening on 5 July.  Anybody interested in having a stall should contact WADRA

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Third Thames Bridge Debate

All my life people have been battling for or against a third Thames bridge.  With the ongoing closure of Sonning Bridge due to the massive rainfall we've seen over the last few weeks, this is the hot topic on people's minds.

This Thursday Rob Wilson MP is chairing a public meeting to debate the issues to see if progress can be made.

On the one hand it is believed to be the way to reduce the quantity of traffic travelling through central Reading, by creating a more direct route across the Thames for those coming off the A3290 from Junction 10 of the M4, wishing to travel north and vice-versa.

Others contend that a third traffic bridge would only exacerbate the situation by encouraging more vehicles to use the roads, many of which are Oxfordshire country roads unfit for an increase of traffic.

Whichever side you are on, you have your opportunity to voice your opinions and listen to others.

Come along to Highdown School, Surley Row, Emmer Green, Reading, RG4 8LR.  The meeting kicks off at 7.30 pm with representatives from Reading, Wokingham and Oxfordshire councils this Thursday, 6th February.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fantastic News for Secondary Education in Reading

Today's announcement from the Department for Education that Maiden Erlegh School's bid to open a new secondary school is excellent news for parents.
Trustees of Maiden Erlegh with Rob Wilson MP

This new secondary school, wherever in East Reading it is sited, will provide the opportunity for far more students to benefit from a Maiden Erlegh education.  The existing school has been oversubscribed for years, with little chance of Reading families benefiting from the opportunity of a place.

It was the local Member of Parliament, Rob Wilson's, idea to use Michael Gove's Free School programme to give an even better choice of secondary schools to parents living over in the east of Reading, ie Cemetery Junction/Wokingham Road area.  Not content with having instigated the UTC Reading, [see my previous posts for more about the UTC] opened September 2013 and doing extremely well, Rob approached Maiden Erlegh School's Headteacher Dr Peter Thomas last year with the idea of setting up a second Maiden Erlegh School to complement existing schools serving the community.

Maiden Erlegh 2 will have the same ethos and vision as the Silverdale Road school, and be lead by Dr Thomas and the rest of his leadership team.  It will be for 11-16 year olds and is due to open September 2015.  It will cater for 180 students per year group, building up from the bottom each year to eventually when full have 900 students.

Maiden Erlegh converted to Academy status April 2011 and was one of the first "Outstanding" Ofsted-rated schools to do so.

To read more about this fantastic news, see Rob's website


Sunday, 12 January 2014

How Cross-Community Support for The Heights Can Also Protect Mapledurham Playing Fields

Protect Mapledurham Playing Fields by supporting The Heights
As stated before, I’m working for both community projects: The Heights and the Mapledurham Pavilion fund raising group.  If supporters of each did too, the aims of both could be secured.  The way to protect the open space at Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) and ensure the school goes elsewhere, is for the whole community to support delivery of The Heights school for this September.  To find out why, read on.


I know that Tuesday night's meeting failed to answer some residents’ concerns about the protection of the open space at MPF.  A misquote in the hard copy of Friday’s GetReading has added unnecessarily to those concerns. 

Parents wanting to send their children to The Heights and supporters of rebuilding Mapledurham Pavilion whilst protecting the open space in the MPF, should see they have a common goal because timing is key

The location for the new school needs to be finalised as soon as possible so buildings, subject to planning permission, can be put in place for September. Since the MPF are not available for delivering the new school within time-scale (due to convoluted legal reasons as well as staunch public opposition) the Education Funding Agency (EFA) must put the school elsewhere.

Therefore if you support either community project, support Rob Wilson MP arguing the case in Westminster, by writing to him at: robwilsonmp@parliament.uk stating:
·         the urgency for the EFA to finalise a site for The Heights acknowledging the proven need for the school to open this September
·         that the site cannot be on the MPF, reasons including
(i)                 lengthy legal logistics with an uncertain outcome and unknown cost to the public purse
(ii)               staunch public objection to the loss of open space

Our community and the Council desperately need the primary school places The Heights is planned to deliver this September and over the years to come.  This Wednesday (15 January) is the submission deadline for primary school admission application forms for places this September. This leaves enough, though not a lot, of time to get The Heights ready for the forthcoming academic year.

The open space at MPF is treasured by not just our local community but also the public at large as people across Reading enjoy various activities such as football, dog walking and events like the summer fete here.  This is a once in a life-time opportunity to sort out the long-standing shortage of primary places for our community.  However the school should not be delivered at the expense of the MPF.

I am very happy to talk to local residents further about any aspect. Please email me at: mail@IsobelBallsdon.com or ring me on:  07717 292003. Do bear in mind that I have a full-time job (I work for Rob Wilson MP in his constituency office) as well as my councillor and school governor commitments which take up much of my evenings and weekends, so in the first instance it is best to write to me.

For anyone interested, my children are too old to benefit from an education at The Heights.  My family however will benefit when Mapledurham Pavilion is rebuilt.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Head Teacher for The Heights Speaks Up

Karen Edwards (centre) with Rob Wilson MP and me after the meeting
The Heights primary school’s information event yesterday evening was a huge success. Held in Mapledurham Pavilion, the hall was jam packed with parents of prospective pupils and other interested people from the local community.

It was the first opportunity for many to meet Karen Edwards, whose appointment as head teacher was announced in November.  I however was lucky enough to be involved in the interview process so have met her before. 

I was absolutely delighted that The Heights was able to recruit Karen as it was critical to get the right person for this pivotal role.  To have won Karen's confidence and succeeded in getting her to take the leap of faith to set up this new school shows the strength of her belief in the parent group trustee’s vision for The Heights. 

Karen is a top-notch head teacher and she will, I am sure, bring all her energy, experience and enthusiasm to the school.  Her ethos is centred on providing an excellent education, bringing on board everybody in the local community.  She has demonstrated this at Sacred Heart in Henley - her current school, and so relishes the opportunity to create this here in Caversham Heights.  

Parent trustees Ruth Rosewell and Daniel Pagella, together with Karen Edwards gave a presentation detailing the background to the bid for the new school, outlining what free schools are, talking about the rationale and evidence of demand, together with catchment area.  The hottest topic: that of where the school will be sited, could not be answered unfortunately.  An announcement is imminent, however because the site location decision is down to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) neither it, nor the timing of the announcement, is within the control of The Heights.  Do check The Heights' website regularly for updates.

As I said during the meeting, any parent living in the catchment applying for a primary school place for this September should put it down as a preference.  Not to do so would be foolish as they would be missing out on the opportunity of being a part of what will undoubtedly be an outstanding local community school.  It would also be losing the most realistic chance of getting a local primary school place given the evidence of previous years.

Our community is incredibly lucky to have Karen and I hope everyone will give her, together with the wonderful parent trustees of The Heights, the support they all deserve for the huge service they are providing for the new generation and those to come.

Update
You can read what Rob Wilson MP said on his website

Further update
You can read GetReading's report of the meeting.  [The misquote of Daniel Pagella that appeared in the hard copy on Friday has been corrected]

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Future of the Arthur Clark/Albert Road Day Centre Site

On Thursday 7th October Reading Borough Council's Labour administration is proposing what should happen to the Arthur Clark/Albert Road Day Centre joint site.  I sit on the relevant Committee and will be representing the views of my ward residents.

If you have an opinion please let me know your thoughts before Thursday. You can read the report here and the appendix.

Essentially Labour wants agreement to sell off the site for new Extra Care Housing. They are proposing that the land is surplus to requirements and the Feasibility Study they have commissioned sets out the demolition of the current buildings, replacing them with a new building comprising 40 extra care flats which would be for rent, with associated ancillary facilities.

As I also sit on the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) of course I keep an open mind to proposals until any future planning application comes before PAC.

My question to readers is should this site's future be kept open to other possibilities at this stage?  Residents I have spoken with already are keen that Residential and Respite care, as well as Day care facilities are considered seriously.  What do you think?  You can contact me on 07717 292003, send me your views to my email address: mail@isobelballsdon.com or write a message on this post.

Thank you to those who have shared your views with me already.  This is an important site, particularly for residents living north of the river and I hope the administration will listen and act upon the public's wishes.