Monday, 30 May 2011

Adult Social Care in Reading

Kirsten Bayes has written a very interesting post on a review she has been told Labour is launching into Reading's adult social care.

For years the previous Labour administration boasted about their thresholds being lower than other authorities; however they neglected to acknowledge achieving only a 2 star rating (out of a possible 4 stars) and further more that they failed to stay within the service's budget.  It wasn't until the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition's year in power the service improved to 3 stars and the service budget was adhered to.

I await the review's outcome - and no doubt Labour's spin!

Friday, 27 May 2011

New School Admissions Code Consultation

Michael Gove has launched a 12 week consultation today into simplifying and making fairer the School Admissions Code.  The Code applies to all maintained schools in England and also, through their funding agreements, to Academies.

The most interesting proposal put forward is to enable Free Schools and Academies to set aside a percentage of places for children eligible for free school meals, thereby giving priority to the disadvantaged.  This is an excellent move forward and absolutely right in my opinion.  I think it ironic that Labour never thought to represent their supposed core voters in this way.

I haven't as yet been through the whole document, but here are my thoughts so far:

I welcome the proposal to remove the requirement on local authorities to coordinate in year admissions.  This will cut out needless bureaucracy and most importantly, speed up getting the child back into education.  I've known instances where the delay has been several weeks, when all along the school has an empty space!

I see the logic behind allowing schools to increase their Planned Admission Number (PAN) to admit pupils in-year without the need to seek their local authority's approval.

I'm pleased with the proposed exceptions to the infant class size limit of 30, having had residents in my Ward being given places at two primary schools for their twins.  Understandably the family turned down both places, choosing instead to go further afield to the next county where their twins were offered places together.

I agree with Toby Young in his Telegraph blog when he says "Whoever takes the credit, it’s hard to imagine this consultation not being a political triumph."

One point to note is that proposed changes to the Admissions Code will not come into play until the September 2013 intake.

Junction Crash - Suspected Driver Error

On Wednesday morning a BMW & Vauxhall were involved in a collision at the junction of Highmoor and Albert Road in Caversham Heights. I saw the aftermath and spoke with one of the Police. He said the people involved were okay.

As local residents will know, several accidents have happened at this junction. RBC officers made junction improvements a few years ago which reduced the accident rate substantially. However this didn't prevent Wednesday's accident - nor a similar one last year in which a Land Rover failed to stop at the junction, was hit by a car which caused the Land Rover to spin and crash into the boundary wall of the corner property.

I've asked for a meeting with officers, together with a local resident who is a civil engineer who specialises in traffic and highways, to see if any further improvements can be made.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Mayoralty Trashed

Cllr Richard Willis has written up a detailed report of how the Greens enabled Labour to trash the Mayoralty this evening.

We boycotted the Mayor's reception as none of us had the appetite for it.

I've come back from a delicious meal at Art of Siam with the ex-Deputy Mayor, Jenny Rynn, and practically all the Lib Dem and Conservative councillors, together with our guests. The staff coped fantastically creating a huge long table and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Update: GetReading has posted the following article

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Welcome letter to the new Deputy Leader

Kirsten Bayes, who was until 5 May the Council's Deputy Leader, has written a powerful letter to Cllr Tony Page here. It is insightful, poignant and witty.

I've added a link to Kirsten's blog to my list.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Human Cost of Politics

Cllr Jenny Rynn, Reading's current Deputy Mayor, is a good friend of mine. Reading born and bred she has done nothing but good since her election in 2006. Jenny has served the Right Worshipful Mayor Cllr Gul Khan dutifully over the last year as his Deputy; however as Cllr Swaine has pointed out, Gul has accepted a financial incentive to do the dirty on her. So much for his words about being an "honourable man" and him supposedly respecting the mayoralty as being non-partisan!

Jenny has worked and supported Gul unfailingly: Her reward however will be him voting instead for his Labour Group's candidate Cllr Edwards. Ms Edwards has not served her apprenticeship as Deputy. Ms Edwards has brazenly leapt over Jenny into the mayoral chair. Don't ask me why, because for the life of me I can't get into her mindset.

Why should people be bothered by Khan & Edwards' behaviour? The office of mayor is all important for promoting and enhancing Reading - locally and beyond. As the public saw from the Royal Wedding, one of the many things our country excels at is pomp and circumstance. But with Reading's Labour and Greens turning their back on tradition here in Reading, together they're making a mockery of it.

At this point, why should anyone respect the mayoralty again? Simply put it will leave a bad taste in the mouths of anybody with a shred of integrity.

As for the Greens, Rob White - who omitted to tell his own party he'd already promised to support Jenny's natural elevation to the mayoralty - words fail me. I agree with Warren that the words on White's blog, namely: "fairness & integrity" are simply laughable.

White has shown his naivety in his dealings with Labour. Nothing tangible is in his Party's agreement to deliver a Labour minority administration. It looks like he values being able to sit on his (and his new colleague's) hands this coming year higher than finding a spine and delivering anything not already in the pipe-line for his Party's supporters.

Together, Labour & the Green's display is of politics at its very lowest. They haven't given a second's thought to Jenny's feelings.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Is Labour doing a U-turn on Free Schools?

I welcome Free Schools. If there is the local energy and enthusiasm to form one, it follows that there is a local deficiency of decent education in the area. Often in life the things worth fighting for are the most rewarding.

I was interested to read this in the Telegraph - hence the title of my post. Education of tomorrow's adults is a huge responsibility; one that shouldn't be tarnished by the foisting of personal or political agendas. Surely the common aim is to excite, motivate & challenge the next generation: To do otherwise is a disservice and potential barrier to liberating their minds and ambitions?

As I've said before, I believe personal excellence and achievement should be celebrated. I don't mean necessarily that someone has to be, for example, the best long-jumper (though I'd celebrate this achievement): I appreciate that for each young person - whether they are in a special needs school or main stream setting - the right encouragement and teaching can help an individual make amazing, life-changing leaps forward.

Whether you are a governor, teacher, politician or parent, our responsibility is to try to find and deliver the best education for each and every child. If there's the local need and the desire, of course we should work together and deliver a Free School, no matter what our own political beliefs.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Save Our Grammar Schools

In the news today has been Rob Wilson MP's press release about defending Reading's two excellent grammar schools (which have recently become academies).

My friend and ex-councillor for Park Ward, Wazir Hussain, has posted on this here.

I went to my local comprehensive. Sadly the good headteacher retired after I'd been there for just 1 year. After him, the culture inhibited celebrating success. You kept quiet about good results. It wasn't until sixth form, when I went to a private school, that I saw a complete culture change and any success was celebrated big time.

A friend of mine has a couple of girls at Kendrick. She's told me that the culture is very much on celebrating achievement. I wouldn't wish for anything to jeopardise this.

Like Wazir & Rob, I too would welcome greater Reading designated areas for Kendrick and Reading Academies. For pupils with substantial commutes, they cannot possibly get or give to the school as much as a local pupil.

When these two top UK schools are performing so superbly it does seem very misguided for 10 people to try and dumb them down.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


It was my first Prime Minister's Questions today.

I've been in the public gallery before, behind the glass protective screen, when my then Member of Parliament, Jane Griffiths, presented the Kings Meadow Campaign's petition of over 10,000 signatures.

The chairman of Reading East Conservatives, Alison Swaddle, had a spare ticket for today's PMQs and I leapt at the chance to attend!

We were seated over the Government so could only really see David Cameron and the opposition, unless we switched to watching the monitors.

The person with whom I was most struck was Ed Miliband. The features of his voice were far more pronounced than I'd noticed over the television or radio.

Afterwards we met up with our constituency MP, Rob Wilson, for a very civilised chat and cup of tea in the Pugin room.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Select Committee: Special Educational Needs Green Paper

Yesterday morning I sat in the public area for the Education Select Committee *. I've watched proceedings on television before, but it was much more exciting being there in person.

Sue Bourne, Headteacher of The Avenue School (where I'm chairman of governors) was one of 5 expert witnesses called to give evidence. I was keen to accompany Sue to give her moral support & hear the discussion.

Sue has a huge amount of experience and passion for Special Educational Needs (SEN) having worked in the field for 22 years. Sue was appointed to The Avenue School 8 years ago when closure was anticipated. However Sue, supported by her strong team, turned the school around to achieve numerous major awards including the prestigious Specialist Status for Performance Arts and The Full International School Award, as well as being rated "outstanding" by Ofsted in the last 4 inspections.

The Expert Witnesses welcomed speeding up & simplifying the process for families; having a combined assessment and standardising assessments across the country. Concerns were mainly on funding; responsibility; and capacity. There was acknowledgement that transitions for post-16 have been in a mess and that adequacy of such provision needs further examination.
Following on after the hour's session, Sarah Teather MP, Minister for Children & Families, was questioned for a further hour.

Sue & my morning was topped off by a meeting with Alok Sharma MP, in whose constituency (Reading West) lies The Avenue School. Alok has been extremely supportive of all Sue's and the School's achievements over the last few years.

* A departmental select committee examines the spending, administration and policy of the specific department and related public bodies. It consists of members from all the major parties in the House. A Select Committee therefore holds the Government to account.

Monday, 16 May 2011


After all the build-up to the Local Elections, I've felt that annual limbo and loss of urgent purpose common to many politicians. It is more pronounced this year as Reading Borough Council is in no overall control. Nobody knows who will form the new administration, nor what job each councillor will have.

Bizarrely the town's future lies in the hands of Cllr White who has 1 year's experience on the Council and his newly elected colleague Cllr Eastwood.

I am happiest when busy, so in this lull I've decided to start my blog. I'll use it to pass on news and my own views, as well as specific information about my council roles and Thames Ward, which I represent.