Wednesday 8 June 2011

City Status for Reading - Westminster Hall Debate

Alok Sharma MP
Reading West's Member of Parliament, Alok Sharma, secured a debate yesterday on Reading's bid for City status.

Alok spoke eloquently about Reading's many attributes including the excellent businesses; the leisure, shopping and sporting facilities (mentioning the Oracle, the Farmers Market and Madesjski Stadium), cultural (eg Reading Festival). 

He picked out the education establishments that are excellent in the town.  I was especially pleased by his comments about The Avenue School which teaches children with complex special educational needs and where I am chair of governors.  Alok said
"I have seen first-hand the work the staff do with pupils at the Avenue and it is truly outstanding.  A real benchmark of excellence for special schools up and down the country."
Rob Wilson, Reading East's MP, joined in the debate, carrying on the education theme
"According to DoE figures, Reading is the highest ranking authority for 'A' and 'AS' Level results. Of course this is nothing to do with the LEA, which has been consistently hopeless on education matters, but has much to do with Reading's two state grammar schools – Kendrick School for Girls and Reading School for boys.  Both consistently lead the country in exam results.  Reading School has been named as the best state school in the country by the Times.  I also have a crop of very fine independent schools in my constituency in the Abbey School, Queen Anne's and Leighton Park.
Reading is also taking advantage of new government policy, with Highdown becoming an academy and showing huge improvement.   I am hopeful that a bid in east Reading for a first class university school, backed by world class companies Microsoft, Cisco, BT and Blackberry, will be successful and lead to further improvement in the quality of education in Reading."
Neighbouring MPs John Redwood (Wokingham) and John Howell (Henley) also spoke.  They both wanted reassurance on behalf of their respective constituents that Reading's bid for city status would not threaten their boundaries before they felt able to give their unequivocal support to the bid. 

Mark Harper MP, Minister for Political & Constitutional Reform concluded the debate providing Redwood and Howell with the desired reassurance that
"The local authority is bidding for city status based on existing local authority boundaries. Nothing in what the Government will recommend to Her Majesty about city status will affect the powers that that town has. On that specific point, I hope that I have reassured by my hon."
You can watch the whole debate here