Thursday 4 July 2013

Education & Excellence

Many parents in Reading have had a poor lot for far too long as far as education for their children is concerned.  An historic lack of strategic planning by the Labour-led Borough Council and a resulting shortage of places at the best schools has led to widespread parental dissatisfaction and many children forced to attend schools out of Reading.

Over a decade ago, on offer day, I remember how shocked I was not to be offered a place at either of my two local in-catchment primary schools for my son.  Both schools had good reputations, so my husband and I didn’t mind which we were offered, but to have no place whatsoever was alarming and unsettling.

After several anxious weeks, eventually our son was offered a place at our nearest local primary.  Naively we thought our school admissions problems were over.  However, after he started school the catchment areas were changed by the Council, so our younger child was unlikely to be able to go to her brother’s primary, even though we hadn’t moved house! 

Another parent and I then researched the town’s birth rate and proved the local schools north of the river were likely to continue to be oversubscribed every year.  We campaigned for siblings like my daughter to have protection and after some months, we were successful.  The Labour administration was forced to concede and correct this blatantly unfair admission rule.
My children in 2001

Generally however, even back in 2001 there was an annual problem of families in parts of the town failing to get places at their catchment school because of the Labour administration’s failure to deal with the evident lack of places.  It was also an era when too many Reading schools were failing to provide the quality of education expected by parents across the town.

My experience highlighted to me the importance of providing sufficient school places for children to be able to be with their older siblings in the same primary as each other, and of course for all schools to be offering a good standard of education. I became a Conservative Councillor because I was determined to do what I could to make this become a reality in Reading

It was the Conservatives on Reading Borough Council who supported my campaign back in 2001 and it is a Conservative-led Government which is now leading the way in allowing for more school places and for school improvement.  Where the Labour Council has failed to improve Reading’s schools and failed to build the new schools necessary to meet the demand, the Government’s reforms mean motivated and engaged parent groups, backed in some cases by specialist education providers, can address the shortfall.  This Government’s transformation of the education system is enabling the conversion of poorly-rated primaries into new academy primaries, the expansion of high performing existing schools and, where there is the demand, the opening of new free schools.

I believe a good education, which supports each child to reach their full potential and prepares them for adulthood, in a setting that best suits their individual needs, is what the vast majority of parents want and expect. 

From September 2013 teenagers will have the opportunity of going to the new East Reading University Technical College (UTC) where expertise from its IT and engineering sponsors will provide an up-to-the-minute education to complement the national curriculum.  Rob Wilson MP led the way in getting this exciting new type of school for Reading which elsewhere has engaged and energised students which the regular secondary system often fails to engage.

Also in September 2013 a new Free School for pupils with autism will open, filling a gap between main stream and special schools which will complement the Ofsted-rated “Outstanding” Avenue School Academy on the adjacent site.

In September 2014 the West Reading Education Network (WREN) Group is set to open a new secondary school in West Reading, with The Heights Group set to open a new primary school serving Caversham Heights.  Both are Free Schools which would not have been opened under any other Government; they will provide much needed capacity and are supported by a ground swell of parental and community support as well as their respective Conservative Members of Parliament.

Only the Conservatives have a track record of enabling parents to deliver choice and excellence in education. If you share our aspiration for a better education for all of our children in a school that suits their needs please join us in campaigning for more free schools and academies, free from the dead hand of Reading Labour Party’s control.