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: 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: 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.

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]