My name is Isobel Ballsdon. I represent Mapledurham Ward. I am joined by Cllr Ed Hopper who is one of the three councillors for the neighbouring Thames ward.
We have called this meeting to hear the views of Thames and Mapledurham ward residents. Tonight was the first possible opportunity to hold this meeting.
Before I go into our objectives I would like to thank the church wardens who have been incredibly supportive and gone to a lot of trouble to prepare for the meeting. As I was given a reduced rate to hire the church I hope you will consider making a donation towards the church's funds. Gift Aid envelopes are available to increase the value of your donation if you so wish and the donations bowl is at the back of the church.
The objective in the first instance is to listen to your views about the news on 5 June that the Education Funding Agency has bought the site on Upper Warren Avenue for the permanent home of The Heights primary school.
In addition we hope to be able to provide answers to some of your questions. Anything we can’t answer we will take away and put to the relevant authorities.
To explain the process by which the point has been reached where the EFA has purchased the site
(i) A group of wonderful and inspirational residents made a detailed bid for a primary free school to serve the west of Caversham
(ii) (ii) The DfE determined through consultation, including consultation with the Council, that there was a justifiable demand for a school in the Heights catchment area and, having satisfied themselves that there was indeed a demand, they then instructed the EFA to find and purchase a site within the catchment area.
The EFA is an independent arm of the DfE and has not consulted with the councillors or the MP or the council, though they will have asked the Council if they owned any land in the catchment area which they were prepared to offer.
We hope it may be possible for us as a community to work towards a shared goal: namely to deliver the primary school that a generation has needed and that generations to come will benefit from, to ensure our community thrives.
In attendance we have:
Kevin McDaniel - Head of Education, Reading Borough Council (RBC)
Cllr John Ennis - The Labour administration’s Lead for Education, RBC
Dan Pagella - The Heights primary school, parent group’s land adviser
Karen Edwards - Head teacher, The Heights
Mark Richards - Chair of Governors, The Heights
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) does not send representatives to attend public meetings before it has information on which to consult, eg outline plans to share about any free school project.
To ensure transparency for the planning process, Reading Borough Council is not sending representatives from Highways nor Planning.
I am delighted that it has been possible for Rob Wilson, our local Member of Parliament, to join us tonight and he will be chairing the meeting."