Tuesday, 27 August 2013

East Reading School: Site Bought By Council


Labour controlled Reading Borough Council has secured a site which could accommodate a new secondary school for 11 to 16 year olds on land at Crescent Road in East Reading.

Current projections are that by 2017 secondary school in Reading will be full for those starting secondary education . The Council is therefore moving now to buy the freehold of the key Crescent Road site which could provide a new school to help cater for the rising demand.

The location means that children at the school would have access to playing fields and the opportunity to share resources with both neighbouring Alfred Sutton Primary School and, it is hoped, the new University Technical College (UTC). The proposed new school would also fulfil Reading Borough Council’s ambition for a new secondary school which caters for 11 to 16 year olds. The proposal to make the UTC an 11 to 16 year old college was rejected by the Department for Education (DfE) when it was put forward by the Council in 2011.

The purchase of the Crescent Road site was approved at a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee on July 15.

John Ennis, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Education, said: “Despite having to make savings of approximately £40m over the next few years, children’s education remains a key priority within the spending plans of the council. By securing this site, which could accommodate a new secondary school, the Council is taking a big stride towards addressing the concerns of parents in East Reading.

“The Council was clear at the time that while we welcomed the UTC to Reading, we also thought it should open its doors to children from the age of 11, rather than just from the age of 14 as is currently the case. Unfortunately the Council’s proposals on this were turned down by the Government but I’m pleased to say that a proposed new school would fill that gap and hopefully help to reassure parents who would have been understandably concerned.”

During the Autumn of 2012 a group of local parents in East Reading submitted a bid to open a Free School serving the local community using a site other than Crescent Road. That bid was turned down by the DfE in the bidding round in March 2013, but the need for additional school places in East Reading remains. Now that the Council has secured the Crescent Road site, the route for a new school in East Reading is again likely to be the Free School option.

Cllr Ennis added “The Council is willing to work closely with any parent group in East Reading that may want to help take this forward and I would be happy to sit down with parents to have that discussion.”

A national shortage of school places in being mirrored in Reading. Latest Census figures show a population explosion of 34% in Reading of children aged 0-4 years old. This is the second highest rise in the whole of the South-East since 2001.

Ongoing economic difficulties also mean that young families that would traditionally move out of central Reading into the suburbs and into larger properties, are now remaining where they are. This is placing a significant added burden on school places in Reading.


 As I reported on the public meeting held on 27 September 2012 Cllr Isobel Ballsdon disclosed that the current Reading East MP Rob Wilson was "60% there" in plans for a new 11 to 16 school for east Reading. Well, nearly twelve months on Wilson, Ballsdon and their Tory cronies have achieved nothing of substance.

Meanwhile Reading's Labour council has taken positive action to move a new secondary school a big step closer.

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