Saturday, 27 June 2015

Residents Parking: Our No.1 Priority

Our No.1 priority this year

Residents are telling us they think it is time for us to have another look at a wide-area parking scheme for ‘old Redlands’. SO WE WILL.
Finding a parking space near our homes in Redlands is getting harder and harder!  Our narrow terraced streets are increasingly becoming an alternative free car park for the Royal Berks Hospital and Reading University. 
The hospital has planning permission to build on the staff car park on Addington Road and government plans for 7 day working in the NHS will only add to the daily pressure of patients, visitors and workers looking for somewhere to park.
With the University also introducing ‘Pay & Display’ in their visitor car parks, we believe that these developments can only mean it will get harder for residents to find somewhere to park near where you live every day of the week.
Three years ago residents in Redlands were asked if they wanted a wide area residents parking scheme. At that time there was not sufficient support for the council to introduce that plan.
We were against simply imposing the scheme without your support.
Redlands New Residents Parking Protection Area
However, since then, your Labour councillors have responded to requests from groups of residents and worked with them to introduce bespoke schemes which protect parking in their streets, at the times they need it, including in The Mount, New Road, Upper Redlands Road and Granby Gardens. 
We are currently working with residents in Marlborough Avenue and Eastern Avenue to find a solution to their parking issues.
So we are now working on some ideas for a wider Redlands plan to discuss with residents later in the summer. 
In the meanwhile, why don’t you email one of us, telling us which road you live in and whether you would like to consider a resident parking scheme for your road.  
Or log-on to our Facebook Page and leave a comment [] or write to us at Redlands Labour Party, 34 Morgan Road, RG1 5HG.
(This article was originally published in the June 2015 edition of "Redlands Matters" free newsletter)

Friday, 26 June 2015

Opinion: Schools In Reading

Whitley Park Primary School - Improving
READING has some great schools and, contrary to some impressions, the majority of the town’s children already attend good or outstanding teaching establishments. 

We also benefit from a real mixed economy of school types – community schools, voluntary aided church schools, schools which have converted to academies, as well as sponsor led academies and more recently the development of free schools.

It is also important to remember that Reading council has no direct control over any schools in the borough – these powers disappeared long ago when the local management of schools by heads and governors was introduced as part of the 1988 Education Reform Act.

Nevertheless, the council does still carry a range of statutory responsibilities for schools which include the strategic planning for the delivery of education services across the town, ensuring sufficient classrooms to meet demand, monitoring school attendance, supporting pupils with special education needs and delivering school improvement in academic achievement.

It is this last area which invariably is of interest to parents, particularly when armed with a report from the government’s assessment authority Ofsted about the school their daughter or son attends, or wants to attend. Many schools have some strengths and some areas which could be better, but in the end they are judged as being in one of four grades: outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.

It was therefore with some concern and dismay the council received the letter from the regional director of Ofsted in February this year which declared that we did not provide sufficient challenge or support to schools to assist them in improving their standards.

With this in mind the council has recently launched a new strategy which has the target of ensuring that by 2018 every child in Reading will attend a school that is good or better.

Some have already said that such an ambition is unrealistic. Well as Michelangelo said “The greatest danger is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it”.

At the heart of the plan is that teachers, heads and governors share their experiences and good practice with colleagues from other schools. There is growing evidence of where collaboration takes place standards improve, such as that in the cluster of schools in south Reading. I was delighted to hear of the progress made at Whitley Park school which has moved in the last eighteen months from being judged as inadequate to now being a good school: congratulations to all concerned!

We must be impatient to secure these improvements and if in 2018 we have not achieved our goal or come close to it, then I will pass the baton on to another.

(This article first appeared as an Opinion column in the Reading Chronicle on 25/5/2015)

Friday, 12 June 2015

Education In Reading: Public Consultation

AMBITIOUS plans to bring Reading within the top 25 per cent of local authority areas for educational achievement for youngsters are now out for consultation.

Schools have been looking at three draft documents which set out a vision for education in the borough and establish a clear set of aspirations and actions to achieve by 2018.

The proposals include the establishment of The Reading First Education Partnership which will work to ensure children and young people across the borough are given equal opportunity to achieve to their full potential.

The aims of the Educational Achievement and School Improvement Strategy by the end of the 2017/18 academic year include:
  •         Every child will attend a school, children’s centre or early years setting which is good or outstanding.
  •         Every school governing body is considered to be good or outstanding.
  •          There is a strong school to school improvement service which engages with every school in Reading.
  •          Every school is able to recruit high quality teachers for their children and all teaching will be consistently good or outstanding.
  •         70 per cent of our 16-year-olds achieving Level 2 equivalent of five A*-C  GCSEs including English and mathematics or equivalent.
  •          90 per cent of young people achieving A*-C in English and mathematics.
  •          Children with special educational needs, looked after children and youngsters from black and minority ethnic families will be in the top 25 per cent of their peers nationally.
  •          The number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) on leaving school will be among the lowest in the country.

Reading’s education strategy, which will sit within the council’s Corporate Plan, is contained within three draft documents:

·         Reading Raising Attainment Strategy 2015 – 2018 which sets out a vision for education in Reading, including placing the borough within the top 25 per cent of local authority areas for educational achievement for children and young people and for every school and early years setting to be good or outstanding by 2018.

·         School Standards in Reading which establishes the Reading First Education Partnership which includes Reading Borough Council, schools and other key partners such as the University of Reading.

·         Reading School Effectiveness Strategy 2014 – 2018 which proposes an assessment of the position and the targets of each school along with systems to track their progress.   
The documents are now available online at here for residents to read and give their comments by July 17th.

See also Education: A New Strategy For Reading

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ban The Estate Agent Boards Success

2012 - Setting Out Our Ambitions
The forest of "To Let" estate agents boards used to be a common sight in many of the old Victorian terraces in Redlands.

Many local residents were offended by this manifestation. The local Neighbourhood Action Group had also raised the issue with the council.

So it is good to report that this week local Labour councillors, NAG representatives and estate agents met in Reading Council's council chamber to review the progress made by the voluntary trial ban which had been undertaken in Redlands. All parties agreed that the plan had been a remarkable success with all but a few estate agents participating.

Now there are plans to continue the arrangements in the area, while other areas in Abbey and Park wards now seeking to copy what has been achieved in Redlands!

I am proud of the work undertaken by Jan Gavin, David Absolom and myself in ensuring this has been a priority in Reading Council and that our 2012 election promise has been delivered for residents in Redlands.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Conservation Areas Review

Reading Borough Council is to undertake a review of the options for future operations in conservation areas across the town.

The Mount - An important Conservation Area in Reading
Redlands has 7 of the 15 currently designated conservation areas across the town at:

  • Alexandra Road (established 2005)
  • Christchurch Road (1987)
  • Eldon Square (1972 - Reading's first conservation area)
  • Kendrick Road (2005)
  • Redlands Road (1991)
  • South Park, including Eastern Ave & Junction Road (1988)
  • The Mount (1987)

Please contact Tony Jones know if you have any comments or would like more information on these matters.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

UPDATE: Very many thanks for the feed-back from readers:

"The outcome will clarify future operations in selected conservation areas that might also have applications in higher density historical areas that are not conservation areas. It should benefit all residents in such areas." 

Click here for RBC reports on existing areas


Click here for the full written report which went to the Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee on 26 March 2015.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Berkshire Women's Aid: Plants, Cakes & Coffee

There will be a "Grand Plant Sale" - and cakes and coffee too! - this Saturday, 6 June, between 10.30am and 12.30pm in the garden of 37 Upper Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5JE.

This is a fund-raiser for Berkshire Women's Aid.

Learn more about BWA here.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Education: A New Strategy For Reading

Top of the In-Tray: A New Strategy for Reading

"Councillor Tony Jones was elected as the Lead Member for Education at the Reading Borough Council AGM on 27 May 2015.

The new Lead Member Tony Jones said "I would like to thank my predecessor Cllr John Ennis for all his hard work and endeavour in the cause of Reading schools and his personal support and encouragement to me to take on the challenge of supporting schools, students and families in this vital area of the council's work".

At the top of Tony's in-tray was a draft strategy for improving standards and raising attainment in schools in Reading in the years ahead.

Tony will launch a public consultation on the strategy on 5 June 2015 at a meeting of school heads and chairs of governors."