Thursday, 11 April 2013

School places in Berkshire, my personal view - thankful that councils are picking up the pieces while national government fails

 I saw the following in the Local Government Daily news digest:

Solutions for school places
The BBC examines how councils in Berkshire are being forced to innovate to cater for the growing number of children starting school. In Windsor and Maidenhead, the council is searching for “non-traditional” buildings to use as schools. The idea comes from overseas, where examples of classrooms in buildings range from a disused porcelain factory in Denmark to a former naval base in America. Councillor Phillip Bicknell explained: “Maybe we could use an old church or any other building that you wouldn't necessarily think to have as a school.” Meanwhile, iWokingham, the council has granted planning permission for new primary schools in Winnersh, Wokingham and Charvil. Finally, ReadingBC plans to provide 300 extra primary school places this September through “additional reception classes in existing schools”.

Reading and indeed Berkshire is not alone in having to rise to the challenge (although our demand is particularly high).  What's pretty depressing is that the MPs, Cameron's men in Reading have either contributed nothing in one case and in another campaigned for one of the best opportunities for a school site to go to a 14-19 College that will take students from across the region.  Not a good use of limited resources, although now it's been approved I wish them all the best.

Meanwhile Michael Gove, who has the distinction of being the first and only Education Secretary to have a no confidence motion passed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (the National Union of teachers followed suit soon after), has spent more time tinkering iwth the curriculum and undermining moral of teachers than considering the very urgent issue of the rise in need for school places.  As the wife of a teacher I know that many many teachers are feeling undermined by the constant attacks from national politicians  despite a recent poll showing they are the second most trusted profession after doctors (and noticeably far ahead of politicians!).

From a personal point of view as a parent of two pre-school children I'm just grateful that we have a lead councillor for education like John Ennis who is passionate and committed to ensuring that all Reading children can get the best start and has put so much personal effort into the school places issue.