Wednesday, 3 December 2014

National Award for Reading's Youth Offending Service

National Award for Reading’s Youth Offending Service

Reading Borough Council Press Release
READING Youth Offending Service’s work in reducing reoffending rates by improving young people’s literacy skills has been recognised in a national award.
The YOS team was given an Effective Practice award at the Youth Justice Conference on 19th November for their success with the Rapid English Communication Course – a software programme that is used by staff to help identify and overcome young people’s literacy problems. Reading was the first Local Authority to adopt the programme and has monitored its outcomes closely.
Reading currently has one of the lowest reoffending rates in the country. 73% of young people currently involved with the YOS team have not reoffended and the programme has been used to enhance initiatives to reduce reoffending.
Sessions do not seek to replace mainstream education; the young people taking the course have often been out of mainstream education for a long time. Instead, the programme covers areas of communication that are relevant to the young people: speaking and listening for interview situations and formal settings such as panel meetings; constructing sentences and paragraphs for CV building and for confident expression and reading; and writing, speaking and listening skills.
Reading's Lead Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Jan Gavin said:
“Reading’s Youth Offending Services team should be commended on finding a successful, accessible way to reduce re-offending rates at a time when services are under pressure because of Government budget cuts.
“The programme has obviously struck a chord with the young people involved and has given many of them the skills to turn their lives around.”

Learners Celebrate at Children's Centre

Learners Celebrate at Caversham Children’s Centre

Reading Borough Council Press Release
A GROUP of parents has successfully completed a childcare qualification while their children have had fun learning at Caversham Children’s Centre.
Over the past two years, the Caversham Children’s Centre has supported learners in working towards Levels 2 and 3 NVQ Awards in Childcare by providing New Directions classes and a crèche facility on site.
While their parents studied, the children were also learning as the crèche uses the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework to promote and chart child development.
Their achievements will be celebrated on Friday 12th December – the last day of the Caring for Children course – with a special event at the Children’s Centre. The children will be presented with their very own ‘learning journey’ – notes and photographs that document their development during their time at the crèche - while everyone will enjoy juice and cake.
Lead Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Jan Gavin said:
“Congratulations to the parents and children at Caversham Children’s Centre who have been involved with this learning initiative. It is a great example of how Children’s Centres offer families resources and support that they can use to make positive changes in their lives.”


New Town Primary School Ofsted report published

New Town Primary School Ofsted Report Published

Reading Borough Council Press Release
NEW Town Primary School is working closely with Reading Borough Council to address the issues raised in a recent Ofsted inspection.
The East Reading school was judged as inadequate after an inspection in October and has been placed in special measures. Concerns were raised about the gap in attainment between groups of pupils that is not closing rapidly enough, teachers’ expectations of pupils being too low and governors not holding the school’s leaders to account over the standard of teaching.

Ofsted found that pupils’ behaviour was inadequate and that “attitudes to learning are not well established” although the children were commended for playing and working together amicably.

Inspectors reported that “the curriculum meets the needs of pupils and contributes adequately to their social, moral, spiritual and cultural development”, but teaching was found to be “not always appropriately challenging.”

New Town Primary will now work on improving teaching and learning, pupil progress and behaviour, and leadership, management and governance of the school. It is being assisted by Reading Borough Council through additional resources to support the school from its advisory teams and from other good and outstanding Reading schools.

The inspectors, who observed 17 lessons and held talks with staff, governors, pupils and parents, did also pinpoint a number of strengths.

The report highlighted how the newly appointed executive headteacher and the head of school have worked together on analysing and identifying what needs to be done to raise standards. Staff were found to be supportive of the “renewed drive to improve the school”. Inspectors noted that behaviour is “showing signs of improvement” after the “important changes … that have been made” by the school.

Reception and Nursery teachers were also commended on a recently renewed emphasis on the developing children’s communication and speaking skills.
Mrs Angharad Brackstone, Executive Head Teacher said:

“The findings reflect the challenging journey the school has been on, but recognise that the school is now in a much stronger position to move forward and make improvements. It recognises the positive change in Leadership which took place recently which means the school is now correctly identifying the key issues, and addressing these rigorously.”

Malcolm Morrison, Chair of Governors added:

“The school has been through a number of important changes over the past year. The governors are confident that the plans for future improvement are soundly-based and will be effective in raising standards.”

Lead Member for Education, Cllr John Ennis said:

“At a time when 80% of Reading schools under Local Authority control are now rated as being good or outstanding – a figure that tallies with the national average – this report is obviously disappointing.

“We are committed to driving up standards in education for all children across the Borough, which is why we will be working with New Town Primary to implement a comprehensive range of actions to improve performance.

“We will be closely monitoring progress to help turn the school around.”


Monday, 1 December 2014

Tory failure ahead of the Autumn Statement

Today: Tory failure ahead of the Autumn Statement

The Tories’ failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis has helped cost the Exchequer £116.5 billion – leading to higher borrowing and broken promises on the deficit.

The price tag, equivalent to almost £4,000 for every taxpayer, is based on new research from the House of Commons Library being published by the Labour Party.

This shows that low pay and stagnant salaries, combined with soaring housing costs and the failure to tackle root causes of increased welfare bills, means that over the course of this Parliament:
• Income tax receipts have fallen short of forecasts by more than £66 billion.
• National Insurance Contributions are £25.5 billion lower than expected.
• Spending on social security is £25 billion higher than planned.
‎Building a recovery that works for everyday people is the real test of the Autumn Statement. But that isn't a separate priority from tackling the deficit. Building a recovery that works for most people is an essential part of balancing the books.

Britain's public finances have been weakened by a Tory-led Government overseeing stagnant wages which keep tax revenues low‎.

Ed Miliband's priority as Prime Minister will be tackling that cost-of-living crisis so that hard work is properly rewarded again, so that our children can dream of a better future, so that our public services including the NHS are safe.

Background - facts on Tory failure
• The most recent Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings found that in the last year, full-time wages grew by just 0.1% – the smallest rate of annual growth since the series began and well below the rate of inflation.
• Real wages have fallen more in the last year than they did in the previous two years while real median wages for all employees have fallen by more than £1,600 a year since 2010.
• Over the course of this Parliament working people are set to see the biggest fall in wages of any Parliament since 1874-1880. And it’s set to be the first time since the 1920s that people are worse off at the end of the Parliament than they were at the beginning.
• There are currently 4.9 million workers earning less than the living wage – a figure that has increased from 3.4 million in 2009 – and a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that around 60% of those who moved into work in the last year are paid less than the living wage.
• There are currently more than 1.3 million people working part-time because they can’t get a full-time job – an increase of almost 250,000 since the General Election. This failure for people to be able to work the hours they need means they are ever more reliant on tax credits and benefits to help make ends meet.
• The Office for National Statistics calculates that there are 1.4 million zero-hours contracts in the economy and in some companies they have become the norm.

To read Labour's full pre-Autumn Statement briefing document, "Tory Britain: Squeezing the middle not the deficit", click here.

Today: George Osborne's spin on the NHS has already unravelled

George Osborne has not found an extra £2 billion for the NHS, as he claims, but instead is proposing to recycle funds already in the Department of Health budget. This is crisis cash because of the fragile financial state of the NHS after the Government’s £3 billion reorganisation.

The Chancellor's spin is of no help at all to an NHS in real crisis now. George Osborne is offering nothing to ease the pressure this winter and only false promises for the future. This will only reinforce the view that David Cameron and George Osborne simply can’t be trusted with the NHS.

Labour’s plan is fully funded and will give the NHS £2.5bn a year over and above the plans left by this Government.

Key messages

Labour has set out a new plan for Britain's future, a plan that works for ordinary families, rewarding the hard work they do and saving the NHS they rely on.

The Tories can’t build a better future for working people because they stand up only for a privileged few. With the NHS going backwards and a recovery which works just for a few, working people can’t afford five more years of David Cameron.

You can’t trust Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. They broke their promises and have been too weak to stand up to the Tories.

UKIP can't stand for working people: they're more Tory than the Tories, a party made up of Tory people, promoting Tory policies, bankrolled by Tory donors.

For additional briefing, please contact

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Whilst many residents in Reading are enjoying rising living standards in high skilled employment many residents and families are stuck in a poverty trap of low wages and increasing benefit cuts. Reading Borough are attempting to do everything it can to mitigate national government policy to squeeze working families and people on benefits. Below is a press release detailing what RBC is doing to alleviate poverty in families and individuals living in Reading.

Fighting to Bridge Gap between Rich and Poor

Reading Borough Council Press Release
THE GAP between rich and poor in Reading is highlighted in a new Council report which also sets out a strategy for tackling the causes and effects of poverty.
The report, called Tackling Poverty in Reading Strategy, will go to the Council’s Policy Committee on Monday, December 1.
It gives details of the extent of poverty in Reading and describes a range of measures that the Council, in partnership with other organisations in the town, plans to take - and is already taking - to tackle the problem.
The strategy has four aims:
• To improve the life chances of less well-off people
• To maximise the income of people who can’t work or are on low incomes
• To increase the employability and address low income by improving the skills of less well-off people and helping them into work
• To create sustainable communities and improve the quality of life of people living in them
The Council and its partners will carry out the strategy through a number of specific actions.
They will work to improve the life chances of children from less well-off backgrounds by:
• Broadening the skills and resources of partner organisations that work on developing young people’s communication skills
• Increasing attendance at two-year health reviews
• Raising awareness of services for families
• Supporting schools to improve standards further
They will help maximise the income of less well-off people by:
• Giving better support and training to people on claiming the benefits to which they are entitled
• Running a benefits take-up campaign to encourage residents to claim these benefits, especially older people, less well-off people who are working and disabled people
• Developing a digital inclusion plan that makes sure less well-off people aren’t left behind as more and more services are delivered online
They will help create sustainable communities and improve the quality of life of people living in them by:
• Improving communications about the help available from various agencies
• Developing training sessions that will help agencies work together
• Supporting the government’s fuel poverty strategy by draught-proofing and insulating homes and providing funding to do so
• Continuing the Financial Crisis Support Scheme until March 2016
• Working with Community Savings and Loans Berkshire to provide money management education for parents and children
• Increasing the visibility of credit unions
• Continuing to work with Stop the Loan Sharks to protect residents from illegal lenders
They will increase employability and address low income, by:
• Giving opportunities and support for volunteers engaged in helping people into employment
• Providing joined-up support that will help young people into work
• Training to build up people’s skills in applying for jobs
• Building on successful schemes helping people back to work, such as those offered to lone parents by New Directions and SITE
• Encouraging and supporting employers to achieve Living Wage accreditation
• Working with the Living Wage Foundation to review all contracts the Council gives to outside organisations
• Educating residents on the benefits of contract hour employment
The Tackling Poverty Strategy will be unveiled following on from tReading’s recent Narrowing the Gap conference, which was held on Tuesday, November 18.
The event looked at ways of closing the gap between the lives of the well-off and the less well-off in Reading. More than 200 people, including representatives from community and voluntary groups, organisations and businesses, as well as private individuals, attended the conference.
Cllr Jo Lovelock, Leader of Reading Borough Council, said:
“Reading has weathered the recent recession comparatively well, but the gulf between the well off and people on low incomes in Reading continues to grow year on year and should be of huge concern to everyone.
“Reading Borough Council has suffered large and sustained cuts in Government funding in the face of a massive increase in demand for our services, particularly for those families and individuals who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to make ends meet. Whilst we cannot change government policy, it is important that we seek to provide the best possible, coherent, local response in order to support Reading’s residents.
“We are determined to focus the resources we do have on giving support where it is most needed, and we believe our new Tackling Poverty strategy will go some way towards achieving that. But the Council cannot tackle poverty alone and we will, as always, work with our many excellent partners on this vital programme.”

Notes for Editors:
Reading Borough Council’s partners in delivering the Tackling Poverty in Reading Strategy are: Reading Advice Network, Berkshire Community Savings and Loans; Elevate Reading partnership; The Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Breaking the Cycle of Poverty group; Reading UK CIC; Acre (Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality); Health and Wellbeing Board (Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Reading Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
Reading Borough Council Press Releases can be found online at

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Below is the press release for last week's excellent and valuable Narrowing the Gap event at the Town Hall where individuals, groups in the voluntary sector, churches, businesses and representatives of political parties met to discuss a way forward in narrowing the gap in Education, Health, Housing and Employment. At the Education Forum there was a firm commitment to prioritise focussing on ethnic groups such as African Caribbean children and white working class boys on pupil premium to ensure they do not fall behind other groups of children. Reading has prioritised children qualifying for the pupil premium in the school admissions policy and there is a scrutiny by councillors on best practice in narrowing the gap involving groups of children, including children on special educational needs.

Reading Working Together to Help Narrow The Gap

Reading Borough Council Press Release
COMMUNITY and voluntary groups, organisations, businesses and individuals came together at the Town Hall tonight (18th Nov) to join the Council in helping to find new ways of ‘Narrowing the Gap’ in Reading.
Nearly 200 participants attended Reading Borough Council’s community event, which this year focused on the theme of narrowing the gaps which continue to exist in the town.
People at the community event heard that whilst Reading – like many places in the south-east – had good levels of prosperity, the gap between those who were well-off and those who were on low incomes was getting bigger. Examples in Reading include a 700% rise in homelessness since 2009 -as property prices continue to soar and private rents become increasingly unaffordable - 10% of households living in fuel poverty, and the high number of children living in poverty in the town.
Doctor Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the Local Government Information Unit, gave a keynote address at the event on the challenges of the economic divide. He told the Narrowing the Gap audience of the day-to-day reality of people struggling to make ends meet and that poverty meant many people were ‘trapped in a cycle of ill health.’
Dr Carr-West said that while local Council’s like Reading were at the frontline of tackling poverty, the only way to really address the problem was by working together with community groups and organisations across the town. He said: “When it comes to narrowing the gap, I believe there is a huge amount local Government can do. There is even more we can do if we all do it together.”
Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock said:
“The gap between those people in Reading who are well off and those on low incomes continues to grow year on year. This is not just about levels of prosperity though, it is about the very real knock on effect on people’s lives in areas like housing, education and health.
“Reading has had to suffer sustained cuts in the funding it receives from Government and we are also dealing with a huge increase in demand for our services. We are nevertheless determined to focus our resources on making sure nobody is left behind. We hope that some of the actions which came out of tonight’s event can go some way towards achieving that.
“As always, we are very grateful to the great many community groups and individuals who come together every year to make these community events such a success.”
The Narrowing the Gap event featured a series of market place of stalls and discussion groups on the key themes of health, education, housing, care, neighbourhoods and employment. Participants were then asked to come up with outcomes for each of their groups. They were:
Health: Build on our assets; identify under-utilised resources; and make them available to the broader community / Invest in helping people to make informed choices and information sharing about opportunities.
Education: Success in education requires us all to play a part - schools, communities, families, practitioners and pupils. We need to come together more often / Holding high aspirations for every pupil is essential. Some parents find it difficult to express it - as a community we have to find a way to help them.
Housing: Build more homes in an innovative way / Better links with landlords and other agencies to raise awareness of homelessness prevention services and to identify the risk of homelessness
Care: Promote the wide range of opportunities to get involved in services which reduce loneliness / Improve information sharing and coordination between services so that people can be connected to the right support
Neighbourhoods: Provide support and practical skills on how best to organise in neighbourhoods / Identifying innovative ways to involve adults in their neighbourhoods through their children and schools and through other routes.
Employment: Deliver a joined-up process that is client-centred with the right help at the right time where information is shared and communicated consistently / Engage small, medium and micro businesses to develop best practice examples in training and upskilling of staff, and then sharing through peer-to- peer mentoring.

An action plan will be pulled together as a result of the Narrowing the Gap conference and the outcomes identified.

Notes for Editors:
For photos of the Narrowing the Gap event please call Reading Borough Council Press Office on 0118 937 2301.
Reading Borough Council Press Releases can be found online at

Monday, 24 November 2014

Rapidly improving Coley Primary celebrates Good Ofsted

“Rapidly Improving” Coley Primary Celebrates Good Ofsted Report

Ofsted has upgraded Coley Primary School’s rating from requires improvement to good after a recent inspection.

The report commends the school for its “rapidly improving” teaching, its strong leadership team and how all pupils achieve equally well.
Ofsted found that children entering the school’s nursery and reception had “skills well below the levels expected for their ages,” but that they “make good progress and that this provided a good start for Key Stage 1.” Despite this challenging start, inspectors recorded that “all groups of children achieved well and they made good or better progress, especially in reading and mathematics, and learn well in their lessons.”

Other highlights from the report include:
• Pupils’ positive attitudes and their good behaviour make a strong contribution to their learning
• Pupils who speak English as an additional language are making good progress
• The curriculum is well planned and provides a positive experience with rich opportunities for learning
• Children learn well as a result of the consistently good teaching, and by the end of Reception the overall progress children make is good. For some who have transferred from Nursery to Reception, their development in personal, social and emotional development is outstanding

Children told the inspectors that the school keeps them safe and that all groups of pupils get on well together. Ofsted praised the pupils for their good behaviour and noted how they are proud of their school.

Inspectors also commended the school on how it engages with parents, with support provided through reading, writing and phonics workshops. The school shares “imaginative resources” that parents can use at home and that Ofsted feel have “greatly helped build pupils’ confidence in lessons.”

For Coley Primary to achieve an outstanding rating in their next inspection, Ofsted recommended that the school work on marking and progress checking. Enhancing writing skills for all pupils and achievements for pupils with special education needs were also suggested by inspectors.

Chair of Governors, Julia Cottee said

“Governors are delighted that Ofsted has judged Coley Primary as being a Good school, after a sustained period of rapid and strong improvement, resulting in very impressive results at KS2 this year.
“We thank the staff for all their hard work and contribution towards ongoing school improvement and success under the leadership of our Headteacher, Mrs Pengelly.”

Cllr John Ennis, Reading’s Lead Member for Education said:

“This is an excellent result for Coley Primary and I would like to congratulate pupils, staff, parents and governors on their improved Ofsted rating.

“Thanks to the new headteacher and her staff, the school has succeeded in making the significant and far-reaching improvements that are recognised in this report.

“Coley Primary shows that a strong start in education can make all the difference to children’s lives.”

80% of schools under Local Authority control are now rated good or outstanding, which is in line with the national average.