Sunday, 30 January 2011

Maiden Erlegh Round Two

Last year Wokingham Council changed the catchment area, unfairly saying the Reading children could no longer go to Maiden Erlegh Secondary School. Reading is next to Wokingham, for some children it was there closest school.

The Council looked at the proposal and changed it. Instead they have decided they want to prioritise those from Lower Earley, so those living closest to the school can't get in. It does seem a bit strange. This is the result of years of poor planning, building houses with no school provision.
More maps here
I must declare an interest, I have family living close to the school, they could be hit by this.

A campaign group has sprung up on facebook with a website here. Letters to reach Wokingham by Valentines Day. How romantic.

Following the closure of Ryeish Green there has been a need to review the admissions arrangements. However, the informal consultation and this formal consultation have shown that there is no quick and easy answer to the problem of school places and their distribution in Earley. It is clear that with this proposal there will be more losers than winners and I would urge Wokingham Borough Council not to implement this new catchment area and tie-breaker.

* History and Community: This will divide our community which surrounds the school, with some getting in and others not. In time, Maiden Erlegh School will become detached from the community living on its door step, and serve a community which lives further away.

* Size of Designated Area: It makes no sense to enlarge a designated area so that it is massively too big for the school capacity (as confirmed by the Independent Review commissioned by WBC). If and when both schools are of the same quality and enjoy the same reputation, then and only then, does it make sense to have such a big shared catchment area. This proposal will lead to anxiety and stress for parents. It will also lead to huge numbers of appeals (at £200 a piece excluding Head Teacher time) which Maiden Erlegh will have to administer – at the taxpayers’ expense.

* Traffic and Safety: For parents who live less than one mile from Maiden Erlegh, they will have to let their children cross a dangerous, busy road and negotiate a narrow bridge over a railway and motorway to get to Bulmershe, all in darkness in winter. Those who can will drive their children, creating lots of congestion in the Three Tuns area. The idea that all Lower Earley children will walk to Maiden Erlegh is quite ridiculous. This will vastly increase the numbers of car journeys to Maiden Erlegh and increase the number of car journeys to Bulmershe.

It was clear from the public consultation meeting that both councils need to work far more closely together to develop a long term sustainable ten-year plan for school places in this part of East Reading and Wokingham. This must include:

* Investing in Bulmershe to improve its Ofsted Rating – look what has happened in recent years at Highdown and Prospect Schools. If Maiden Erlegh and Bulmershe schools both had a good rating or higher, you would not be faced with this difficult situation. Lower Earley parents would not be lobbying for spaces and East Reading and Earley residents would not be campaigning so hard against your proposals.

* Reviewing the grammar schools in Reading – particular their catchment areas. In the past these schools were only for Reading children. Now Kendrick does not even have a catchment area. I would suggest that there is at least some sort of quota for children who live locally – say within 30 minutes of the school.

In summary, I urge you to think again, put a stop to these proposals, work with RBC and come back to the table with a longer term and sustainable solution.

Letters to be sent to:
School Admissions Consultation, Wokingham Borough Council, Children’s Services, Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham, RG40 1WN
or online here

1 comment:

Adrian Windisch said...

There are sample letters on their website. The links are in the post.

I have quoted a personal letter in the blog. When I get internet acess (not just on a phone) I shall update.