Thursday, 30 September 2010

How Not To Run a Consultation, How Not To Run a Meeting

Community Walk

A rainy Wednesday afternoon on the Wokingham Road, found a large group of wet residents who were marshalling together to march up to Maiden Erlegh school, to take part in the consultation meeting Wokingham had arranged to discuss the proposed changes to the Maiden Erlegh catchment area.

Issy and I standing in the rain holding up our banners

The weather was awful, but despite this the spirit of the group was fantastic, we chatted, laughed and looked forward to what would be a firey meeting. My youngest daughter was one of the main banner holders and my eldest was taking photos for the group. It is great to see them getting involved in a campaign that affects them both and about which they feel very strongly.

Before the meeting I was able to speak to Wokingham's lead councillor for Education, Matthew Deegan, who I had a useful conversation. Then I spent time putting residents' objections to Wokingham's Director of Childrens' Services Andy Cauldrick. They both assured me that they would answer the questions I put to them.

The meeting itself was a different matter all together. I have to say from an organisational point of view it was a shambles. There were about 400 people there and the council had not laid on any microphones for the speakers and those at the back couldn't hear properly. This did not help the assertive atmosphere, especially when it became clear that the proposal has been half baked and that hardly any children will benefit from the changes that Maiden Erlegh proposes.

When presented the plan itself is a shambles, the children who Wokingham are trying to help in the Southern part of Maiden Erlegh will be disadvantaged and our children will be completely excluded from Maiden Erlegh. It is clear that when the council began its consultation they did not include representatives from Reading and indeed not from Alfred Sutton School. This, I believe, is a breach of the Admissions Code and renders the proposal illegal.

The Officers, who were trying to present the plan, we confused and failed to convey why their plan was such a shambles. The elephant in the room is that the problem has been caused by the closure of Ryeish Green school and the Officers failed completely to admit that this was the reason for the perceived need to re write the school catchments even when this was obvious from the maps and documents that they were presenting.

In my view the meeting failed to answer questions and failed to provide any reassurance that our views will be listened to.  This makes fighting the proposal very important for all the parents of Park Ward. It is obvious that if Wokingham cannot be trusted to support Reading parents over Maiden Erlegh, they absolutely can't be trusted over Reading childrens' future in their schools. Therefore we will have to fight and keep up the pressure on the Council.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Community Drop In

Me talking to worried parents
Last night's meeting must count as one of the most successful community meetings that I have ever been to.

The parents' group of campaigners organised a community drop in meeting, where residents could ask questions or put their views about Wokingham's school catchment consultation.

The meeting opened at about 6pm and the last people came through the door at about 8.45. We packed up at around 9.15. I was talking solidly all that time. A surprise I am sure.....I guess that we had about 150-200 people walk through the door. Everyone I spoke to had a different concern, a differrent worry. The meeting had been so well organised that all of us who were giving advice were fantastically briefed and able to advise and give some assurance that we will campaign hard and forcibly.

The next community event is the community walk to the Consultation Meeting at Maiden Erlegh Wednesday 29th . Meet at 4.45 at the Fire Station Wokingham Road.

When the meeting came to an end we went for a well earned drink at the Roebuck. Aukland Road.

Us in the Roebuck after the meeting

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Presenting the Petition at Wokingham

Sophie McKenzie, former Maiden Erleigh pupil,
and I presenting the petition to the council
Presented the petition to Wokingham Borough Council this evening.

As of 5pm, the petition had 550 signatures, which probably represents more than 20% of all the households in South Park. A fantastic result.

In Wokingham, you make your speech, hand over the presentation and thats it, you do not get any feed back or counter presentations from Councillors or Officers, which is a little frustrating.

In my speech I pointed out that Wokingham are trying to split the community and that they are trying to exclude the children living closest to the school. At Wokingham you only have a minute to make your point, so I made my points quickly and asked the Council to soberly and clearly consider the objections and suggestions.

So on to the next item in the campaign, Parents' Drop in at the Park Hall, at the URC on the junction of the Wokingham Road and Palmer Park Ave, 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Please come, it will be great to hear your opinions and work with all the community to object to this proposal.

If you want to hear what I said, you should be able to hear it by clicking on this link Please excuse any mumbling, split infinitives or the small case of brain lock that occurs in the middle of the speech. You might have to save and play it rather than play direct from the web.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Latest Maiden Erlegh Update

I have just sent the attached letter to the Maiden Erlegh Campaign database.

Richard McKenzie

63a Hamilton Road

07739 801929

Dear Neighbour

As promised please find below an update on the Maiden Erlegh consultation

Dates for Your Diary

Presentation to Wokingham Borough Council of the Petition.

Wokingham does not have a Council meeting in October, so the Petition, which now contains over 530 signatures in the paper and online form, will be presented to the Council. If you are available please meet at Wokingham Borough Offices, Shute End, at about 7.10pm for a photograph. The petition will be handed over at 7.30pm.

Consultation Drop In Meeting: Park Church Hall Friday 24th September

Come and discuss your issues and ask questions about the consultation. There will be members of the Parents and Residents group who will be available to answer your questions and help you fill out the online consultation form. The drop in meeting will take place at the Park Church Hall at the Park URC church, which is at the junction of Palmer Park Ave. and the Wokingham Road. The meeting will take place between 6.30 and 9.30. This will be a great opportunity to express your concerns and meet other like minded parents.

Wokingham Consultation Meeting: Maiden Erlegh School Friday 29th September 5.30-7.30pm

This is our main opportunity to express our opinions to Wokingham Borough Council. We hope that as many parents as possible from the affected area of Park Ward will be able to attend. We would like as many people as possible to walk to the consultation together as a community walk. This will really show Wokingham that we are together and determined. If you would like to walk up to the consultation together, please meet outside the Wokingham Road Fire station at 4.45pm. This will give us enough time to gather together then walk together to the school.

Consultation Document

Wokingham has produced a shorter version of the consultation. This can be downloaded from their website at:


The petition is still getting signatures, as I said above it now has over 530 signatures, but it would be great if when it is presented to Reading Borough Council in October it had more. If you know people who would still like to sign it, please forward this mail to them. The link is: If you would like hard copy sheets for your neighbours to sign please email me and I will forward a sheet for you to print off.


For updates and comments there has been a new website established:

Thank you for your support and I look forward to seeing you on soon.


Richard McKenzie

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

I keep saying that campaigners need to take a break from the constant effort of campaigning. So on Thursday I took some of my own medicine and took an evening off to play some jazz at a dinner held to mark the start Wycliffe's Alpha Course.

We had a hot group, guitar, double bass, drums and me on my tenor sax. Should have sounded great, except that when we ook the stage I discovered that my sax had been knocked over and instead os a relaxing evening playing, I was faced iwtht he music starting and no instrument to play. Very nerve wracking.

I had to leg it in to a back room twiddle with the knobs to get my sax going and managed to get back on stage just as my solo was about to start. This was the first time I have every got a cheer before playing a note or speaking a word. While I was very rattled we got through the session and got quite an ovation at the end.

There were over 50 people at the dinner, not a huge audience, if you are used to playing in public, but a huge one when your instrument fails. All of them there, I guess, because they wanted to discuss what Christianity means and what it is, or isn't. I hope they enjoyed themselves and keep with the course.

If you are interested in Alpha, there is still space and if you click here you will end up at the Wycliffe website with contact details.

So break over back to work.......

Friday, 17 September 2010

Wokingham Need To Buy a Tape Measure

Wokingham need to purchase themselves a new measuring device.

A good friend has plotted the distances of the roads in Park South from Bulmershe and Maiden Erlegh to understand Wokingham's claim that South Park's children would have a shorter walk to school if they went to Bulmershe.

By comparing distances, he has found that, apart from one small part of the ward, every road is closer to Maiden Erlegh than Bulmershe.

So what can we conclude? Is Wokingham being malicious? Is it confused? Or does it need a more powerful tape measure........?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Tories, true colours seen

Now we know what Wokingham's Tories really think, with a rallying cry of Earley schools for Earley's children they bend the truth and try and exclude Reading's children. I especially like the part where they say that Park's children would have a shorter walk to Bulmershe, let me think, erm Melrose  to Maiden Erlegh, 10 min walk, to Bulmershe, 30-40mins.....or Hamilton Road to Maiden Erlegh, 20 min walk to Bulmershe 40-50mins... Lies, damn lies and Tory leaflets... I publish the leaflet for your amusement

What I suggest Park residents and parents of children at Alfred Sutton, St Peter's and other local schools do is that they phone the numbers of the councillors and the email of their office to complain.

Earley's Tory Councillors, and especially Paul Swaddle, who I used to consider a friend, you should be ashamed of yourselves. If you want to email the document to friends or back to their office, you can download the document here

Monday, 13 September 2010

Maiden Erlegh Catchment - The Plot Thickens

Well, well, well Maiden Erlegh might be making the whole catchment issue more complicated by apparently applying for academy status. Above is an extract of the parents letter sent to all ME parents at the begining of this term. Dr Thomas, claims that the Governors are thinking about Academy status.

If granted the catchment area would remain the way it was if Academy status was granted, which could work on the side of the campaign. If they are just thinking about it, then the application would probably not affect what Wokingham is doing. If they have applied then this probably would affect things.

OK so far so good, however a quick search on the internet reveals that Maiden Erlegh appears to have already applied for Academy status and therefore may receive the status before the end of the process.

The details of the application can be found here to see the document click at this text:

A list of applications from mainstream schools to convert to academy status as of 31 August is available to download as a PDF document.

Its a bit complicated however you then need to use the search function to look for Maiden Erlegh.

So in conclusion what can we see:

a. The Head at Maiden Erlegh appears to be holding back on the truth about the application
b. The campaign needs to double its efforts to ensure that the catchment area doesn't change before Academy status is granted.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

5 Reasons For Objecting to Wokingham's Proposals

Just come back from a very very good meeting made up of Parents from the area and Councillors.

The discussion ranged around the following points.

1. Would RBC support parents in their fight with Wokingham Borough Council.

2. What are the best objections to use in any letters to Wokingham

3. The next campaigning steps

Will RBC support parents ?

I am pleased to say that Ward Councillors seem to be behind parents. The lead councillor for Education was there and he promised to look at the issue closely. We the parents were very strong in our view that Reading must make a strong statement of support.

How should parents object ?

The meeting developed 5 reasons for objecting to the proposal. These are:

1. Maiden Erlegh currently serves an area that is made up of many cultures, religions and nationalities. The Wokingham plan seeks to exclude this area and therefore will prevent the school from reflecting the make up of the area in the immediate vicinity of the school.

2. The Wokingham plan misunderstands the geographical area of Erleigh. It claims that only the Wokingham side of the Erleigh crossroads is Erleigh, while both sides of the cross roads are part of Erleigh and have RG6 postcodes.

3. The proposal suggests the opportunity to have a shared catchment for both Maiden Erlegh and Bulmershe in the Wokingham area but not in the Reading area. This goes against logic and natural justice.

4. Most importantly the plan seeks to remove the children who live closest to the school for the benefit of those that live furthest away. In removing the Reading children, the plan attempts to stop children going to a school that they can walk to one where more children will be driven to.

5. The proposals seek to remove parental choice.

These can be found here

Next Campaigning Steps

The group had come up with an innovative way of informing and discussing the issue with the local community. They have proposed holding a "drop in" meeting where residents can ask questions and get help in understanding the consultation, which has been written in legalise. This date is still to be decided, but will probably be the week after next at the Park Church Hall. Will confirm when I know.

The Petition

Support for the petition continues to grow, as of 17.00 this evening we have received over 450 signatures. This figure continues to grow. I was pleased to see that Erleigh St Peter's school have publicised it and I hope that Alfred Sutton will do so as well.


What was most interesting was a leaflet that the Tories had produced in Wokingham. It makes many claims but fundimentally argues Erleigh's schools are for Erleigh's children. Now we know what their real agenda is and now we see how hard we, parents, politicians and the schools, will have to fight to defeat this.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Wokingham Publishes Its Consultation

Just spent an interesting morning chatting to Rob White about the campaign to prevent Maiden Erlegh from changing the catchment area for Maiden Erlegh.

While we were talking I received an email which confirmed that Wokingham have finally published the consultation.

It can be found here

Please read it as soon as poss and comment to Wokingham by the 31st October.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Maiden Erlegh Update

I have just sent this email to all those who responded to the Maiden Erlegh petition. Incase I have missed your email. I publish it here for your information


Maiden Erlegh Catchment Area Update 1
Dear Neighbour
The campaign to force Wokingham Borough Council not to change the catchment area of Maiden Erlegh school is starting to gain momentum.

Over the weekend about 90% of all the houses in the area have been leafleted, with the balance being completed by Wednesday.Over the weekend I worked with Labour colleagues to knock on approximately 60% of all the doors in the area to ask residents to sign the petition. You will be pleased to hear that the majority of the people we spoke to wanted to sign the petition.
In an interview on BBC Berkshire a Wokingham Officer commented that the proposal was not a "done deal" so it is very important that we bring as much pressure to bear as possible. I am pleased that the local councillors have joined us in the fight and I look forward to them bringing Reading Borough Council on board.

What is Planned

I have been talking to officers in Wokingham and Reading. Wokingham’s plan seems to be as follows:

1. Reading children to be excluded from Maiden Erlegh from Sept.2012

2. There will be protection for siblings allowing them to follow their brother or sister to Maiden Erlegh

3. The exclusion will affect all children, including those that attend Earley St Peters

4. They propose Bulmershe as the Secondary School for all East Reading children

5. Their consultation will take place in Sept-Nov and the final decision being made in April 2011

This should be available on the Wokingham website from Tuesday or Wednesday. It will be found at please read it as soon as possible.

Consultation Meetings

It appears that Wokingham are planning to have 2 consultation meetings ; one on the 29th Sept and another on the 6th Oct. The location has yet to be agreed.

Writing Letters

We need as many people as possible to write to Wokingham Borough Council with their objections. Letters should be written to:Schools Admissions Consultation, Wokingham Education Dept. Education & Cultural Services, Wokingham District Council, PO Box 156, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1WN Tel: 0118 974 6000 Fax: 0118 974 6103

I would be grateful if you could copy me on your letter so that we can judge the level of letter writing.

Please forward this mail to your neighbours so that they can sign the petition if they haven’t been able to do this yet.


Thank you to all those who have volunteered so far if you would like to help and deliver leaflets etc, please come back to me.

Thank You

Thank you for your support so far, we will only win if as many people as possible make their feelings known and please feel free to forward this mail on to your neighbours and friends.

Best Regards

Richard McKenzie

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Maiden Erlegh Petition - The Star Campaigner

The Maiden Erlegh campaign is starting to get in to its stride now, I, with 2 other Park Ward residents, was interviewed on BBC Berkshire and 107FM also interviewed me this week.

We are getting round the area with a leaflet which explains the situation and asks residents to sign the petition against the change of catchment boundaries. If you haven't had a moment to sign yet the link is here.


Many Labour Party members have been out knocking on residents' doors asking the neighbourhood to get behind this campaign and I am pleased to say we are getting very very good support.

The star campaigner is my daughter, Isabelle, who on Friday leafleted a huge area, in fact if you have had a leaflet it is probably her who delivered it. She did about 10 roads without complaining. She did so well that I took her to the pictures as a reward.

Andrew Peach and I discussed the issue on his show on Friday on BBC Berkshire and you can listen to his show here I am on at about 3.32, if you listen all the way through you will also hear the views of 2 residents and a spokesman from Wokingham. She is on at 1.07.

The Wokingham Spokeswoman, gives me the impression that the Borough has made up their mind, however, significantly she does say that the decision is not set in stone and we as residents and parents of children living in the APS area need to get together to make her change her mind.

So the campaign continues, the consultation is going to be issued on Monday and we all need to read it, understand the full implications of what is being considered and ight hard to make Wokingham change its mind.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Hands Off The Maiden Erlegh Catchment Area


Wokingham Borough Council has really gone and done it now, it has decided to change the catchment area for Maiden Erlegh School to exclude children attending Alfred Sutton Primary School from September 2012.

Under this proposal all children who are currently in Year 5 and below would be excluded and have to attend another secondary school, despite the fact that Maiden Erlegh has been the traditional secondary school attended by Alfred Sutton Primary School for more than 20 years.

Wokingham have decided to open a consultation on the 6th September and hold a public meeting at the end of September or the beginning of October. They will put their full proposals up on their website on the 6th. It is vital that parents, grandparents and residents living in Park make their voice heard. Wokingham has made a number of attempts over the last 10 years to exclude Alfred Sutton Parents from Maiden Erlegh and a concerted campaign has always made them back down.

What can you do.

1. Sign our petition. We have put up an e-petition on line which you can access by clicking here

2. Write to the Wokingham Education Dept. Education & Cultural Services, Wokingham District Council, PO Box 156, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1WN Tel: 0118 974 6000 Fax: 0118 974 6103. Write expressing your concern and demanding that Alfred Sutton School children remain within the catchment area.

I have contacted Wokingham already to ask them to reconsider and will be writing to them shortly. We have got good coverage to the story and I hope that we can get a good head of steam in the campaign and get them to change their minds.

Please support us and support Park's children by signing our petition and writing to Wokingham. When we have more information I will post it here.