Friday, 28 September 2012

UTC Update

What is the subject that causes the most heat in Park Ward and East Reading? It is the provision of school places for East Reading's children and so it was to discuss the subject that about 100 people gathered in Alfred Sutton's main hall last night.

Passions rose as the meeting, led by Cllr John Ennis, described the coming shortages in junior school and senior school places. Residents passions bubbled over in to anger when Conservative Councillor Isobel Balsdon, never known for her comfortable relationship with the public, tried to score political points while speaking on behalf of Rob Wilson MP. Passion became anger when Cllr Balsdon announced that our MP was secretly negotiating with a "provider" for a school for 11-16 year olds to be built "somewhere" in East Reading. That anger doubled when she stated that she was not at liberty to tell us anything else because of "bad publicity. Balsdon is well remembered by Park and Redlands residents as the Cllr who most vehemently supported Wokingham's plans to exclude Reading children from Maiden Erleigh School.

Cllr Ennis and Chief Education Officer Kevin McDaniel calmly presented the issues in East Reading of pupil place shortfall. In short Reading has seen a 34% growth of the 0-4 cohort from 2001 to 2011 and from 2014 will be short 12 classes at reception and the area will be short 16 classes at year 7.  The £25m spent by Reading on its junior schools in expanding class provision will deal with this problem in the Junior/Primary sector, however it is at Secondary level that there are larger problems, which brought the meeting to the subject of Rob Wilson's UTC on Crescent Road.

The above map shows the way that the "Alfred Sutton" site on Crescent Road is divided.

A1 and A2 is the land that belongs to Alfred Sutton Primary School.
A3 is the site of the childrens' centre on Hamilton Road
B1 and B2 is the site of the UTC
C1 and C2 is the part of the site owned by a developer

The temper of the meeting was that the UTC is going to happen, it will only take children aged between 14-19, but since it is going ahead we should work with it. Kevin McDaniel advised that because of its catchment area and age range it may have only a minimal effect on Reading's shortage of secondary places.

What is worrying is the fact that the Sports Hall and Tennis Courts is under the threat of development. The covenants on the land mean that it can only be used for education, unless there is no educational use for the land. Cllr Ennis explained that RBC would like to put either a 2 form primary school on the site or Secondary School. Both these ideas would need funding, and while he stated that the council was looking at borrowing to build, Government rules dictate that the option of Free School has to be muted as a first step and only when this step has been exhausted can the Council step in. There are also issues of density and making it fit it with the general area. The meeting agreed that it did not want to see housing on the site, however could not agree what it wanted.

Cllr Ennis and Kevin McDaniel both said that this morning was the beginning, not the end of the process. They both asked residents to give them their views, either directly at the meeting, or by taking part in the consultation process that will start on the 15th Oct.

So what do you think should be done with the area C1 and C2, school? something else? Whatever your opinion please take part in the consultation. When the link is up I will post it to help this.

If you want to tell me your opinion please comment below (note all comments will be moderated)

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