Matt Rodda (Labour MP for Reading East) took part in the debate in the House of Commons on Maintained Nursery Schools on Thursday 31 January, during which mentioned the Blagdon Nursery School in south Reading.
The debate was initiated by Lucy Powell (Labour MP for Manchester Central) who called on the government to safeguard the future of local authority nursery schools by guaranteeing transitional funding after 2020 whilst a long term plan to ensure their future viability is found.
Matt Rodda said [at 15:50]:
Many members [of parliament] have talked about the significant social value and budgets of these nurseries…
The three nurseries in Reading East – Caversham, New Bridge and Blagdon – have all been rated as outstanding in their Ofsted reports. I would like to describe to the minister [Nadhim Zahawi, under-secretary of state for education] what it is like to walk into those nurseries. What we find is a calm, ordered and pleasant environment where very young children are starting to learn, often through play. It is incredibly positive, upbeat and supportive, and these are some of the most disadvantaged children in our local community. I know well the Amersham estate, which serves Caversham Nursery. New Bridge Nursery serves an area nearby, and Blagdon serves an area in south Reading. There are considerable challenges for many families in those areas, and members have described those challenges.
In speaking of the funding pressures on the schools and suggested solutions, he said:
One possible way of solving the financial pressures that has been suggested to me is further joint working of the management team. Given that these schools are across quite a wide area, in a borough with severe traffic problems and a great deal of congestion, it would be extremely difficult for one leader, however able, to lead all five nursery schools.
He then went on to speak about Reading:
I wish to pass on to the Minister the practical challenges in our borough, which is a small unitary authority. It has a number of other educational challenges, which I will come on to later. It will face challenges if the nursery schools have to go down this route. As I am sure he is only too aware, Ofsted has pointed out for many years the overwhelming importance of strong leadership in turning round underperformance in educational institutions, whether they are nursery schools, schools or other institutions, and taking them forward to achieve the highest results and most outstanding education.
He continued and described how expensive it was to live in Reading and the recruitment problems that resulted from not being within the London or outer-London weighting area for salaries:
I want to give some of the context for Reading because it helps us to understand the particular pressure caused by the combination of deprivation and a high-cost area. It can be a very worrying combination for nursery schools and other parts of the public sector. As the Minister may know, in the Thames Valley and other high-cost areas – I do not dispute that many other parts of England, Wales and the rest of the UK face the same challenge – we have significant challenges in recruiting and retaining public sector professionals. In education, that is particularly felt. We also have a large growth in the school-age population. In the part of the borough of Reading that I represent, in the last few years, two new primary and two new secondary schools have been established. A further new secondary school will be established in the near future.
The debate can be seen on Parliament TV starting at 14:26; the commons chamber is rather empty!
Blagdon Nursery School on Blagdon Road in Church Ward was opened in 1937 and was Reading’s first purpose built nursery school. It has expanded since then and is one of ten south Reading schools in the Whitley Excellence Cluster.
- Blagdon Nursery School
- Blagdon Nursery School – Ofsted report
- Aspire 2 and the Whitley Excellence Cluster
- Hansard Online
- Parliament Online
- Parliament TV
- MP expenses at the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
- Matt Rodda homepage, Google search, at Hansard and They Work For You