As we can see most of the work on converting the M4 Junctions 8/9 to 12 to a four lane smart motorway is now complete. Asking why it is not open, I have been told that the Highways Agency has decided to introduce additional technology to detect stopped vehicles in a few seconds and to institute safety measures with lane closure and speed restrictions as necessary. There is a pause whilst this work is prepared and completed, when the full motorway will open between Junctions 12 and 8/9. The work from 8/9 to 3 is still underway, with more overnight closures to watch out for.
Some of you have written to me with concerns for local charities brought on by lockdown impeding their usual ways of raising money. The government did set up the Coronavirus Community Support Fund to help smaller charities. They have told me of 7 local charities that have now received some financial help:
Enrych Berkshire CIO
Access Ability Communications Technology
Keep Mobile Community Transport
Society for Horticultural Therapy
Home Start Wokingham District
Younger people with dementia (Berkshire)
Reading Refugee Support Group
All MPs have received the letter beneath from the Schools Minister concerning early years teaching which I will share with you for interest:
Reception Baseline Assessment and Early Years Foundation Stage reforms
I am writing to inform you that we are proceeding with the introduction of the new
Reception Baseline Assessment and the Early Years Foundation Stage reforms on
a statutory basis from the start of the 2021/22 academic year. The necessary
legislation will be laid before Parliament today. I would also like to take this
opportunity to provide a reminder of the purpose and aims of both and why they are
being introduced at this time.
As you will be aware, following the cancellation of primary assessments in summer
2020/21, the Government announced its intention to run a full programme of primary
assessments in the 2021/22 academic year, including the introduction of the
statutory Reception Baseline Assessment. This assessment was due to be
introduced as statutory in September 2020, but due to the impact of the Coronavirus
pandemic on schools, the 2020/21 academic year has instead been an “early
adopter” year. For the Early Years Foundation Stage reforms, academic year
2020/21 was also an early adopter year as planned, ahead of planned statutory
rollout from September 2021.
Reception Baseline Assessment
The purpose of this assessment is to act as the starting point to measure the
progress schools make with their pupils between Reception and the end of primary
school. It will be administered as a short, teacher-mediated, age-appropriate
assessment covering material that many pupils will already be familiar with, and will
be carried out in normal teaching time using materials and guidance provided. The
assessment will assess all children on-entry, accounting for any impact on their
education up to this point. The new progress measure will ensure schools are
recognised for the work they do with their pupils, in particular for those schools with
a challenging intake and those who have been significantly affected by the COVID19 pandemic.
Additionally, the Reception Baseline Assessment itself will provide valuable one-toone time with each child, particularly during those important first weeks. It is also
important to note that its introduction will mean that statutory assessments at the end of year 2 (Key Stage 1) will be made optional, lessening the overall assessment
burden on schools, lightening teacher workload and giving them greater flexibility
on how best to carry out end of year assessments. A factsheet which clears some
common misconceptions regarding the Reception Baseline Assessment is attached
at Annex A.
Early Years Foundation Stage reforms
The Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework sets the standards that all
early years providers must meet. This includes curriculum, assessment and health
and safety requirements.
Following the Government’s response to the Primary Assessment Consultation in
2017, we developed, piloted and consulted on reforms. The two overarching aims
are to improve outcomes for all children at age 5 and to reduce practitioner and
teacher administrative workload so that more time can be spent interacting with
children in their care.
An independent review of the reforms pilot was published by the Education
Endowment Foundation and NatCen in 2018 and the Government then launched a
full public consultation on the proposed changes. The consultation concluded on
31 January 2020 and received 2,452 responses.
The pilot report and consultation responses informed the final reforms, which are
• Revisions to the educational programmes, which form the high-level
curriculum for children in the early years.
• Revisions to the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile assessment, which
takes place at the end of Reception year to make the Early Learning Goals
clearer, more specific and easier for teachers to make accurate judgments.
The ‘exceeding’ assessment criteria will also be removed from the Early
Years Foundation Stage Profile to ensure a focus on supporting all children
to reach the expected level before year 1, and there will no longer be a
requirement for local authorities to externally moderate these judgements in
schools to reduce bureaucracy and free teachers up to spend more time
interacting with children.
• A change to the safeguarding and welfare requirements to promote good
Over 3,000 early adopter schools have been implementing the reforms since
September 2020. The reforms will serve as an important platform to help children
catch up in key areas such as communication and language and personal, social
and emotional development, which are important now more than ever in the
context of COVID-19.
Preparedness of schools and early years settings
The Department believes that early years settings and schools will be able to
prepare appropriately to implement these two reforms. Extensive preparatory work has been undertaken to enable the reforms to proceed, while the third period of
national Covid-19 restrictions has reduced infection rates, and the parallel
vaccination rollout is progressing well. Schools in England have returned to full
attendance since 8 March.
In addition, in acknowledgement of the impact of disruption on schools and early
years settings up to this point, the Department has announced a range of recovery
support and is developing longer term plans. The Department also recognises the
key role of these reforms in supporting children who have spent extended periods
of time out of their nursery, school or childminder setting this year. The reforms aim
to improve outcomes for all children in early years settings, particularly
disadvantaged children, and to provide a powerful basis for supporting children’s
catch up from the implications of COVID-19. Reception Baseline Assessment
reforms will have a less immediate impact on catch up but remain essential to the
Department’s aim of creating a better progress measure to improve school
performance and reduce attainment gaps in the long-term.
We believe it is the best approach to proceed with the reforms, given the policy goals
of the Department and the momentum built up in the sector. We also believe it is
right to take and communicate a final decision now, in order to give much needed
certainty and ensure early years settings and schools prepare for statutory
implementation. The Department will ensure overall workload demands are
managed, including inputting to wider discussions on burden on schools and early
years settings in 2021/22 to ensure the Department accounts for the introduction of
I have received official confirmation from the government that Emmbrook School will be an Academy from April 1 2021 . A funding agreement has been reached between the government and the School. I wish the school success from its new status.
The government has recently set out its plans for new legislation concerning Police, Sentencing and the courts. This draft legislation contains revision to the law over illegal encampments. As constituents have been asking for changes to the law in this area I reproduce below the Ministerial statement:
While the vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens, illegal sites can cause distress and misery to those who live nearby. The Bill will introduce a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress. We have taken steps to ensure that those exercising their rights to enjoy the countryside are not inadvertently impacted by these measures. In addition, the Bill amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will in addition allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway.”
On the 22 February, the Department for Education announced that all schools, colleges and further education settings should allow full attendance from 8 March. Furthermore, higher education providers are asked to recommence in-person teaching and learning in a phased manner from the 8 March for students on practical or practice-based (including creative arts) courses who need access to specialist equipment and facilities.
• Our shared goal now is to support pupils and students returning to face-to-face education, and to reverse the long-term impact of the pandemic on their education.
• The Government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of remaining students. This review will take account of the latest data and will be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and providers will be given a week’s notice ahead of any further return.
• Although the public health picture is improving, it remains crucial that steps are taken to reduce and mitigate any risks within education and childcare settings. DfE has worked closely with PHE to develop and refresh the system of controls to reduce the risk of transmission in education and childcare settings, based on scientific rationale.
Infection rates within the community continue to remain high. Why have you asked schools and colleges to return to full attendance?
• We are committed to getting all pupils and students back as soon as it is possible to do so.
• We are clear that the decision is based on the balance of risk: to the NHS of rising admissions, but also to students and pupils of the continued educational, social and psychological harms of missed education.
• In doing so, the Department for Education will be informed by the scientific and medical experts, where data and evidence is considered regularly including by SAGE, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England, and the Chief Medical Officers.
Why are you not asking remaining HE students to return?
• We are committed to getting all students back into university as soon as the public health situation allows, taking into account the spread of the virus in communities and the pressures on the NHS. In doing so, the government has been informed by the scientific and medical experts, where data and evidence is considered regularly including by SAGE, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England, and the Chief Medical Officers.
• The Government will review, by the end of the Easter holidays, the options for timing of the return of the remaining students. This review will take account of the latest data and will be a key part of the wider roadmap steps. Students and providers will be given a week’s notice ahead of any further return.
• Until then, we ask universities to continue to provide high-quality remote education, enabling students to access the help that they need to continue learning whilst at home.
What about clinically extremely vulnerable pupils, students and staff?
• People in the highest risk category (the clinically extremely vulnerable) are currently advised by the Government to shield and stay at home as much as possible until further notice, except to exercise or to attend health appointments (including your vaccination appointments). These individuals will know who they are as they will have been written to, informing them that they are on the list.
• CEV children and young people are advised not to attend educational settings and wraparound childcare. Education settings should make appropriate arrangements for them to continue their education remotely.
• CEV staff should not attend their workplace. Staff should talk to their employers about how they will be supported, including to work from home. Schools and colleges should continue to pay clinically extremely vulnerable staff on their usual terms.
• CEV advice applies to individuals, not households. Those individuals who live with someone who is CEV, but who are not CEV themselves, can still attend education and wrapround childcare settings and work (if they are unable to work from home).
Can parents send their children to wraparound childcare or out-of-school settings to support them to work?
Until 8 March, wraparound childcare providers and out-of-school settings should only offer face-to-face provision to children of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people, in line with those children eligible to attend school for onsite provision.
• From 8 March, wraparound childcare providers and out-of-school settings will be able to offer provision to all children, in line with those returning to school. However, parents and carers will only be able to access settings for certain essential purposes. Providers will be able to offer provision to vulnerable children and young people as normal, but other children should only be accessing this provision, where it is: o Reasonably necessary to enable their parents or carers to work, seek work, undertake education or training, or attend a medical appointment or address a medical need.
• Being used by electively home educating parents, as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education.
• Being used for the purposes of obtaining a regulated qualification, meeting the entry requirements for an education institution, or to undertake exams or assessments.
• Schools should be working to resume all their breakfast and after-school clubs for their pupils, where this provision is necessary to support parents to important for providing enriching activities which support children’s education, vulnerable children’s wellbeing, as well as supporting parents to work, attend education and access medical care, and to support pupil’s wider education and training.
• From the start of the school summer term, it is our ambition that all children will be able to access this provision for both indoor and outdoor activities as normal. This will be no earlier than 12 April and will be confirmed as part of Step 2 of the Government’s Roadmap.
I have received this update today on the Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment programme nationally. In Wokingham, the programme is proceeding on schedule and constituents should wait to be contacted about when they will receive the vaccine.
We are writing to you to update you on the latest important developments on our deployment of COVID-19 vaccines.
We are delighted that by the end of 1 February, 9,646,715 people in the UK have been given their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. We have now vaccinated almost 9 in 10 over 80s.
We set the ambitious target of offering a vaccine to all eligible elderly care home residents and by the end of January we met that target. This is an incredibly important step in the fight against this terrible virus. Elderly care home residents were rightly prioritised because they are the most at risk and we have done everything we can to protect them.
There are a small number of care homes who have not been able to get vaccinated due to an outbreak, but all elderly care homes where it is clinically appropriate have now been offered the first dose of the vaccine.
This is the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history. It has been a huge national effort, bringing together the NHS family, primary care networks, hospitals and the tens of thousands of amazing volunteers.
Looking ahead, our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries mean we are on track to offer vaccinations to all those in JCVI priority cohorts 1-4 by 15 February. While meeting this target is a challenge, we are on track to meet it.
The latest statistical release for England can be found at the link below, and we are committed to publishing more granular data, as soon as is feasibly possible.
Despite this success we know our NHS continues to be under serious pressure. So, it is vital that we all continue to follow the rules: stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.
I am receiving a number of enquiries about why someone has not yet been vaccinated, along with examples of others of a similar age who have.
The local health service is well advanced with its vaccination programme and thinks it will hit the government targets. GPs say they will be sending out invitations to receive the vaccine to all those entitled, but there will of course be some who are vaccinated sooner and some later within the timetable set out given the large numbers involved. The aim of the local NHS is to use all the vaccine made available each day with stated appointments for those in the priority categories . I think it best that we let the NHS get on with it, as too many enquiries or complaints will add pressure when they need to put all their efforts into this large programme of vaccination.
The first four categories currently being invited in order are:
|1||Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults|
|2||All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers|
|3||All those 75 years of age and over|
|4||All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)|
A fortnight is a long time in a vaccination campaign…
Wokingham Town Centre’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is being delivered by the four practices that comprise East Wokingham Primary Care Network, namely: Woosehill Medical Centre, New Wokingham Road Surgery, Burma Hills Surgery and Wokingham Medical Centre. The doctors and staff of these practices have vaccinated around 2600 patients at the Bradbury Centre, Wokingham during the course of the last fortnight. In addition, we’ve vaccinated virtually all residents and staff in our local older adult care homes, meaning that a total of nearly 3000 vaccinations have been performed in the opening two weeks of our vaccination programme. Furthermore, we expect to vaccinate another 2000 residents over the next few days as we receive more vaccine supply.
The importance of these numbers cannot be overstated as they represent almost all of the over 80-year olds and almost all of the older adult care home residents in East Wokingham Primary Care Network. NHS England has rightly prioritised this group of citizens as they have substantially higher complication and death rates from Covid-19 and it has been a real pleasure to catch up with ‘old friends’ on vaccination days.
From a practical and logistical perspective, we are particularly pleased that the vaccination effort has been achieved without any queues at the Bradbury Centre and while maintaining strict social distancing and infection control measures. We have been ably assisted by the Wokingham Volunteer Centre and the Wokingham Lions who have provided a seemingly limitless supply of volunteers who have braved the cold and rain in order to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are vaccinated safely and efficiently.
We’ve been made aware of various misunderstandings that are being perpetuated on local social media and it may help residents’ anxieties if some of these are clarified:
1. Some Primary Care Networks – and therefore some practices – started vaccinated before others. The order in which practices started vaccinating was not down to the practices themselves but largely as a result of guidance from NHS England. It’s hopefully fairly obvious that vaccinating everyone nationally – simultaneously – might have problematic consequences were there to be widespread side effects.
2. The pace of vaccinating is dictated by vaccine supply and is not in the gift of practices. The vaccine supply is currently a little erratic and – we understand – is being actively managed by NHS England to ensure all regions have consistent supply. Please be assured that we are vaccinating as fast as we are receiving vaccine deliveries. If we only receive 400 doses, we can only vaccinate 400 people.
3. Practices are delivering vaccines in age cohorts that are determined by NHS England. These cohorts reflect the need to vaccinate the most at-risk citizens first. The practices will contact everyone in cohort order, so please, please, please do not petition your practice to state that you have a special case – all you do is prevent our staff from doing their jobs.
4. Your practice is delivering the vaccination programme while simultaneously trying to maintain some degree of normal service – and often while having staff self-isolating. Vaccinating tens of thousands of our patients means that staff will be diverted from normal activities inevitably. Practices don’t have access to a multitude of spare doctors and staff that can be parachuted in to assist at short notice – and therefore a reduction in non-clinical and clinical staff at your practice on vaccination days is inevitable. Despite our best efforts this may mean that it takes a little longer to answer the phone and it may mean that there is a delay in securing your desired appointment. So, please be patient with us as we try to deliver one of the most ambitious global vaccination programmes ever.
Finally, we have been humbled by the gratitude that many of you have shown. We have received countless messages of thanks and many of you have commented on how well-organised the Bradbury Centre operation has been. We are proud to be involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme and the appreciation of our community means a great deal to us – thank you.
Dr Vipan Bhardwaj
Clinical Director, East Wokingham Primary Care Network
The vaccination programme is being delivered by the NHS but we retain a keen interest in how the roll out is progressing locally. We were pleased to be joined at Monday’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board Dr Abid Irfan from the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group and to hear his update on the progress made so far.
We know what residents are most interested in is what is happening in their community – and when they and those they care about will get their doses.
Whilst there is monumental effort by the NHS nationally to distribute the vaccine, much of the hard work to get doses to residents is being done by local GP surgeries. They have been working collaboratively to set up local vaccination centres which they are running together, and with the support of our local Clinical Commissioning Group.
There are two local vaccination centres; one in Pangbourne, involving three GP local surgeries, and one in Newbury which is a larger site covering nine individual GPs surgeries. Until the end of January they will be vaccinating anyone over 80 as well as frontline health workers and social care workers. From there they will move on to the over-75s, and then the over 70s and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
GP surgeries have worked really hard to get these vaccination centres up and running as quickly as possible. It has been great to read the praise for the centre staff from patients grateful to have received their vaccine. Although vaccinations are being delivered as quickly as possible it will take time to get to everyone – please be patient and wait for your GP to contact you about making an appointment.
The speed at which our NHS partners are working and the complexity in arranging a national vaccination programme means that along the way they will experience some logistical difficulties. This week Newbury Racecourse has come in for a little criticism for not allowing vaccinations to continue at their site on race days. The reality is that it would be challenging for the site to operate seven day a week due to the vaccine distribution process. GPs were aware of these operational issues before setting up the centre and they did so confident that they would still be able to reach their targets within timelines – even without doing on the odd few days.
Speaking of the vaccination centre, we have received several enquiries asking whether more trains can stop at the Newbury Racecourse station. We’ve asked the question of GWR, and are pleased to say that they have agreed to put on more trains. It will take a couple of weeks to implement, but we’re grateful to them for their flexibility and delighted that local residents will have more sustainable travel options when journeying to get their vaccination.
Elsewhere we are ploughing on with our plans for new community testing facilities in the district. We are close to agreeing our first testing site for Newbury which should open next month and will allow testing for critical and key workers, as well as people involved in the management of local outbreaks. There will be a phased approach to those identified for testing and the relevant cohorts will be invited to join the testing programme over a series of weeks. Once that is up and running we will then be looking at additional sites in the east and west of the district, and potentially a mobile unit too. Testing to identify asymptomatic Covid carriers is important in managing the outbreak, and a potential release of the restrictions so we are working to get these open as quickly as we can. We’ll keep you updated on this as our plans progress.
Away from the pandemic response, business as usual continues and this week we were thrilled to announce this year’s Community Champion Awards. We haven’t been able to do an awards ceremony this year but it shouldn’t take anything away from this year’s winners with the standard as high as ever. This year we introduced special categories in relation to coronavirus, in addition to our usual categories and it allowed us to recognise a broad spectrum of community-minded activities this year. There are far too many to mention here but do please take a look at the website and read about the incredible winners we’ve had this year.
We’re continuing to look beyond the immediate demands of the pandemic to plan for the future and we have a number of important consultations closing in the next few weeks. These include the Newbury Town Centre Masterplan Study (which closes on 31 January), Local Plan Review 2037 (closes on 5 February) and the Minerals and Waste Plan (closes on 15 February). We have also started a consultation this week on our proposal for a new sports ground at Newbury Rugby Club. Each one is really important in helping us take into account local views as we look at how the district develops in the coming years. Whilst we all find ourselves confined to our homes please take a time to look at these documents and tell us what you think.
•For more information about vaccinations, including the number of people vaccinated as we receive the data, visit: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/covid-vaccination
•To find out more about the Community Champion Awards visit https://info.westberks.gov.uk/awardwinners
Leader of the Council