No legal action over borough’s schools reviewBy Linda Fort
November 02, 2010
Tempers flared last week when Reading’s Labour opposition failed to persuade council bosses to back calls to take legal action against Wokingham over school catchment changes.
Labour’s education spokesman Councillor Jon Hartley called on Reading council to wholeheartedly support the campaign by parents in East Reading to oppose Wokingham Borough Council’s plans to exclude them from the catchment area of Maiden Erlegh School in Earley.
In his motion, which was tabled at a meeting in Reading on Tuesday, October 19, he called on the council to “seek counsel’s advice on the legal case for challenging Wokingham proposals”.
However the coalition of Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors running the council changed the motion resolving to:
- Continue high-level discussions with Wokingham.
- “Actively investigate all avenues and arguments to enable this”.
- Respond to Wokingham’s consultation.
- Invite Wokingham to create a shared catchment area for both Maiden Erlegh and Bulmershe School in Woodley.
- Invite Wokingham to give serious consideration to maintaining the status quo for at least another decade.
The coalition motion also suggested “actively” evaluating the option for a secondary school on the former Thames Valley University site in Crescent Road.
Lead councillor for education and children’s services Cllr Mark Ralph pointed out that Wokingham was still in consultation on the matter and no decision had been made.
He said theirs was a “robust response to the consultation”.
Cllr Peter Jones said the council had no money and did not own the land in Crescent Road so a new school could not happen “for a very, very long time”.
The Labour opposition was accused of “infiltrating” the parents’ campaign group, which Cllr Hartley described as “insulting to the parents who are perfectly capable of fighting their own campaign”.
Cllr Hartley said seeking counsel’s advice “was the next logical step” and it was the course of action being suggested by council officers.
Chris Harding, one of the campaigning parents, said after the meeting: “I was very, very disappointed by the way they all behaved last night. They just kicked the whole thing round as if it was a political football scoring political points.”
He said there was little to choose between the two motions before the council.
He said: “What I had hoped for was for the council to unite to support us, not play politics with something that is so important to the families affected.”
The consultation on proposed changes to Wokingham school catchment areas closes on Sunday, October 31.
Visit www.wokingham.gov.uk for more information.