One hundred years ago, in April 1910, the Shinfield Three Mile Cross Council School opened in the hamlet of Ryeish Green just outside Reading. Over the years this school developed, changed roles, and eventually became Ryeish Green School, a comprehensive secondary school.

I consider myself lucky enough to have gone to Ryeish and enjoyed practically every day there and come rain or shine I'd be trudging my way up the Hyde End Lane hill to school.

I gained some good friends and have many great memories of my seven years there. It was through working in the school's library that I went on to study in the field of librarianship at Aberystwyth University. It was also because of those happy memories that I was excited about going to an open day there last Sunday to celebrate the school's centenary - the first time I'd been back in almost 10 years.

However it wasn't a complete day for celebrating as the local authority, Wokingham Borough Council, has made the decision to close the school.

Everyone I spoke to over at the open day knew the reasons why that decision was made and it certainly wasn't one taken in the interests of the local community, it was purely political.

According to the Council, the decision to close the school was because of falling pupil numbers, no doubt fuelled by the years of speculation over its potential closure. Talk to anyone connected to the school, however, and you'll be told the same thing – Wokingham doesn't like having to educate the kids of Reading Borough.

The school lies just south of the border between the Wokingham and Reading boroughs. Up until 1998 this was no problem as schools in the area were under the control of Berkshire County Council. Since the Council was abolished in to unitary authorities, Wokingham and Reading have never really seen eye-to-eye.

There's also a financial element involved. Over the past decade the area has seen an increase in people moving into the area with easy commuter links into London. The former NIRD site in Shinfield proved irresistible to the developers with new houses being built and it's highly likely that Ryeish's 36-ish acre site will also prove too irresistible for Wokingham to sell off for development.

So, if the land is being sold off to build new houses, where will the children who live in them, and those who are already in Ryeish's catchment area, go to school? Where will the children who already live in the surrounding area go?

Early plans were to 'move' the school to Finchampstead, approximately 8 miles away south-east by car – well away from the Reading border, but less than a mile from the Hampshire and Bracknell Forest borders, with Surrey a little further on. These plans were soon dropped.

So what's left? Relocating to other Wokingham schools (because the nearest Reading school is the John Madejski Academy and, from what I've heard, Mr Madejski is keen to disassociate himself from it). There's Bulmershe, approximately 5 miles away from Ryeish Green, Emmbrook (8 miles), or even Waingels College in Woodley (7 miles). There are, of course, other nearby schools in neighbouring districts but that would mean doing exactly what Wokingham dislike and going in to other territories.

It seems that Wokingham has a thing for Finchampstead. Back in 2005 they had plans to 'relocate' Emmbrook school there. Emmbrook's future was secured after a successful campaign against its closure.

When I wrote to John Redwood, the area's Conservative MP, with my concerns he effectively said that the decision was the Council's decision and there was nothing he could do. There wasn't even any hint of him willing to fight Ryeish's corner. He obviously felt the need to go along with his Conservative chums in the Council.

When an Early Day Motion was tabled in the House of Commons by the then Reading West Labour MP, Martin Salter, against the proposed closure back in July 2008, Mr Redwood didn't even put his name to it.

EDM 1867: WOKINGHAM BOROUGH COUNCIL AND THE CLOSURE OF RYEISH GREEN SCHOOL
24:6:08
Martin Salter, Mr Neil Turner, Dr Howard Stoate, Mrs Ann Cryer, Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Martin Caton, Mr Brian Jenkins, Desmond Turner, Alan Simpson

That this House deplores the decision of Wokingham Borough Council to close Ryeish Green School on the pretext of falling student numbers whilst at the same time announcing proposals for 5,500 new homes south of Reading which will require the creation of a new secondary school to meet the needs of an expanding population; supports the comments of the Ryeish Green Headteacher, Jenny Garner, that the school closure decision was made for political rather than educational reasons; believes that Ryeish Green is a vibrant and good school with evident potential to expand and prosper and that the only reason for the closure is the desire of Wokingham councillors to exclude Reading children from Wokingham schools; congratulates Ryeish Green on a successful Ofsted inspection in March; and calls upon the Schools Minister to intervene in the light of the announcement by Wokingham of increased housing provision in the area, possibly including the Ryeish Green site itself.

He doesn't even mention the School on his own website. Surely this just shows that this MP is not interested in the needs of the local community. To be honest, with this decision, I'm finding it difficult to work out exactly what his interests are. After 23 years, isn't it time Wokingham had a change of MP? Actually, shouldn't Wokingham have a change of political party full stop? It's been under Conservative control since it was created. Sadly, though, anything other than a blue Wokingham is unlikely.

Anyway, before things get too political, all we can hope for is an extremely last-minute reprieve for the school. It's unlikely, but we can hope that common sense prevails.

Funnily enough I've just come across this article on John Redwood's blog regarding 'a new school for Wokingham'. I've submitted a comment (copied below), lets see if it gets published.

Comment posted on "A new school for Wokingham?" at http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com/2010/05/02/a-new-school-for-wokingham

A new school for Wokingham? Why not stop the closure of Ryeish Green School and protect the future of the children of Spencers Wood, Three Mile Cross, Shinfield and the surrounding areas.

With so much development going on around the Ryeish Green area, are you and Wokingham B.C. telling us that there isn't a need for a secondary school in the area?

Ryeish Green is a viable, successful school and one that should not have had an axe wielded towards it at all.

Before looking to build new schools elsewhere, why not look at saving existing ones that are needed by existing communities.

 

Cookies are used for analytics and authentication purposes; I don't use advertising on my site. You may decline these cookies if you wish.
Ok Decline