Newbury Football Fun Day and update

It was lovely to meet everyone and see the action at Newbury Football Club today. The annual Fun Day and Penalty Shoot out at the ground in Faraday Road drew a huge crowd. Lovely sunshine, good turnout and an impressive amount of activity on the pitch – what’s not to like?

At the moment though the club is in limbo. West Berkshire Council (Conservative)’s plans for the development of the London Road Industrial Estate are still uncertain and little practical is expected to happen for 3 – 5 years. This week the Council offered Newbury Football Club a one-year extension on their lease. While that’s to be welcomed, NFC Chair Lee McDougall has proposed a longer extension with a break clause in it, to come into effect only when action actually takes place on development at the London Road Industrial Estate. The club would agree to move when that day comes. This is a very professional approach to the issues at hand, but no answer is yet forthcoming from our lovely Council.

When my own son was growing up, we were fortunate enough to live in the catchment of Brentford FC. Brentford runs a fantastic Football in the Community scheme and their Council in Hounslow and neighbouring Richmond and Twickenham, then LD, used to bend over backwards to help them do their work. They recognised the importance that lively community football could bring to the health and spirit of our children.

In Newbury, we are really lucky to have an efficient, active team at NFC. If only our Council could see the importance of this. By the time I left the Fun Day, Richard Benyon had dropped in [a little surprising given his formal position that this is a “local matter” in which it would be inappropriate for him to get involved (!)], but no one from the Council had visited to see the club in action.

On the club’s website Lee McDougall says: “We passionately believe football, like all sport, inspires young people and provides a focus  for personal and physical development from early years into adulthood. We’ve seen first-hand how sport can turn lives around. Newbury does not have enough community football facilities, the only all-weather outdoor, floodlit , artificial turf training venues are in a few large secondary schools and in high demand from commercial organisations. Also, the town is lacking quality grass pitches to meet the sporting demands of local children. If you value local youth sport, please help us by watching the video, signing the petition and sharing them with your friends and family …” Read more here.

Once again, children are bearing the brunt of this Council’s lack of engagement and indecision. I understand there is the potential for outside funding to pay for 3G Astroturf to create a pitch that could allow a couple of hundred additional boys and girls to play each week, on top of the 360 that train with the club already, but with no certainty of tenure and no alternative location being suggested, the club can’t pursue such possibilities. And NFC do pay rent for this pitch, by the way, and they pay themselves for the upkeep of the ground.

Back to the positive in of all this, though. Seeing so many Newbury youngsters fit, healthy and engaged with their sport, today, made for an uplifting morning. Keep up the good work Newbury Football Club and Newbury Community Football Group. Our kids need you!

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Couldn’t resist adding this photo with my own kids at Wembley to watch Brentford in the play-offs in 2013. A lovely day, tho Brentford lost (again!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science toys for boys and girls this Christmas

Judith Bunting is calling on the retail sector to do the right thing – by marketing toys for all children, rather than for boys and girls separately.

Many girls still believe that some science subjects are not for them – almost half of all state-schools had no girls taking A-level physics in recent years. Campaigners have suggested that this is in part because the future aspirations of girls and boys are set at a very early age.

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Judith Bunting said:

“Parents know that boys and girls love all kinds of toys. With children developing very clear ideas at a young age about what jobs boys and girls can do, we can all help to send a clear signal that nothing is off limits. It is great that fewer retailers are defining toys as ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’, which shows they are responding to their customers’ demands for more choice.

“But there is still more to do. I hope this Christmas companies will be conscious of how they are marketing their products and make sure they aren’t accidentally limiting customers’ and children’s choices.”

Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister, Jo Swinson, is the power behind the Your Life campaign – which is encourages young people, especially girls, to consider science, technology, engineering and maths careers – and pledge to take action to increase the numbers of women working in the sector.

Education for a Fairer Future

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This weekend Judith Bunting and the Liberal Democrat team were in Northbrook Street in Newbury to promote the Education for a Fairer Future campaign.

This campaign comes against the backdrop falling GCSE results throughout West Berkshire and average achievement levels at GCSE, last year, which were below the national average.

Newbury and West Berks educational attainment has been in decline for some years – last year GCSE English results fell by 10% in West Berks. At the same time, the Council has cut funding for school support officers, year on year. Each time they make these cuts, Lib Dem Councillors point out the dangers in what they are doing and make a stand. Each time, the Council Leaders do not listen.

The decline of local schools in such an affluent area is a stain on the conscience of West Berkshire Council and a symptom of conservative complacency. Let’s ensure West Berks Council does more to support the futures of young, striving students in Newbury.

Judith Bunting is also putting pressure on the council to increase Education provision for the 4,000 new house due to be built in Newbury.

Join the campaign today by signing our petition at:

Education for a Fairer Future: change.org/petitions/increase-education-provision-in-west-berkshire.

Education – Open letter to Michael Gove

Judith Bunting addressing sixth-formers at Kennet School
Dear Mr Gove,
I am writing from West Berkshire, where we have a problem in our education system which I am hoping you, as Secretary of State for Education, can help explain.
West Berkshire recently ranked one of the best places to live in the UK (top 20% places to live). It is the kind of place where kids receive encouragement at home. The area’s relative affluence also means Conservative led West Berks Council is not strapped for cash. Despite these positive factors, educational attainment across the district is in decline.
In 2011 on average 58.2% of pupils across the UK achieved five good GCSEs. In West Berkshire this figure stands at 60.1% (figures here 2011). In 2012, the equivalent figures were 59.4% and 57.2% (figures here 2012) . As the National average for students obtaining 5 good GCSEs went up by 0.8%, results in West Berkshire went down by 2.9%. In a single year, results in Newbury and West Berkshire fell by nearly four times the national average.
If that doesn’t persuade you we have a problem, let’s try another example: From 2011-2012, the percentage of the district’s pupils gaining A* to C grades in English fell by 9.86%. The Council blamed this on a national downturn in GCSE results. The national downturn, however, was only 2.71% (English figures here). Once again, a downturn of nearly four times the national average.
For students’ performance to fall so dramatically across the board, the failings cannot be with individual schools. The problem must be systemic. Such decline cannot be allowed to continue.
Mr Gove, as a local resident I can tell you that West Berks is not a below average place. We have fantastic teachers, parents and schools who know education is the key to empowering the next generation and to employment in the skills economy of the future – which, locally, means with industries such as Vodafone, Bayer and AWE Nuclear.
I recently started a petition – Education for a Fairer Future – because I believe the educational decline in West Berkshire must be addressed. I am also meeting local head teachers to discuss what they think could be done to improve results across the District.
I am writing to you to ask whether the Department of Education will help me investigate why West Berkshire is under-performing in education, before the decline in our local schools damages the futures of young, striving students in Newbury and West Berkshire.
As a good Liberal Democrat, I am copying David Laws in on this enquiry. I will also be sending a copy of this letter to our local paper, the Newbury Weekly News.
Yours Sincerely,
Judith
Judith Bunting
07914 835 073
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury and West Berkshire
The Liberal Democrats