Work starts on new SEND school

Partnership press statement

There’s great news for local young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as work has started on site to build the new Oak Tree School in Winnersh, which is currently on track to open in September 2023.

Backed by both Wokingham and Reading Borough Councils in partnership with Brighter Futures for Children, the school is being built and funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and managed by Maiden Erlegh Trust, which is already responsible for running several schools locally.

The new free school, which will cater for children and young people of all ages, will provide 150 places for children with autism (ASD) and social emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties from across Wokingham and Reading.

The provision of high quality SEND education will greatly support local families. In addition to both councils saving money when compared with funding out of area placements, many children and young people will benefit from wider school activities and experiences without needing to travel long distances from their home.

Jonathon Peck, CEO (Designate) of Maiden Erlegh Trust said: "On behalf of Maiden Erlegh Trust I am delighted to see that work has finally begun to construct Oak Tree School which will provide much needed specialist provision locally for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to my colleagues who have worked tirelessly to bring this scheme forward but also to colleagues at Wokingham and Reading Borough Councils, Brighter Futures for Children, the DfE and Reds10 for their support and commitment. I look forward to seeing the build progress over the coming weeks and months."

Oak Tree School is being built by off-site construction specialist Reds10 who have a great reputation for working closely with the Wokingham community to minimise the impact of construction works and have been responsible for successfully delivering several local projects like the recent Dinton Activity Centre in Winnersh and the award-winning expansion of Addington SEND School in Woodley.

BFfC supports LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week 2022

Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) fostering service in Reading – which is rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted -is supporting a national campaign to encourage more members of the LGBT+ community to consider becoming foster carers.

LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week, starting 7 March, aims to raise awareness and drive change by increasing the number of LGBT+ people caring for children looked after.

The theme of this year’s campaign is #BeTheChange and asks LGBT+ people to think about the range of vulnerable children they could parent or care for.

BFfC, the independent, not-for-profit company which runs children’s services on behalf of Reading Borough Council, is keen to dispel myths that could be deterring some people from becoming foster carers.

Some questions regularly asked by people enquiring about fostering in Reading are:

Q. I’m gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/LGBTQ+, can I foster?

A. Yes, we welcome foster carers from all backgrounds and people of any gender or sexuality can foster. Having a varied life experience, such as coming out as gay or lesbian, is one of the important elements a foster carer can bring to the role.

Q. I’m single, can I foster alone?

A. Absolutely, you can be single, married or in a relationship and you can still foster with us.

Q. I don’t have children, can I foster?

A. Yes, you can. We will discuss with you what kind of experience you have of working with children and caring. If you think you need more experience, volunteering with a local childcare service is a great option.

Q. Do I need to own my home?

A. No you don’t. As long as you have a spare room and space for a child you can own or rent your home.

Q. What are the main criteria for fostering in Reading?

A. You need to be over 21, have a spare room, be a UK resident and live within 20 miles of Reading.

Deborah Glassbrook, Executive Director of Children’s Services, said: “There is no such thing as a typical foster carer in Reading. We have people from many different backgrounds doing an amazing job of caring for our children in care.

“It doesn’t matter about your gender, sexuality, age, race, living arrangements or employment status. If you’re over 21, care about children, have a spare room and want to make a real difference for children, we want to hear from you.”

BFfC’s fostering service has just been rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted. Inspectors said there was a wide range of support on offer to foster carers, including additional training, access to specialist clinical advice and support groups.

If you are interested in finding out more about fostering, visit, call 0118 469 3020 or email

For more information about LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week, visit the New Family Social website:  New Family Social - LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week 2022


Read the press release about the recent Ofsted inspection of BFfC’s fostering service at:

Brighter Futures for Children’s fostering service improves to ‘Good’

The fostering service provided for Reading by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) has improved its rating to ‘Good’ following a recent Ofsted inspection.

Inspectors awarded ‘Good’ to the three key areas of: overall experience of children and young people, how well children and young people are helped and protected and the effectiveness of leaders and managers.

The Ofsted report published today (Friday 4 March) says there is a clear vision at BFfC’s Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) which is ambitious and forward thinking and that outcomes for children and support for foster carers is improving. The service had previously been judged as requiring improvement to be good.

BFfC’s IFA is a not-for-profit fostering service which operates on behalf of Reading Borough Council.

Overall experience of children and young people

The inspectors, who visited 18-24 January, found that children in care have a sense of permanence and stability and are well matched to foster carers who have the relevant experience and skills to care for them.

The report says: “Their lives are enhanced by the care and nurture that fostering families give. This is because supervising social workers and foster carers advocate on their behalf and ensure that children’s needs are put first.”

Foster carers are praised for going above and beyond what is expected of them to ensure children see their family and friends, which helps them develop secure and trusting relationships. Despite the pandemic, foster carers enabled children to meet up with family and friends safely by organising picnics and outside activities.

A wide range of support is on offer to foster carers, including additional training, access to specialist clinical advice and support groups which, inspectors say, has resulted in children’s lives being enhanced and their voices heard.

The report also notes that BFfC IFA staff and foster carers have positive relationships with professionals, which has contributed to significant progress for some children.

Committed and proactive foster carers were also found to support children of all faiths to ensure their religious and cultural needs are met.

How well children and young people are helped and protected

The inspection report says safeguarding children is embedded into practice. It notes that well-trained foster carers ensure appropriate actions are taken on the odd occasion when a child is not where they are expected to be. IFA staff also work closely with foster carers and the wider network to ensure correct procedures are followed which help to keep children safe.

Inspectors also noted that the recent recruitment of a trauma-informed practitioner has enhanced the support, advice and guidance offered to foster carers.

The effectiveness of leaders and managers

The report says management arrangements have recently been strengthened at the IFA. It says: “There is a clear vision for the service which is ambitious and forward thinking. Positive outcomes for children and support for foster carers has already improved.”

Inspectors commented that complaints are managed well and compliments from other professionals reflect some of the good practice seen during the inspection.

The report also states that senior managers are committed to the service and share the ambitious vision.

It says: “There is strong evidence of ongoing informed practice and development oversight to continually seek improved outcomes for children.”

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I am delighted with the outcome of the Ofsted inspection into our fostering service.

“I am particularly pleased the inspectors have highlighted how everyone involved in the fostering service has played a part in its improvement. The IFA staff, management, foster carers, supervising social workers and other professionals are all working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for Reading children.

“While we are very pleased with this finding, we will continue to focus on further, long-term improvements to the service we offer.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work and commitment and invite anyone thinking about becoming a foster carer in Reading to come and join the team.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “Congratulations to everyone at the fostering service for achieving a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating.

“Our foster carers do an incredible job looking after vulnerable children and young people in Reading and it is vital they have the support they need from the IFA.

“Of course, there is no room for complacency and we will continue to work together to ensure the improvements seen so far continue in the future for the benefit of all Reading’s children in care.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about fostering in Reading, should visit, call 0118 469 3020 or email


More than 90% of Reading students offered preferred secondary school place

Ninety-two per cent of Reading students have been offered a place in one of their preferred secondary schools this year.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) has ensured that every secondary school pupil in Reading has a place for September despite strong competition.

The percentage who received their first or second preference is 85% compared with 84% last year. Ninety per cent were offered their first, second or third choice, which was the same as the previous year.

There was an increase in the percentage of pupils offered their first preference from 67% to 69%.

The percentage of students not allocated any of their preferences remained at 7%.

Deborah Glassbrook, Executive Director of Children’s Services at BFfC, said: “We have worked closely with Reading’s secondary schools to ensure every student has a school place, and 92 per cent of children will be going to one of their preferred schools.

“I would like to send best wishes to all the young people who will be experiencing the excitement of starting in their new school in September.

“I would also like to thank all Reading schools for their incredible hard work during challenging times over the last two years.

“We will continue to work with our colleagues at Reading Borough Council, neighbouring local authorities, academy trusts and the Department for Education, to provide more school places to meet demand in the future.”

The percentage of pupils allocated to school outside Reading was 28%, which is the same as last year.