Expansion of mental health service for Reading’s young people

A service which offers additional mental health support to children and young people in Reading is expanding to cover more than double the number of schools in the borough.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) launched the Mental Health Support Team (MHST) to 16 schools in west Reading as part of an innovative trailblazer project in January 2020.

The scheme is now being expanded to a further 20 schools in south and central Reading.

BFfC is working in partnership with the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB), which is funding the project, to form the expanded MHST. It is part of a Reading-wide systemic approach to improving mental health for children and young people.

The MHST supports children and young people, and their families, with emerging, mild or moderate mental health needs, focusing particularly on low mood, anxiety and behaviour. The aim is to help prevent more serious problems developing.

The expanded service complements mental health support already provided in schools and by existing professionals and services, such as school-based counsellors, educational psychologists, school nurses, primary mental health workers, school pastoral care teams, educational welfare officers, voluntary sector organisations and Children and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) services.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “The expansion of services we offer to Reading schools is both valuable and critical, post-pandemic, in addressing the increase in children and young people’s mental health needs.

“I would like to thank our health service colleagues for their support which has helped us more than double the number of schools whose pupils will now be able to access the service.”

Dr Heather Howells, GP and Mental Health lead for BOB ICB, said: “We know the last few years, particularly during the pandemic, have been tough for young people’s mental wellbeing and the Mental Health Support Team have been providing a vital service to schools in Reading, helping young people cope with mental health difficulties.

 “I’m so pleased, through BOB ICB funding, we are now able to increase the number of schools the MHST supports, enabling more young people to access important mental health services.” 

 Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “I am delighted to see the important service provided by the Mental Health Support Team being made available to more school pupils across Reading.

 “It’s tragic that we’ve seen such an increase in children and young people struggling with their mental health nationally. It’s crucial services like this that can have a direct positive impact on the wellbeing of our young people in Reading.”

Information about what the MHST can offer and how to access the service, along with leaflets for children, young people and parents/carers, are available on the BFfC website at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/MHST

NOTES TO EDITOR

  • The expanded MHST will support the following 20 schools in the south and centre of Reading: John Madejski Academy, Maiden Erlegh Reading, Reading Girls, UTC Reading, Reading College (16 - 18), Alfred Sutton, Christ the King, Coley, Geoffrey Field Infant, Geoffrey Field Junior, Green Park Village, Katesgrove, New Christ Church, Palmer Academy, Redlands, Ridgeway, St Marys and All Saints, Whitley Park, Hamilton School and Holy Brook.

Reading GCSE results 2022

Students across Reading are collecting their GCSE results this morning (25 August).

This year’s candidates are the first to have sat their GCSE exams since 2019. Students in the previous two years have had their grades assigned by teachers, due to COVID restrictions being in place.

This year’s students will still have suffered disruption to their learning due to the pandemic and this has been reflected in the way papers have been graded.

Some students will also be receiving their vocational and technical qualifications (VTQ) results today.

While most will be pleased with their results, anyone who is disappointed has help at hand. Elevate careers service, run by Brighter Futures for Children, is on standby to offer education, training and employment advice and guidance to young people in Reading.

Brian Grady, Interim Director of Children’s Services and Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Well done to all Reading students collecting their results today. You have really had to focus on your studies and carry on working through the distractions and disruption caused by COVID.

“I hope your resilience has paid off and your results confirm your chosen next stage of education through school, college or apprenticeship.

“For those students who have not received the grades they were hoping for, please be assured that you are not alone and there will be ways of achieving your ambitions. Please do contact our advisors at Elevate careers service to help you plan your next steps.

“Also, thank you to all school staff in Reading who have worked so hard to support their pupils through challenging times.”

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “There have been some great results coming out of Reading’s schools today and I would like to congratulate all those pupils who have done so well.

“Any young people who were disappointed with their results should not worry as there is an array of opportunities available to them. I would urge them to take advantage of the expert advice and guidance on offer from our Elevate careers team.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to Reading’s schools for doing so much for our children and young people and their local communities.”

The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

There is also lots of information and guidance available to parents and students on the Education Hub published by the Department for Education at: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/.


Reading AS/A-Level results 2022

Young people across Reading have been finding out their A/AS level results this morning (Thursday 18 August).

This year’s candidates are the first to sit exams since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in 2020 and 2021 had their grades assigned by teachers.

AS/A-level students would still have had their learning disrupted by the pandemic and should feel proud of their achievements under difficult circumstances.

Young people on some B-Tec vocational courses and those who have taken the first T-levels, a post-GCSE technical qualification, will also receive their results today.

Anyone disappointed with their results should take advantage of the support on offer, including Elevate careers service, run by Brighter Futures for Children, is open to offer advice and guidance for Reading students and there is a drop-in careers fair being held today between 11am-3pm in west Reading.

Brian Grady, Interim Director of Children’s Services and Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Young people receiving their results in Reading have demonstrated resilience, focus and learned new ways of learning throughout the pandemic. I applaud all of our Reading young people today and wish you every success for your future.

“I would also like to say thank you to the school leaders, teachers and support staff who have worked so hard to support their pupils through challenging times.

“For young people who may not have received the grades they were hoping for, I hope you take a moment to recognise how well you have risen to the challenge these past two years, and how this will stand you in good stead in the years to come. You are not alone and there will be many options for you to consider. Do please contact our advisors at Elevate careers service to help you think about how you can take the next steps to achieve your ambitions”.

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “Congratulations to all the young people in Reading who received their exam results today. I wish them all the best in their next steps, whether that involves higher education, employment or training.

“If you did not receive the results you had hoped for, you should not feel disheartened as there are so many different options available. Do please contact our expert careers team at Elevate who can talk you through all the possible choices.”

The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also running a drop-in summer careers event today to give young people living in Reading aged 16-19 (up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and /or disabilities) a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities.

The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning Berkshire at 28 Portman Road, Reading, RG30 1EA, between 11am-3pm.


Expert careers advisors on hand to give exam results support

Young people in Reading will be able to access expert advice and guidance from professional careers advisors at Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) after receiving their exam results this month.

The team at Elevate careers service, run by BFfC, will be available to talk to students online, by phone, email or in person if they are disappointed with their results or need some support.

Young people who sat their exams this summer are due to receive their A/AS Level results on 18 August and GCSE results on 25 August. T-Level results will also be available on 18 August and some vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) will also be released on 18 and 25 August.

Young people who are concerned about their exam results and want some guidance about their possible next steps have a variety of ways of getting in touch with advisors at Elevate.

Elevate is also running a summer careers event to give young people living in Reading aged 16-19 (up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and /or disabilities) a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities.

The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning Berkshire on Thursday 18 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Places can be booked in advance by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email at: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

Brian Grady, Interim Director of Children’s Services and Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I would like to send best wishes to all the young people in Reading who will be receiving their exam results this month.

“They can be assured that our professional careers advisors at Elevate will be on hand to give them expert guidance and advice should they need it.

“The friendly team are available to talk online, by phone, email or in-person, so I would urge any young person who has any concerns or questions to get in touch.”

Cllr Ruth McEwan, Lead Councillor for Education and Public Health, said: “This can be an anxious time for young people awaiting their exam results and I wish them all good luck.

“There are so many different options available to young people that there will always be positive ways of moving forward even if they don’t get the results they hoped for.

“I would strongly encourage them to contact the team at Elevate if they need advice on what steps to take next.”

The Elevate page in the Young People’s Zone of the BFfC website is regularly updated with local job, traineeship, apprenticeship and internship opportunities, plus further and higher education choices. Visit:  https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/young-peoples-zone/careers-service-for-young-people/.


Reading families invited to register for summer Holiday Activity & Food scheme

Hundreds of families across Reading are being invited to register for the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme this summer.

The programme provides a wide range of different activities, and lunches, for children who are normally entitled to pupil premium free school meals.

Eligible families are able to register for places on the scheme on the Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) website now at: Holiday Activities and Food scheme (HAF) - Brighter Futures For Children.

This summer, eligible children are invited to attend four-hour sessions, four times a week for four weeks.

The list of organisations offering holiday camps ranges from Reading FC to Rabble Theatre and from New Direction College to Grassrootz.

Families need to re-register to access HAF activities every new holiday season, even if they have used the scheme previously.

BFfC co-ordinates HAF on behalf of Reading Borough Council and the scheme is funded by the Department for Education.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We were so pleased that more than 700 children attended the fun activities through the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme over the Easter break.

“Now, I would encourage eligible families to register to make sure their children can join in the amazing holiday camps which will be available over the long summer break. Don’t forget, you need to re-register even if you have used the HAF scheme before.”

Graeme Hoskin, Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “In these tough times when so many families are struggling financially it is important there is extra support available during the school holidays.

“The Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) scheme will make a big difference to those families whose children will be able to have great fun, make new friends and enjoy a nutritious lunch throughout the summer break.”

To register for HAF and to find more information please visit: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/for-parents-carers/schools/haf/

Notes to Editors

The full list of organisations offering holiday camps through the HAF scheme are: NSSPORT, Sports in Mind, St Josephs, Reading FC, Usport, Premier Education, New Direction College, Cultural Education Partnership, Next Thing Education, Make Sense, Little Musketeers, Rabble Theatre, Grassrootz.


Kit Lam joins Brighter Futures for Children as Executive Director of Finance and Resources

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) in Reading has announced the appointment of Kit Lam as its new, permanent Executive Director of Finance and Resources.

Kit has worked in the not-for-profit and public sector for more than 20 years, with her last three posts at senior leadership level in the education sector.

In her last role as Chief Operating Officer for a newly formed multi-academy trust, she successfully developed and led the centralised corporate functions, supporting schools operating across three regions in the UK.

Kit, who is a qualified certified accountant, joined the Reading children’s company on 6 June.

She said: “I am thrilled to be part of Brighter Futures for Children, an organisation which is clearly passionate and committed to delivering the best possible opportunities for the children of Reading.

“The chance to play a part in helping every child and young person in Reading to have a happy, healthy and successful life will be at the core of my focus while supporting and working with the fantastic team at BFfC.”

Di Smith, Board Chair at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We are very excited to be welcoming Kit Lam as the company’s Executive Director of Finance and Resources.

“Kit comes with vast experience working in the not-for-profit and public sector, and as a senior leader in the field of education. Her enthusiasm and commitment to providing the best possible services for children and young people makes her a perfect fit for Brighter Futures for Children.”


Reading Virtual School’s first virtual annual conference – 17 June 2022

An exciting programme of events is promised for guests at Reading Virtual School’s first virtual annual conference in June.

The theme is ‘United Journeys: Transform lives, shape futures, be remembered’ and is aimed at those who look after and work with care experienced children and young people.

There is an impressive line-up of top guest speakers throughout the day along with reflections from Reading care leavers and an award-winning short film about a young boy living with a foster family, called Be-Longing.

The free conference is being hosted online on Friday 17 June, 9am-3pm, and registration is open now.

Leading practitioner and author Louise Michelle Bomber is the keynote speaker opening the conference. Louise has a wealth of experience as both an adoptive parent and as a professional and is author of the book Inside I’m Hurting and, more recently, Know Me to Teach Me.

Closing the conference will be inspirational keynote speaker and author Jaz Ampaw-Farr. Jaz has led national and international projects unlocking potential in leaders and teams and is renowned for the impact she has had on the education and health sectors.

Other guest speakers include author and Brighter Futures for Children practitioner Bharti Dhir, trainer and author Lisa Cherry and a representative from Coram Children’s Legal Services.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children which provides education and children’s services in Reading, said: “Our Virtual School is delighted to be staging its first annual conference with such an esteemed programme of influential speakers.

“I am sure social workers, designated safeguarding leads, foster carers and anyone else who works with care experienced children and young people will find this an inspirational and thought-provoking event.”

Each registration for the event will be entered into a raffle to win one of five copies of Bharti Dhir’s book, Worth. Any school whose staff register for a place will also be sent a copy of Louise Michelle Bomber’s Attachment Aware Schools Series.

For more information and to register for the conference visit: Reading Virtual School Conference.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Brighter Futures for Children is a not-for-profit company owned by, but independent of, Reading Borough Council with the responsibility of delivering education and children’s services in Reading.
  • Reading Virtual School exists to raise educational attainment and aspiration and narrow the gap between children in care and their peers.

Celebrating the magic of Reading’s fostering community

Fostering communities is the theme of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight and Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) will be celebrating the brilliant fostering community in Reading and encouraging more people to join it.

Foster Care Fortnight, which runs 9 – 22 May, is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign delivered by The Fostering Network charity.

This year’s focus is on celebrating the strength and resilience of fostering communities and all they do to ensure children are cared for and supported to thrive.

BFfC’s Fostering team will be out and about in Reading inviting people to learn more about the magic of the town’s fostering community.

Events include:

  • Activities at Forbury Fiesta in Forbury Gardens on Saturday 14 May, 11am-4pm
  • A stand outside Waterstones in Broad Street as part of Reading Children’s Festival on Tuesday 17 May, 10am-2pm
  • A free inspiring online introduction to fostering locally in association with the Parent and Family Network at the University of Reading, along with foster carers and care experienced students. Thursday 12 May, 12noon-1pm. Email: parentfamilynetwork@reading.ac.uk to register.
  • An online information session with one of our foster carers on Wednesday 25 May, 5.30-6.30pm. Email: foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org for details.

We will also be sharing stories and information via BFfC’s social media channels throughout Foster Care Fortnight at: BFfC_Child on Twitter, @BFfCChild on Facebook, LinkedIn and @ReadingYoungPeople on Instagram.

BFfC’s Fostering service is an Ofsted-rated ‘Good’ provider which operates as a not-for-profit agency on behalf of Reading Borough Council.

Our foster carers have been talking about their fostering experience.

One foster carer said: “I don’t think anyone should be scared of fostering. It’s a big decision to make but with support it can be absolutely amazing and actually we get more out of it than the children do sometimes.”

Another said: “If you’ve got a spare room and you’ve got a lot of love to give, and you’re ready to take on somebody else, do it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I wish I’d done it years ago.”

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We have an amazing fostering community in Reading and I am delighted to be celebrating the work of everyone who’s part of it during Foster Care Fortnight.

“We want more people to know about the magic of our fostering community and to become a part of it so more Reading children can continue to be cared for in their hometown.

“I would urge anyone who has ever considered fostering to visit our Fostering team at an event or sign up to one of the online sessions to find out more.”

Why not enquire about fostering today? Call: 0118 469 3020, email: foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org or visit www.readingfostering.co.uk.


First preference primary school places offered to 89% of Reading families

Almost 90% of Reading parents have been offered their first preference of primary school for their child this year.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), which delivers education services in Reading, has ensured all primary school pupils in the borough have a place for September.

Ninety-eight per cent of Reading parents have been offered one of their top three preferences and 89% were offered their first, compared to 90% last year. Only two per cent of parents were not offered one of their preferences, the same as last year.

BFfC received 1,844 applications for primary school places this year compared with 1800 in 2021. However, the number of applications received after the deadline has brought the figure close to the forecast number of 1,978. Late applications have still to be processed.

There were 148 pupils who needed an infant to junior school transfer this year. Reading has only two schools for which this transfer is necessary and 100% of on-time applicants received their first preference.

Deborah Glassbrook, Executive Director of Children’s Services at BFfC, said: “We are pleased to be able to offer so many Reading families a place for their child in one of their three preferred primary schools this year. And almost 90% have been offered their first preference.

“It is such an exciting time for families when their children start primary school and we send our very best wishes to them for their big day in September.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to thank our wonderful primary schools in Reading for all their amazing hard work over the last two challenging years.”

Reading primary school place offers 2022/2021

2022

(%)

2021

(%)

2022

(pupil numbers)

2021

(pupil numbers)

1st preference offers 88.85 89.73 1641 1625
2nd preference offers 6.5 5.36 120 97
3rd preference offers 1.95 1.66 36 30
4th preference offers 0.49 0.5 9 9
Pupils offered divert 2.11 2.15 38 39

 


New Director of Education appointed

A new permanent Director of Education for Reading has been appointed by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC).

Brian Grady, whose hometown is Reading, will bring with him 20 years of public service experience when he joins BFfC from the London Borough of Brent on 1 May.

Mr Grady has held leadership roles with responsibility for improving educational outcomes across early years, primary and secondary schools in a county, unitary authority and London borough. Most recently he has been Operational Director for Safeguarding, Partnerships and Strategy in Brent.

Achievements include delivering 32 children’s centres across a county, establishing new primary and secondary provision rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted and overseeing programmes to improve attainment for disadvantaged groups.

Mr Grady said: “Reading is a special place. We have all the ingredients for every Reading child and young person to thrive and succeed.

“As a local resident I see excellence in our local education system, but I also know that not every Reading child benefits from all of the opportunities we have on offer.

“I am looking forward to working with schools and partners across the borough, with the aim of creating a truly outstanding education system that benefits all children and young people in Reading.”

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I am delighted to be welcoming Brian to Brighter Futures for Children as our permanent Director of Education.

“He comes with an impressive record of achievements and a vast amount of experience which I know will be a huge benefit to Reading.

“Brian has high ambitions for education in Reading and is passionate about giving all children and young people in the town the chance to flourish and enjoy a bright future.”

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Sue Imbriano for her work as Interim Director of Education over the last six months.”