Supporting Reading schools to make ‘green’ learning fun

Inspiring and fun ways of teaching Reading pupils about climate change and the environment are featured in a new newsletter for schools published by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) and the Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP).

The Reading Schools Eco Newsletter includes offers of free teaching resources, help to make outdoor spaces greener, sustainable travel advice and membership of a schools’ climate action network.

The quarterly newsletter is also packed with local environment news, tips and advice for schools, pupils and students.

BFfC’s climate change lead practitioner works with RCCP on the publication which in this edition offers schools the chance to borrow renewable energy kits recently acquired by BFfC. The kits are a fun way of demonstrating to pupils how the sun’s energy is used to heat water and produce electricity and how wind energy is used to produce electricity.

Reading Climate Action Network (RCAN), which is run by RCCP, also offers free advice to schools on how they can make their outdoor spaces greener. And a Reading Schools Climate Action Network (RSCAN) has been created for primary and secondary school staff so they can link-up and share ideas.

The latest edition of the school’s eco newsletter also includes top tips for individuals and schools on topics ranging from energy saving to recycling, and from transport to water and waste.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at BFfC, said: “It is vital children learn about climate change and the environment at a young age and we want to help Reading schools teach these subjects in a way that excites and inspires pupils.

“The Reading Schools Eco Newsletter is a brilliant way of letting teachers know what support is on offer and arming them with lots of useful information and fun resources for lessons. It is also a great example of joined-up working with our friends at the Reading Climate Change Partnership.”

Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “The Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) and Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP) Eco Schools Newsletter is great resource for our schools, to support their work on environmental education and climate change.

“Climate change is one of the most significant challenges we face and these resources will help to inform, inspire, and empower young people to learn more and to make a positive difference for their futures.”


Help with school uniforms

Parents of children who are starting secondary school in September will soon be thinking about buying the school uniform for the start of term.

The cost of a school uniform can be a cause for concern for some families but there is some help available from local charities.

Parents who are facing difficulty buying a uniform should first approach the school their child is going to attend as it may have funds available, offer uniforms at a discount or have previously owned uniforms for families on low incomes.

If the school is unable to assist, there are five local charities that may be able to help with pre-owned school uniforms:

  • New Beginnings, based at The Queens Arms, Great Knollys Street, Reading. Please visit their website to find out more https://newbeginningsreading.org/ they also have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NewBeginningsReading/ for up to date information. You can also contact them on 07421 998208
  • First Days, based in Wokingham, offers help with school uniforms. Parents need to be able to pick up the clothing from their base. They can be contacted on 0118 921 9338, website: https://www.firstdays.net/
  • Weller Centre, in Amersham Road, Caversham. Visit their website https://wellercentre.co.uk/ for up to date information, or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/wellercentre/ or call 0118 947 5828
  • Whitley Community Development Association, in Northumberland Avenue, Reading, has a surplus food and school uniform pop up on Thursdays and Fridays 9am-noon. Contact them directly to check availability on 0118 374 0052 or email: info@whitley-cda.org, website: https://whitley-cda.org/, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeamWhitleyCDA/
  • The Cowshed is a Christian charity that provides clothing and other items for individuals and families in Berkshire experiencing hardship. It offers its services to people from all faiths and none. The Cowshed works in partnership with support services such as GPs, health visitors, churches, charities and social service agencies who provide it with referrals. Website: https://www.thecowshed.org/

All these services are listed on the Family Information Service website at: www.readingfis.org. It is worth checking the site regularly as other organisations may also offer support throughout the summer.

The gov.uk website also contains information about financial help available if you have children at: https://www.gov.uk/browse/childcare-parenting/financial-help-children


Pandemic accelerated a new way of working

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred us on to try new ways of working which are here to stay, the Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) says in a newly published article.

Di Smith says working practices have had to change rapidly since she took the reins of the company at the start of the first lockdown in April 2020. And now BFfC is embracing the changes and making them work to its advantage.

Writing in a leadership feature in Children & Young People Now, Ms Smith says the virus has accelerated a move towards a more flexible and agile way of working which will benefit staff and Reading’s children and young people.

Most BFfC employees have been working from home or remotely during the pandemic and that model is set to continue even when restrictions are lifted. There will be no general call for staff to return to the office once its doors are reopened and individuals are being encouraged to make their own working arrangements with their managers.

Office-based staff will have the flexibility to choose how often they go into the office or work remotely as long as it is in line with management and operational requirements.

Ms Smith says in her article: “At Brighter Futures for Children, we have not only embraced virtual meetings but have used the learning from the pandemic to accelerate our commitment to an agile way of working.

“We realised during the first lockdown that standard office hours didn’t always fit with our employees’ own lives. Home schooling, living alone or in a tight space with a large family all present challenges.

“Working flexibly and being trusted to do so can mean staff cope better personally and deliver a better service for children and families.”

Ms Smith explains BFfC’s approach to developing agile working in five headings: keep in touch; listen to learn; focus on the outcomes; have the right kit and work together.

She said: “We have learned a lot over the last year and will continue to explore with our staff how agile working can enable them to perform at their best for the company, and ultimately for the children and young people of Reading.”

The article on Flexible Working by Board Chair Di Smith can be viewed on the BFfC website, is available to read on cypnow.co.uk and appears in the July print edition of Children & Young People Now.


National Thank a Teacher Day 

A national day to celebrate teachers is taking place on Wednesday 20 May and Brighter Futures for Children (BFfCis encouraging as many people as possible to join in. 

Teachers have been going above and beyond the call of duty throughout the coronavirus outbreak and deserve recognition for their hard work. 

The closure of schools to most pupils due to Covid-19 has certainly not allowed teachers to take a break. 

BFfC has been swamped with stories of amazing ways teachers have been keeping their pupils and families engaged during lockdown and helping the community imany amazing ways. 

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at BFfC, said: The coronavirus crisis has been a challenging time for teachers, pupils and families as they have had to quickly adapt to learning in a completely different way. 

“As well as providing education for children of key workers and vulnerable children, teachers have been supporting their pupils and parents with home learning in a variety of creative and innovative ways. Many staff also gave up their Easter break and volunteered to go into school so critical workers could continue their vital jobs. 

“There are further challenges ahead with the planned opening of schools to more pupils so now is an ideal time to show our appreciation for the teaching profession. 

“On behalf of BFfC, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all teaching staff in Reading who have stepped up and done a remarkable job when their children and families have needed them most.” 

Among the many fabulous examples of good news stories coming from schools in Reading are: 

  • Staff making life-saving protective equipment for NHS workers 
  • Daily live interacive story telling sessions for young pupils on Facebook  
  • A virtual phonics lesson with the teacher utilising her dishwasher as a blackboard 
  • Staff raising hundreds of pounds to buy gifts for nurses at the Royal Berkshire Hospital 
  • A school team providing food, clothing, toys etc for struggling families in the community 
  • Teachers and children creating colourful pictures to decorate the ICU at the RBH 
  • Children and teachers making banners and posters outside their schools to thank the NHS 
  • Lottie the school dog recording a video message for pupils at home 
  • School staff creating collages to send messages to their pupils 
  • Teachers featuring in music videos to keep spirits high among children and parents 

All of this on top of the support they have been giving to parents and children learning at home. 

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said:  “Wednesday is national Thank a Teacher day, where I hope we can all take a moment to appreciate the work of our hard-working education professionals. 

“The last few months have been incredibly tough for young people with great upheaval, change and uncertainty. But throughout all of this, their teachers have been there to support them, the mediums may have changed but the care and dedication has never waned. 

“I have been humbled by how teachers have adapted to this new world and risen to the challenge. There have been so many wonderfully creative ways that teachers have engaged with their students both in and out of schools. I've seen vegetable gardens, Top Trumps for pets, plays acted out, alien profiling and baking competitions amongst many, many other fantastic activities to keep students learning but more importantly, ensuring that they still feel part of their school’s family.  

“Above all else this is what our teachers do, they provide reassurance, safety and care for our young people, and for this I am very, very grateful. So, thank you teachers, today and every day.”  

National Thank a Teacher Day is a great opportunity for children, parents and carers to show their appreciation for their teachers. 

Children are being encouraged to send their message of thanks on Wednesday 20 May by recording a short video clip, singing a song, drawing a picture or through any other medium they wish. There are plenty of ideas on the national website at: https://thankateacher.co.uk/thank-a-teacher-day/. 

If you are using social media, remember to use @UKThankaTeacher on twitter and ThankaTeacherUK on Facebook. 

You can also share you message with us at @BFfC_Child on twitter and at @BFfCChild on Facebook. 


During Foster Care Fortnight, picture life as a foster family in Reading 

A campaign to keep Reading’s children in care in Reading is being stepped up during Foster Care Fortnight (11-24 May). 

There are more than 270 children and young people in care in Reading, but many have to be placed outside their home areas due to a shortage of local carers.

Brighter Futures for Children's (BFfC) Independent Fostering Agency is embarking on a big push to increase the number of foster carers in Reading to keep children near their friends and family.

Foster Care Fortnight is an annual national campaign to raise awareness of fostering and to celebrate the work foster carers do to transform the lives of children and young people.

Antony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said: 

"Foster carers do an amazing job and I would like to thank them for making such a positive difference to the lives of children and young people in Reading. 

"I would urge anyone in Reading who has ever considered being a foster carer to get in contact with us because we need more people to look after our children locally.  

"People’s circumstances may have changed in recent weeks due to the current situation and now might be the right time to think of a change in direction - fostering is a wonderful opportunity. 

"As well as being a rewarding role, our foster carers receive a great package of training and support and become part of a fantastic network of fellow carers. 

Children and young people should ideally be looked after close to their home, where it is safe to do so, as this allows them to be close to their friends and have contact with their family. This instils a sense of belonging, minimises disruption to their lives and helps them to feel rooted in Reading.

Biri Yaya, BFfC’s Independent Fostering Agency’s Service Manager, said: 

"At the moment, we have no choice but to place a lot of children outside of Reading as we do not have a big enough pool of fostecarers locally. 

"This means we are having to move our children away from their friends, their schools and everything they know. 

"That is why, throughout the fortnight, Brighter Futures for Children IFA will be asking people to ‘Picture This’ and imagine life as a foster family. As the general public are currently following government guidelines and socially distancing, we are spreading the word virtually as wide as we can across Reading.  

virtual information evening is being held on Microsoft Teams between 6-7pm on Thursday 14 May and anyone who is interested can email  foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org to be sent details. 

There is also a Facebook Live Q&A on Friday 22 May, from 11.30am, where visitors can chat to the fostering team on the Brighter Futures for Children Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BFfCChild/). You can also follow us on social media to hear stories from our foster carers, children in care, foster siblings, care leavers and more. 

A fresh new fostering website has just been launched with lots of information, stories and FAQs at www.readingfostering.co.uk. You can also call (0118) 469 3020 or email foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org to find out more about fostering in Reading.

NOTES TO EDITORS: 

Brighter Futures for Children owns the IFA, which operates in the same independent, not-for-profit way as Brighter Futures for Children does in relation to its owner, Reading Borough Council. 

Brighter Futures for Children took over responsibility for the delivery of children’s services, including children’s social care, early help and education services (including SEND) in December 2018 and the fostering service from March 2019. 

Brighter Futures for Children IFA was rated ‘Requires Improvement to be Good’ by Ofsted in March 2020. 

CASE STUDY  

Marion’s Story 

Marion had long harboured a dream of being a foster carer and the single mum decided to go for it when she was satisfied her two daughters were ready. 

She said: “I had to wait until the right time. That point was reached when I felt that my two daughters were old enough to have a proper say in the decision, fully able to understand what was involved, and ready to share their home – and to share me. 

“When I did ask them, they were all for it… and it turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done - for them as well as myself.” 

Marion’s fostering career began eight years ago, when her children were 13 and 19, and she has never looked back. 

She would encourage anyone else thinking of becoming a foster carer to do so. 

Marion said: “You may have some concerns about certain aspects and perhaps around how you will cope, but Reading provides lots of training courses to give you the tools you need to deal with the situations that crop up. You can reach out to your Supervising Social Worker, and there is a very good network of foster carers there to give you their advice too. 

“It has been one of the best things I’ve ever done – my own daughters have been hugely supportive all the way through, it’s given them a sense of achievement… and I know that they are more understanding people as a result. 

“On top of that you know you are making a huge difference to a young child’s life and helping to equip them for what lies ahead.” 


New Chair announced for Brighter Futures for Children 

Di Smith, Brighter Futures for Children Chair

BRIGHTER Futures for Children (BFfC) has announced the appointment of its new Board Chair. The company provides Reading’s education, early help and children’s services. 

Di Smith, who has worked in the children and education sector for more than 40 years, has taken on the role from 1 April following her appointment by the Department for Education. 

She takes over from Deborah Jenkins MBE who helped in the creation of BFfC and played a significant role in the considerable improvements achieved over the last two years. 

Ms Smith has been Independent Chair of the Children’s Services Improvement Board in Reading and has supported the progress that has been made since 2016. 

She has been a Director of Children’s Services in four different areas and has provided improvement support in several local authorities. 

Ms Smith has also worked in residential care, been a head teacher, Ofsted inspector and chair of governors and held senior leadership positions in six local authorities. 

She also holds a number of other positions including that of Independent Chair/Scrutineer of Croydon’s Safeguarding Children’s Partnership, Safeguarding Trustee at The Children’s Society and Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Advisory Committee for the Diocese in Europe. 

Ms Smith said: "I am delighted to be the new Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children. Over the past few weeks, I have received regular updates from the Managing Director Tony Kildare and Director of Children’s Services Deborah Glassbrook.  

"I have been really inspired by what I have heard from them about staff commitment, adaptability, focus and care. These are extraordinary times and I feel proud to be joining an organisation that has such a dedicated, caring and committed workforce."

Derborah Jenkins is leaving the role after becoming chair in March 2018 and playing a key role in helping Reading’s Children’s Services achieve its improved Ofsted rating in October last year. 

Ms Jenkins said: “It has been a huge pleasure to work in Reading for the last two years, and to play a part in building Brighter Futures for Children 

“I would like to thank everyone I have worked with in Reading for their hard work, commitment and dedication to transforming the quality of children’s services in the borough. 

I am confident, with the excellent new chair Di Smith in place, BFfC has the talent and skills to create some of the best services in the country for the children and young people of Reading.” 

Antony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We are all indebted to Deborah Jenkins for taking us on this improvement journey and firmly putting us in the positive place we are today. 

“I am delighted that Di Smith is joining us as our new Chair after working with us in Reading for some time.

"She brings a huge amount of experience to the BFfC board and I am sure she willl have a great influence on our ongoing drive to deliver the best possible services for children and young people in Reading.” 

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “I welcome the appointment of Di Smith as Chair of the Brighter Futures for Children Board. She has a wealth of experience working in the children sector and I am sure she will be a great asset to the company. 

“I would also like to thank Deborah Jenkins for her work during her two years as Chair during which time there have been ongoing improvements to children’s services in Reading.” 

Notes to Editors 

Brighter Futures for Children is an independent not-for-profit company, wholly owned by Reading Borough Council, established in December 2018 to deliver education early help and children’s services for Reading. 

The company operated as a shadow company for some months before while services were still being run by Reading Borough Council. 

BFfC successfully brought children’s services out of its 'inadequate’ Ofsted rating in October 2019 when it was judged as ‘requires improvement to be good’. 


Former foster carers urged to return during coronavirus crisis

Brighter Futures for Children, which delivers children’s services in Reading, is putting out a call to former foster carers in the borough to re-register amid concerns the coronavirus epidemic could lead to a shortage of adult carers to look after vulnerable children.

Existing foster carers with Brighter Futures for Children’s Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) are also being asking if they would consider looking after more children than usual during this difficult period.

The appeal for help is in response to national concerns, shared by Brighter Futures for Children, that children and young people spending more time in unstable family situations, due to Covid-19 measures, may need to come into care.

Also, some existing foster carers, including family and friends carers, may become ill or need to self-isolate and be unable to look after their foster children.

The aim is to try to widen its foster care network across the board.

The IFA is writing to all former foster carers who have given up fostering in the last two years to ask if they would consider returning. These are carers who may have been registered with Brighter Futures for Children’s IFA or with Reading Borough Council before that. The service was transferred to Brighter Futures for Children in March 2019 and became an IFA at that time.

Re-registering would be carried out as quickly as possible and a great support network is on offer to all foster carers.

The service is also keen to hear from anyone who is interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer.

The Brighter Futures for Children IFA is continually improving the service offered to foster carers and the children and young people who rely on it, as demonstrated by its recently improved Ofsted rating.

Tony Kildare, Brighter Futures for Children’s Managing Director, said: “We believe we have a robust and resilient business continuity plan to see us through this period but we want to widen our foster care network across the board. We need the Reading community to help us with this.

“Our foster carers do an amazing job and we are asking if they could go even further and take on more children than usual. We would also love to welcome back any former foster carers who could offer their help in these difficult times.

“Brighter Futures for Children IFA is committed to offering the best possible support to our foster carers to ensure they can continue to look after Reading children locally during this unsettling period.”

Biri Yaya, Fostering Service Manager at Brighter Futures for Children's Independent Fostering Agency said: “We are committed to ensuring that all of our children and young people across Reading are safe and well in a caring home during these tough times.

‘It’s sad but inevitable that more children will come into care over the coming weeks and months and we are planning and preparing for that and hope that we can welcome back former foster carers and encourage potential new carers.”

Former foster carers should call 0118 469 3020 or email foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

Anyone interested in foster care should call 0118 469 3020 or complete the online form at: https://www.readingfostering.co.uk/

Notes to editors

In December 2018, Brighter Futures for Children was established to deliver children’s social care, early help and education on behalf of Reading Borough Council. As a company it is independent of, but wholly owned by, Reading Borough Council. Within this, Brighter Futures for Children’s Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) was established in March 2019.