GCSE exam results 2021

Students have been receiving their GCSE exam results across Reading today.

For the second consecutive year, the government said that GCSE exams could not be held this summer because of the disruption students faced due to the pandemic.

Instead, teachers were asked to assess the standard of work each student had achieved in their subjects so the school could determine a grade.

Every young person in Reading who has received their results today should feel proud of their achievements in what has been a stressful and uncertain time. And they should take advantage of the support on offer if they are disappointed with their results.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I would like to congratulate all Reading students who received the grades they were hoping for today because it is their hard work throughout the year which has led to their achievement.

“I would encourage any young people who are concerned about their results to contact our expert team at Elevate careers service who can offer advice and support.

“The assessment of pupils’ performance to determine exam results has been one of the many extra challenges our teachers and schools have had to face in the least year. I would like to thank all school staff for their exceptional hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “There has been a great deal of uncertainty for young people over the last year with many missing out on lessons at school and on the support they would normally enjoy from face-to-face contact with classmates, friends and family.

“Students in Reading who received the results they had hoped for today should be feeling proud of their achievements. Any young people who are disappointed with their results should seek advice on the many different options available to them.

“I would like to say thank you to all staff in Reading’s schools for the way they have dealt with so many different challenges in the last year and shown such commitment to the education of our children and young people.”

Young people in Reading can access information, advice and guidance from Brighter Futures for Children’s expert careers advisers if they are disappointed with their exam results. The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also holding a summer networking event next week to give young people a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, can book a place by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email to: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

The Virtual School will be available on results day to support children looked after and care leavers if they require any advice, information or guidance. Please contact Mab Akhter, Virtual School Assistant Headteacher at mab.akhter@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.


Reading AS/A level results 2021

Young people across Reading have been receiving their A-level results this morning (Tuesday 10 August).

As last year, the government decided A-level exams could not be held this summer because of the disruption students faced due to the pandemic.

Instead, teachers were asked to assess the standard of work each student had achieved in their subjects so the school or college could determine a grade.

Young people in Reading who received their results today should be proud of what they have achieved under such difficult circumstances. And they should take advantage of the support on offer if they are disappointed with their results.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “It has been a challenging time for students who have had their education disrupted during a vital period of their school career and I would like to congratulate all those who have achieved the results they were after.

“Any young people who did not receive the grades they hoped for should contact our excellent Elevate careers service to discuss all the options open to them.

“I would like to pay tribute to all school staff in Reading who have worked so tirelessly to support young people throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Young people receiving their A-level results today have experienced an extraordinary 16 months. Those who achieved the grades they wanted should be very proud that their determination and perseverance has paid off.

“Anyone who did not receive the results they had hoped for should not worry as there are so many options open to them and I would urge them to seek the advice and support available.

“I would like to thank all staff in Reading’s schools who have given 100% commitment to educating and support their students throughout the pandemic.”

Young people in Reading can access information, advice and guidance from Brighter Futures for Children’s expert careers advisers if they are concerned about their exam results. The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also holding a summer networking event next week to give young people a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, can book a place by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email to: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

The Virtual School will be available on results day to support children looked after and care leavers if they require any advice, information or guidance. Please contact Mab Akhter, Virtual School Assistant Headteacher, at mab.akhter@brighterfuturesforchildren.org


Keeping teenagers, like Jade, rooted in Reading

Jade first came into care when she was nine years old. She was picked up from school by her social worker and taken to the home of a foster couple, David and Elaine. Jade says:

‘I was scared and I didn’t know what was happening. But they explained it to me and we sat down, ate brownies and watched the football which was nice.’

Jade wasn’t able to go back to her mum and dad so she stayed with David and Elaine for a year and a half. After this, she was matched with a long-term foster carer, Angela, who she was set to stay with until she reaches the age of 18.

‘Angela was really friendly and held a ‘Welcome to the family’ party for me with her sons and lots of cake which was really fun. It wasn’t as scary going to Angela’s as I had met her a few times before while I was still with David and Elaine.’

‘I’m really lucky because I live with Angela, my foster carer, in Reading, which means I’m close to my friends and family. Angela is a good foster carer and I still see my family lots.’

Jade is now 17 and is classed as a ‘care leaver’. That means she is currently working towards building her independent living skills, ready to support herself as an adult. She will be ‘staying put’ with Angela, which means she can stay with her until she’s 21.

Jade says:

‘I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. When I was younger and first came into care, I was really shy. My foster carer helped me learn how to voice my opinions and understand what I wanted. I also used to be scared of speaking in public but now I’m not. I feel a lot more confident today. I finished school, which I found really hard, and I’m now studying at college.’

At Brighter Futures for Children, we’re proud of Jade too. We’re proud of all our young people who work hard, alongside us, to turn their lives around in care. But at the moment, we don’t have enough foster carers in Reading to look after teenagers.

Could you give a teenager like Jade a loving home and a brighter future?

Learn more about fostering in Reading: www.readingfostering.co.uk

Email: foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org

Call: 0118 469 3020


"I'm a foster sibling and I love making a difference"

Isabelle is 18 and has been a foster sibling to many babies and children in care over the past ten years at their Reading home.

Georgia and Sam, Isabelle’s parents, decided they wanted to take up fostering when she was eight and her brothers were 11 and 13. They spoke about how fostering would work for them as a family and started off looking after children under five years old.

Georgia and Sam then agreed they would always try to have children within five years of Isabelle’s age. ‘She was always a very hands on sibling, even back then!,’ they laughed.

So, what was it actually like growing up as a foster sister? Isabelle was happy to explain. ‘We have always loved looking after the children and we make sure we take them on nice days out and set up different activities. I have liked everything about fostering and we work well as a family to help care for the children.’

Brighter Futures for Children runs a fun group for foster siblings called the ‘Foster Squad’ and Isabelle and her two brothers have joined in with their activities. Her parents are active members of Reading Carers’ Link, a support group for Reading’s foster carers, and so they are family friends with the children of lots of other carers too.

Isabelle’s family does short-term, respite and emergency fostering. What was that like as a sibling? ‘We hope they will always feel like part of our family for the duration of their stay and I think this is important,’ Isabelle explained, ‘and we are still in touch with lots of them!’.

Has being a foster sibling influenced Isabelle in her life? It certainly seems so! She says: ‘Fostering gave me lots of skills and experience with children and made me want to work with them. I am now training to be an early years practitioner at a local nursery. I enjoy fostering and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new children over the years and making a difference to their lives.’


"I'm a care leaver, here's my story"

Ben went into care when he was 3, due to mental health in his family meaning he had been neglected as a baby and toddler. He says, ‘When I arrived in care, I was sleeping as it was late. I woke up in the morning, confused, frightened and scared and I woke up screaming because I was in an unfamiliar environment. I was unable to speak and, aged 3, was very much like a baby still.’

Ben quickly settled as his foster carer provided a safe and secure environment for him. He was nurtured as if he was a baby, which helped him to build a bond with his carer and helped him learn how to excel.

Ben has been fortunate to have one foster carer, who has looked after him as a long-term fostering placement since that first night. In his own words, he explains, ‘My relationship with my foster carer is close and strong. I refer to her as aunty. The bond is like a mother and son. I was treated the same as her own daughter, which made me feel loved. I was encouraged to believe in myself and that anything I wanted to achieve was possible.’

Ben still keeps in touch with his birth family. He says, ‘I still visit them. My relationship with my family is okay but I struggle to relate to them. My carer has always made sure my family was seen in a positive manner and that I should always be appreciative of the little things that they were able to do.’

Ben is dual heritage, and his nan is from the Caribbean. He was matched with his foster carer who also has Caribbean heritage and was able to educate him on the Caribbean culture and make him feel proud to be a part of it. Ben says, ‘It helped me to relate to both my nan, and my foster carer’s family. It is more important for a foster carer to understand the type of child they may be looking after, their cultural needs and wants, as this will have an impact on the child’s life.’

How has growing up in foster care changed Ben’s life? ‘I have been able to go on nice holidays. However, I had to earn and work hard to obtain rewards. It’s been instilled into me that it’s important to understand that you have to work hard in life in order to achieve success, and that rewards are earned not just given.’

Ben has definitely worked hard. He did well at school, through some difficulties and achieved high grades in BTECs (2 As, 1B). Clare Houlton, the Headteacher for the Virtual School for Children Looked After*, played an important role in regards to education, ensuring Ben made the most of his academic opportunities and maximised his potential. He says, ‘Clare always went the extra mile, and was genuine and caring.’

Here’s Clare’s perspective: ‘As Virtual School Headteacher for children looked after, it has been an absolute privilege to work with Ben and his wonderful foster carer to support him on his educational journey from year 6 through to year 13 and beyond. Ben demonstrated exceptional resilience and focus in order to maximise his potential, achieve his goals and attain an excellent set of GCSE and post-16 qualifications. I am extremely proud of Ben’s achievements and he is an outstanding role model for children looked after. He is also responsible for introducing me to Cadbury’s chocolate Roundies and nothing brightens my week up more than popping over to see Ben and his foster carer for a cup of tea, a Roundie or two and a good catch up!

‘Being a determined advocate for Ben was at the heart of helping him to feel supported in the areas of his life and education which mattered to him most. Determined advocacy is one of the key elements at the centre of the way in which the Virtual School works to build relationships and support our children and young people to be confident in their ability and realise their potential.’

Something else that Ben noted was important was his appearance and clothing. He explains, ‘Socially, kids are very aware of other kid’s appearances, and this can often be one of the key areas they will use to pick on another child. A child in care, and any child, will want to fit in and not stick out so it’s important that a child can feel comfortable in public. Thanks to my carer, I was dressed fashionably and comfortably and this was important to me.’

What would Ben say to anyone thinking of fostering?
‘I want new foster carers to know that fostering isn’t going to be an easy journey, they shouldn’t give up when they encounter difficult times. Just like you wouldn’t give up on your own child, you shouldn’t give up on a foster child. The reason why my placement has been successful is because my carer taught me good morals and values and persevered through tough times.’

What’s next?
Ben is 18 and is now classed as a care leaver. He has a ‘Staying Put’ arrangement with his foster carer, which means he is able to leave his foster home when he feels comfortable. Excitedly, Ben is now in the process of starting his own business which will aim to support care leavers like himself. Watch this space.

*The Virtual School for Children Looked After maintains a school roll of all Reading’s children looked after, including those children placed out of authority, monitors Personal Education Plans, admissions, attendance, exclusions and has a duty to promote the educational achievement of all children looked after and previously looked after.


Exam results support for Reading’s young people

Young people will be able to access expert support from Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) professional careers advisers after they receive their exam results next week.

The team at Elevate careers service will be available to provide information, advice and guidance online, in person or by phone after students find out their AS/A Level results on 10 August and GCSE results on 12 August.

Elevate, which is run by BFfC, is also holding a summer networking event later this month to help young people find a college course, apprenticeship or employment.

Young people who are concerned about their exam results have a variety of ways to chat with the careers team about their possible next steps. They can:

A summer networking event will also give young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or 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. Elevate is holding the event in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

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

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Our team of experts at Elevate are ready and waiting to help Reading’s young people who are looking for advice and support after receiving their exam results.

“I am delighted that this year, they can offer face-to-face appointments in the excellent new Youth Hub in Reading town centre. There is also a great opportunity for young people to find out more about further education, apprenticeship and employment prospects at a summer networking event this month.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said: “It has been another extraordinary year for students in our schools and once again they will be receiving their exam results without having sat any exams.

“It is essential Reading’s young people have career experts to turn to for advice and support if they are concerned about their results. I would encourage any young person in that position to contact the friendly team at Elevate to chat about their next steps.”

The Elevate page on the Brighter Futures for Children website is regularly updated with local opportunities for jobs, traineeships, apprenticeships and internships, plus further and higher education choices. Visit:  https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/young-peoples-zone/careers-service-for-young-people/


Young people talk about mental health challenges of the pandemic

Young ambassadors for a Reading youth counselling service have produced a series of videos discussing mental health issues related to the pandemic.

No5 counselling service for children and young people has joined forces with Reading Borough Council and Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) to make the short videos to offer support as we come out of lockdown.

The four young ambassadors from No5 have reflected on the past 16 months and what it has meant to them and described how they have managed to get through it.

In the videos, Tia talks about the difficulty of starting a new school during the pandemic and how she dealt with feelings of anxiety and lack of motivation. University student Gemma tells how she changed her mind set to turn an unexpected Christmas away from her family in Italy into a positive experience. And Angie describes how we should spend more time taking care of ourselves, as we would a child.

Also, Abbie explains why it is okay to admit you are struggling and to ask for help; discusses dealing with anxiety about the future and tells how she felt nervous about going back to work in retail.

You can watch the videos and find more information and resources regarding mental health and wellbeing, at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/young-peoples-zone/mental-health-support/ and follow @readingyoungpeople on Instagram.

Deborah Glassbrook, Executive Director of Children’s Services, said: “The last year has been a particularly difficult time for our children and young people. They have had to cope with the anxiety of staying away from school, friends and family members and have faced uncertainty in all aspects of their lives.

“The No5 young ambassadors share fascinating stories in their videos and give some great advice about how they have dealt with different situations. As we enter the long summer holidays, I am sure it will be a big help for young people to hear about the real-life experiences of their peers and to think about their own mental wellbeing.”

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Councillor for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, said: “The COVID pandemic has significantly impacted many people’s wellbeing over the last year, and for young people, getting back a normal life may feel far away. I’m proud that work done by Tessa Brunsden, Community Alcohol Partnership Officer, with local secondary school children earlier this year was able to inform this collaborative project. Her presentations and discussions with the pupils highlighted that many young people’s anxiety surrounding COVID wasn’t just related to physical health and following the local Government guidance, but also in maintaining friendships, planning for the future, and concerns for their family members.

“The young ambassadors at No5 are trusted faces for many young people in Reading, and they have created some excellent videos touching on specific issues raised in the school sessions. As Reading follows the rest of the country in leaving lockdown restrictions, the videos are an important reminder to take the next step at your own pace, as even a positive change can be different for everyone.

“I’d encourage everyone to watch the videos when they’re shared on our social media platforms each Sunday, or take a look at the full playlist here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLW2GVxPNwSYZTgRMooLH0io2ubsYbmgyX.”

No5 is a community-based organisation offering free, confidential, specialist counselling and mental health support to children and young people aged 11-25. Visit the website at: https://no5.org.uk/.

Carly Newman, Operations and Relationships Manager at No5, said: “Our Young Ambassadors provide fantastic insight into the experiences and struggles of young people over the last 16 months, and it is so important that local young people hear their messages and know that they are not alone. We are so glad to work alongside our statutory partners to share these messages and help support local young people.”

The six short videos are also being shared on Brighter Futures for Children’s and Reading Borough Council’s social media channels over the summer.


Quality of care for children & young people with SEND in Reading improving

Brighter Futures For Children,  Berkshire West CCG & RBC Press Release

The quality of care and support for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in Reading is improving, with leaders across the area working well together.

This is the inspectors’ view following a recent joint Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) local area SEND inspection in Reading.

The inspectors recognised that leaders have acted swiftly to address issues which affect children and young people with SEND in Reading and have a clear view of how they will continue to improve services.

The joint inspection took place between 21-25 June and involved health services and schools in the borough, Brighter Futures for Children and Reading Borough Council. Inspectors also spoke to children and young people with SEND and their parents and carers.

The report from Ofsted and CQC, published today, does not give an overall ‘judgment’ but details the positive findings of the inspection.

The main findings say the quality of care for children and young people with SEND in Reading is improving and recent actions taken show the determination of leaders to make Reading a good place to be for children and young people with SEND.

Leaders also recognise the concerns of parents and have plans under way to address the issues that worry parents most, such as the availability of specialist school places.

Inspectors recognised that many professionals work well together and there is better – and earlier –  identification of children with SEND. They said co-production and joint working is well established in Reading and there are many examples of how this is helping to identify children’s needs in a timely way.

Schools and early years settings are well supported by both education and health services, says the report, and a number of schools have collaborated to make sure the curriculum supports all pupils to learn, including those with SEND.

Looking at the effectiveness of the local area in meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND, inspectors said: “Improvements to services are planned and delivered in genuine partnership, with parents and young people included as standard.”

The Family Information Service and Reading SEND Local Offer were recognised for providing good information for parents and carers of children and young people with SEND and there is widespread awareness among families of where to go to find information and advice.

The report says the local area is improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND. This includes a reduction in the number of pupils being excluded from schools, which has improved by the adoption of a therapeutic thinking approach now being delivered in most schools.

Outcomes for pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) are in line with, or above, the national average by the time they leave primary school. In secondary schools, pupils with SEND in Reading attain better results than their peers nationally.

Inspectors highlighted some areas for development but did not issue a written statement of actions, which is a strong indication of the level of improvement in the Reading area.

Deborah Glassbrook, Executive Director of Children’s Services in Reading, said: “I am delighted inspectors expressed confidence in the leadership in Reading and recognised the willingness to continue to improve services for children and young people with SEND.

“The report gives a clear demonstration of how our different services and organisations are working well together to deliver the best possible outcomes for children and young people in Reading. “

Niki Cartwright, Interim Director of Joint Commissioning for NHS Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know we still have much to do but we are aware of the issues and what needs to be addressed and plans to action these will be in our forthcoming and revised joint SEND Strategy.”

Cllr Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council, said: “I would like to thank everybody who was involved in the joint local area inspection and in particular our staff, everyone at Brighter Futures for Children and our partners in the NHS and Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group for their input and support.

“I’d like to extend all our thanks to the leaders and staff of all the organisations involved in the delivery of services, and the schools, local forums, parent carers and young people themselves who were interviewed or gave their views to the inspectors.”

The full Ofsted and CQC report can be viewed at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/10147311-Reading-LASEND-Final.pdf.

It will be published on the Ofsted website on 4 August.


Summer activities for children and young people across Reading

Activities ranging from basketball to a teddy bear’s picnic are being offered to children and young people in Reading by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) this summer.

Our children’s centres and youth teams have put together a busy programme of events for all tastes and ages during the school holidays.

And even more activities are being offered to children and young people through the Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme.

Children’s Centres

Reading’s children’s centres are offering a selection of face-to-face and virtual activities from Monday 26 July to Friday 27 August. They include Yoga and Movement in Palmer Park; Getting to know your Bump (for parents-to-be) in Southcote Children’s Centre and Storytime in the Park at several locations around the borough.

There are also regular Buggy Walks in Caversham, Cintra Park and Coley Park, Toe to Head baby massage and Rhyme Time at centres around Reading. Find out more at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/for-parents-carers/activities-things-to-do/

Youth team

Each week our youth team will be out and about in the borough as well as holding some special summer activities. These include a basketball tournament, archery, frisbee golf, giant Jenga and Connect 4, football, cycling, a bike and scooter festival and summer community festivals to mark the end of the holidays.

Visit the Young People’s Zone on the BFfC website for details.

Holiday Activity & Food (HAF) programme

Brighter Futures for Children is co-ordinating the HAF programme throughout the school holidays on behalf of Reading Borough Council. These activities are available to children who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals.

There is a wide variety of holiday camps and clubs across the borough and they will also provide a nutritious lunch every day.

Organisations offering activities include Get Active Sports, Nature Nurture, Energy Kidz, Face Adventures, Reading Football Club and many more.

Eligible families who have not already registered for a free place can still do so at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/for-parents-carers/haf/

Also, the Family Information Service has a page of activities and events for families over the summer and it will be constantly updated.

Deborah Glassbrook, Director of Children’s Services at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer such a wide range of activities and events for children and young people in Reading this summer.

“Our children’s centres and youth teams have continued to be there for Reading’s children, young people and families throughout the pandemic, even if it has sometimes been virtually.

“They will continue to provide fun, energetic activities remotely and face-to-face throughout the summer to make sure as many people as possible can take part.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “It has been another difficult year for our children and young people and I hope this programme of activities will help make it a summer they can really enjoy.

“I am particularly pleased to see the great range of holiday camps and clubs on offer free of charge through the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme.

“I would encourage as many families as possible to take advantage of these excellent summer activities.”


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.”