A draft strategy which aims to improve the quality and diversity of education in Reading has been launched.

The ‘working document’ for the future growth and quality of education provision in the town is called Now is the Time and will be presented to Reading Borough Council's (RBC) Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Education committee this Thursday.

The strategy includes a project to increase the range and appropriateness of provision for the increasing numbers of pupils with additional needs in Reading.

Councillor Ashley Pearce, lead member for Education, said: “We have some excellent provision, great teachers and hardworking staff across our schools in Reading, but we also realise there are areas we need to improve.

“Resources are tight as budgets continue to be squeezed so we must focus intervention and support to where need is greatest.

“We want parents to choose our schools and academies because they meet the needs of their children.”

Brighter Futures for Children, the wholly-owned independent children’s company for Reading, produced the document in partnership with RBC.

Pupils with challenging behaviours will be supported through a therapeutic approach to meeting their needs to avoid them being excluded from schools.

The therapeutic approach follows guidance from the DfE published in November: ‘Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools’.

Exclusions involving children on an education, health and care (EHC) plans more than doubled in the last year to 218.

EHC plans are for children and young people who need more support than is available through special education needs (SEN) support.

Cllr Pearce said: “We also know that our exclusions are too high. There is a big cross over in our exclusions with SEN as well as students being disadvantaged.

“Schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, many exclusions are often the thin end of a bigger wedge.

“But we can do more to help schools understand this and help keep these young people in school.”

RBC's plans to expand support for children with additional needs include increased provision at the Avenue and Blessed Hugh Farringdon, bidding for a new SEND free school and two new Autism Spectrum Units in primary schools.

Cllr Pearce added: “We understand the battles parents of our SEN pupils often face and want to ensure provision is increased to enable all of our students to access the education they are entitled to.

“These projects will help increase capacity to enable more students to stay in borough.”