Reorganisation of New Directions Adult Learning Service

THE Council’s adult learning and employment service is expanding and refurbishing its base in south Reading.

New Directions is undergoing a reorganisation which will see a £260,000 investment in its Northumberland Avenue building and the relocation of its services from the Caversham Centre, in Archway Road.

Students will benefit from an upgraded building in Whitley and courses currently offered in Caversham will be moved to the Council’s multi-purpose sites in Emmer Green and Tilehurst.

The South Reading centre, at Thamesbridge House, opposite Academy Sport, provides a range of learning and employment services such as English, Cookery, Fashion and Dressmaking, Maths, ESOL, Arts and Crafts, Pottery, Health and Lifestyle, Languages and Vocational Courses.

The service also works with a number of partner organisations, such as the Workers Education Association and Autism Berkshire, to ensure they reach a range of people in Reading and provide a varied programme.

Members of the Council’s Policy Committee agreed the improvement works at the south Reading centre at a meeting on Monday 13th March.

The building currently provides mixed classroom and office space for New Directions and Children’s Services teams and the improvements will include a café/drop-in area for staff and students, new office space, replaced flooring and a specialist pottery/art space re-located from Caversham.

The committee also agreed the closure of the Caversham Centre, in July 2017, and its disposal as part of the Council’s ongoing rationalisation of buildings in response to cuts in central government funding.

The improvement work at Thamesbridge House should be completed in time for the start of the new term in September 2017.

Councillor Tony Jones, Lead Councillor for Education, said:

“New Directions offers excellent adult learning courses and I am pleased the Council is able to invest in its centre in south Reading where provision is in high demand.

“Substantial cuts in the Council’s funding from central government means we are looking at ways of making the best possible use of our buildings and disposing of properties which become surplus to requirement.

“New Directions will continue to deliver courses in Caversham utilising other venues in line with its strategy to ensure everyone has access to its services across the borough.”

Ofsted judged New Directions as Good at its last inspection in November 2015.  The service was also re-awarded the Matrix Standard in February 2016.  Independently administered learner satisfaction rates are also consistently high.

Principal Barry Wren said:

“I am an ambassador for lifelong learning, having returned to learning as an adult myself.  I am extremely proud of what our team does to help the residents of Reading, whether that is preventing loneliness and isolation or helping someone gain the language skills they need to integrate and participate in society.

“Watching our learners develop and grow is an extremely rewarding vocation.”

Notes to Editors

You can read the Policy Committee report on Thamesbridge House and the Caversham Centre here: www.reading.gov.uk/media/6924/item11/pdf/item11.pdf

A service update report on New Directions is due to be presented to the Adult, Children’s and Education Committee on Monday 20th March and can be read here: www.reading.gov.uk/media/6960/Item14/pdf/Item14.pdf