Teachers take strike action over threat of job losses at middle schools in north Northumberland

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Middle school staff in north Northumberland have staged strike action over the threat of job losses.

Berwick Middle and Tweedmouth Middle are both closed today (Thursday) as a result, while there is a partial closure at Glendale Middle in Wooler impacting pupils in Year 7 and 8.

All three schools will close on August 31, 2026 as part of a Berwick Partnership reorganisation which will see a move from a three-tier to two-tier education system.

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The move was approved by Northumberland County Council last year but the NASUWT union claims the decision has put all 142 staff in the middle schools at risk of not having a job when the process is completed – with only 50-60 jobs available to apply for after restructuring.

Berwick Middle School staff on strike.Berwick Middle School staff on strike.
Berwick Middle School staff on strike.

In taking strike action, the union claims that the council is refusing to consider either redeployment or voluntary redundancy schemes for affected teachers.

Steve Bird, NASUWT Northumberland Secretary, explained: “The local authority has been consulting for the last couple of years over a move to two-tier which involves closing the middle schools.

"The decision was made in May last year to move in that direction and the council’s scrutiny committee said ‘an agreed protocol would be set up to protect at risk staff’.

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"However, we’ve now reached the stage where every teacher at Berwick, Tweedmouth and Glendale has been served with redundancy notices.

Strike action at Tweedmouth Middle School.Strike action at Tweedmouth Middle School.
Strike action at Tweedmouth Middle School.

"We apologise to parents for any inconvenience strike action has caused but at the end of the day we can’t allow so many people to be made redundant.”

Union and council officials met on Wednesday but Mr Bird said there had been ‘no progress’.

"The council is still refusing to talk about voluntary solutions,” he said. “Job losses can be avoided by redeploying staff into schools and allowing people who want to leave to take voluntary redundancy.”

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Mr Bird also stressed the union has no dispute with chairs of governors or leadership teams at Berwick or Tweedmouth.

He added: “Across the country we have a massive teacher recruitment and retention crisis. It seems absolutely shameful that the local authority is going to allow these redundancies. These are people who teach at good or outstanding Ofsted-rated schools.”

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: “Imposing compulsory redundancies on teachers would represent a huge loss of expertise, experience and talent for current and future cohorts of pupils in the area.

“We believe the council owes it to staff and pupils to pursue other options such as redeployment so that as many jobs can be saved as possible.

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“We have sought at every stage of this process to work with the council, but due to a lack of progress our members have been left with no option than to move to strike action.

“The council must now listen and work with us on a plan to avoid the compulsory loss of these skilled and dedicated teachers from their local community.”

John Hall, NASUWT National Executive Member for Northumberland, said: “Teachers at all three schools have been left in limbo, not knowing what the future holds for them and their careers.

“This reorganisation should be an opportunity to strengthen education provision locally, not undermine it by losing dozens of experienced teachers.”

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Further days of strike action are planned for June 11, 13, 18, 19 and 20.

A council spokesperson said: “Northumberland County Council is spending over £41 million to invest in first-class facilities for schools in the Berwick Partnership that will transform education in the area for generations to come.

“The proposals include a new building for Berwick Academy and expansion of specialist, post-16 skills, and post-18 provision. They also include new and enhanced facilities for use by the wider community.

“As we move forward with turning these plans into reality, work is now underway on developing the appropriate staffing structures for the continuing schools.

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“We greatly appreciate and value the life-changing difference that all our school staff in Northumberland make to our children and young people every day.

“A huge amount of work has gone into developing a staffing protocol that all schools and academies in the partnership have signed up to and which guarantees an interview to any member of staff in the middle schools who wishes to apply for the new posts and future posts that become available.

“Support with finding suitable alternative employment or training opportunities will also be provided.

“Staff have been consulted throughout this process with 18 meetings and drop in events taking place and which teachers’ unions were invited to attend.

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“It is regrettable that despite doing everything in our powers, the strike is progressing.

“We meet again next Tuesday with a hope that further discussions of our re-training offer and a willingness to add clarity to a timeline for possible redundancy processes will reassure staff at risk and be enough to prevent any future planned action.”

From September 2025, the partnership’s first schools will expand their age range up to 11 to become primary schools and Berwick Academy will become an age 11 to 18 secondary academy from September 2026.

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