Earlier this month, The Three Bridges Federation (Berwick Middle School and Tweedmouth Middle School) announced that the two schools had “agreed to investigate joining a multi-academy trust” and “Berwick Academy has also agreed to partner them in this activity”.
Northumberland County Council then announced a pre-consultation to give school staff, parents, governors and members of the wider community the opportunity to share their initial thoughts.
A total of £40million has been allocated in the council's Medium-Term Plan for schools in the Berwick Partnership.
Ged Thomas contacted education watchdog Ofsted to make protected disclosures about disputed claims that “misbehaving” children were hidden on squash courts during a full inspection at Berwick Academy in 2018.
The PE and maths teacher also outlined concerns about the school on social media and was sacked for gross misconduct later the same year at a disciplinary hearing before losing his appeal.
Earlier this year an employment tribunal decided that Mr Thomas was unfairly and wrongly dismissed after concluding that the initial investigation was “deeply flawed on many grounds” and that “any breach of lawful and reasonable instructions" in making the Facebook posts “was not an indication of his disloyalty”.
Mr Thomas spoke with the Advertiser this week to set out his position.
He said: “There is absolutely no doubt that a revolution in education in Berwick is both necessary, long overdue and, in reality, essential. The current arrangement of schools is not fit for purpose and routinely fails to meet the needs of the majority of young people in the town and in its hinterland communities.
“Although I’m completely clear about this, it is, however, essential that any merger of schools, to create a new organisation capable of delivering a high-quality educational offer, is fully consulted on and considers all representations and opinions.
“Of equal importance, is that the outcome of public consultation results in schools and an educational offer that meets the needs of the young people and ensures school leadership and governance arrangements are democratic and accountable to pupils, parents and the communities they serve.
“I suggest there is an urgent need to organise a Berwick Education Action Forum that brings together and co-ordinates pupil, parent and community views in order to ensure our voices are heard and accurately reflected in the consultation process.”
Berwick East county councillor Georgina Hill is encouraging residents to respond to the pre-consultation.
She added: “Anyone who is opposed to a two-tier system should be supporting the merger plan as this is the best, possibly the only, way to prevent a two tier system – at least for now. It is also the best, possibly only pathway for the required improvement at the Academy.”
To access the pre-consultation, go to nland.uk/schools-in-the-berwick-area-your-views