Berwick's new school buildings promised to be 'world class' as sweeping changes approved

A shake-up for education in the Berwick area has been given the final go-ahead by Northumberland County Council’s cabinet.
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It means wholesale changes for the partnership of schools, with a move to a two-tier system seeing middle schools close and first schools expand into primary schools.

Also promised is a significant investment for new school buildings at Berwick Academy as part of an overall £41.177million allocation.

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The final approval from the cabinet came after months of consultation with local residents and stakeholders on the changes and years of uncertainty over education in the area.

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member with responsibility for children’s services.Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member with responsibility for children’s services.
Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member with responsibility for children’s services.

The Berwick partnership has faced falling pupil numbers due to a declining birth rate and students leaving for the neighbouring Alnwick partnership or schools over the border in Scotland.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting on Thursday, cabinet member for children’s services Guy Renner-Thompson said: “Investing in these world-class education facilities in the town shows our commitment and the Government’s commitment to regenerating Berwick.

“It brings the total investment up to £100million in Berwick since 2017 following decades of neglect from the 1970s. We will work to make this an excellent school and this investment will help.

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“New buildings are a part of making this school brilliant, but they are not the whole picture.”

Coun Renner-Thompson also reassured members of staff who would lose their jobs at the middle schools that they would be first in line for new roles created at expanding schools.

He continued: “School closures mean that there are redundancies, but we’re in the process of agreeing a staffing protocol. There are redundancies in schools that are closing, but expansion in others mean there are new job posts.

“These job posts are ring-fenced. The staff in the partnership get guaranteed interviews and support from the county council to go into these new roles. We want to give our backing to our existing staff and we’re doing everything we can to support them.”

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Council leader Glen Sanderson said he was “proud” of education in the county and to be taking the decision.

He added: “In 2017, we were in the lower quartile for Ofsted performance. We are now in the upper quartile and performing very strongly. That is thanks to all of the teaching staff who have been fantastic.”

The cabinet unanimously agreed to back the changes.