Teachers' anger at potential school closures as part of planned Berwick partnership shake-up

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Teachers in Northumberland have been left “disappointed” after a council report suggested that some schools in the Berwick partnership could close.

A report, due to be presented to the council’s cabinet, sets out the results of a consultation on the future of the school system in the area ahead of a £40million investment promised by the authority.

Parents, schools and other stakeholders were consulted on specific proposals for individual schools in the partnership within both a three-tier and two-tier structure.

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The cabinet is now recommended to move forward with the second phase of the consultation – and with no consensus reached in phase one both two and three-tier models will be considered, including some school closures.

Scremerston First School.Scremerston First School.
Scremerston First School.

Under the proposed three-tier model, Norham CE First and Scremerston First schools would close and have their catchments split between existing schools, while Glendale Middle School would also close.

Under a two-tier model, Scremerston First and Glendale Middle schools would again close, along with Berwick and Tweedmouth Middle Schools.

Speaking at last Thursday’s meeting of the council’s family and children’s services overview and scrutiny committee, teacher union representative Lynne Houghton said: “On a trade union point of view I have been asked to say that the staff in schools in the proposed models that are going to close are very disappointed to read that in a paper before reports were put out.

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“The staff in Scremerston and Glendale had not had not any notification and they feel very unhappy. There is a lot of disappointment to see that there is the potential for the closures.

“There has not been any significant discussion about that. There is an awful lot of publicity now in the north of the county to prevent the potential closures. You do have a lot of very disappointed teachers in the Berwick Partnership about the potential changes that could go ahead.”

The council’s head of schools organisation Sue Aviston pointed out that headteachers had been briefed prior to the publication of the report and that staff would be consulted on the future of education in the area.

Coun Trevor Thorne said the issues with the partnership had persisted for too long and action needed to be taken, arguing it was only right that consultation was carried out before spending £40million.

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He said: “I very much welcome the consultation. The problem with Berwick High School has been around far too long. It’s not right to have a problem for 20, 25 years. There has always been a question mark above Berwick High School.

“There are some very good schools in the partnership, there’s good education happening but it is no good just being good at the bottom. It’s got to be good from the bottom to the top.

People are voting with their feet and the catchment is getting smaller and smaller.”

Coun Mark Swinburn added: “The £40 million – if we just progress to building a new school without the right structure, we would have failed in our duties.”

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If approved by the cabinet later today, the second phase of the consultation will run for 15 weeks.

It was stressed that all views will be taken into account and schools would not be closed if there was significant community opposition.