Strike action on the table in Berwick as union and governors raise concerns by staff at middle schools

A teachers’ union has announced that staff at middle schools in the Berwick Partnership are prepared to strike if “Northumberland County Council continues to ignore their legitimate concerns about their jobs”.
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As part of the switch to a two-tier system as approved by the local authority’s cabinet last year, Berwick Middle School, Glendale Middle School and Tweedmouth Middle School will close on August 31, 2026.

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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The county council has said that staff have been consulted throughout this process “with 18 meetings and drop-in events taking place and which teachers’ unions were invited to attend”.

Berwick Middle School and Tweedmouth Middle School.Berwick Middle School and Tweedmouth Middle School.
Berwick Middle School and Tweedmouth Middle School.

According to the NASUWT union, the closures put all 142 staff in the middle schools at risk of not having a job when the process is completed – with only 60 jobs available to apply for after the restructure of education in the Berwick Partnership.

A statement in support of the union’s position has been issued by the chairs of governors at Berwick Middle School and Tweedmouth Middle School.

Steve Bird, NASUWT Northumberland Secretary, said: “Our members are angry with the county council, who consistently failed to properly consult with trade unions regarding their plans.”

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John Hall, NASUWT National Executive Member, added: “NASUWT members have unanimously voted that they are prepared to take industrial action if Northumberland County Council continues to ignore their legitimate concerns about their jobs. ​

“The council needs to reconsider their plans ensuring their duty of care to staff. No teacher should be forced from their job when nationally there is a teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”

A statement from Clare Shaw and Gavin Wilson, chair of governors, Berwick Middle School and Tweedmouth Middle School, said: “We can confirm that we have received a formal notification of NASUWT’s intention to ballot members for strike action over the failure of Northumberland County Council to properly consult over plans to close middle schools in the Berwick area, leading to a large number of job losses.

“As school governors, we have major concerns that the consultation process has taken up an inordinate amount of time and energy of both heads that would otherwise be spent ensuring their schools continue to thrive.

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“There has also been a complete lack of adequate answers to multiple direct questions heads have made to council staff leading the process, resulting in undue pressures on the well-being and mental health of all staff by their employer.

“All staff are being encouraged to consider and seek employment now, with the added pressure of extremely limited positions. Aside from staff well-being concerns, this will absolutely mean a loss of experienced staff.

“With little to attract new staff to a closing school, there is the inevitable risk pupils will be unfairly affected, while existing staff are put through a tortuously long job loss process.

“Just as middle schools have not been adequately supported in negotiating this consultation process, we also have to ask ourselves if Berwick Academy and the newly created primary schools have been given anywhere near the appropriate level of backup to allow them to alter their provision for two extra year groups.

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“Funding was initially announced for the replacement of the Berwick Academy building over five years ago. Despite additional funding being promised, the whole pot was then offered only on condition of a consultation of the education system in Berwick Partnership being entered.

“As there has since been broken promises over jobs and a woeful lack of support and concise, consistent information, we cannot be confident this funding will be used for its intended purpose.

“We are therefore in full support of the union in balloting its members and its members’ decision that they are prepared to take industrial action.”

A county council spokesperson said: “Northumberland County Council has pledged £41.177million to invest in first-class facilities for schools in the Berwick Partnership that will transform education in the area for generations to come.

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“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.

“Before making this major investment, it was vital that we made sure that the school system in the partnership is sustainable and will deliver the best outcomes for young people following a decline in pupil numbers, an increase in surplus places and children leaving the partnership for neighbouring schools in Scotland and Alnwick.

“Following over two years of consultation with schools and the wider community, it was decided that moving to a two-tier system would be the best way to achieve this – a decision that was supported by the vast majority of those who responded.

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

“We appreciate 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.

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“We are committed to supporting all school staff, along with pupils and their families, during this transition process as the partnership of schools and the wider community moves forward together onto this exciting next chapter.”