It’s Our Birthday!

Percy Hedley School opened 69 years ago today thanks to the ultimate display of parent power.

How did it all start?

Molly & Stephen Darke alongside their child, Stephen Darke

Molly and Stephen Darke were inspirational people.

They campaigned, with other parents, for a school for children with Cerebral Palsy. Back then, the needs of children with Cerebral Palsy were not fully understood and the Foundation’s formation was met with scepticism by many.

Because of the passion, determination and fundraising of the parents, The Percy Hedley Foundation was founded in 1953, as a special school for children with Cerebral Palsy.

HRH, Duchess of Kent, at the official opening day

It’s hard to imagine in today’s world, a time when disabled children couldn’t access education.  In the 1950s, it was not expected that any more could be done for children with Cerebral Palsy beyond what was already being done, but the parents made it their mission to help their children realise their full potential and live life to the full.

We’ve continued with that mission, and over the years we have extended and developed the work we do to make sure children, young people and adults with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities have equal opportunities in life.

A group of early students from 1957

Although our commitment and passion to helping people develop their abilities, live the life they want and be happy, has not changed; We have grown and the expectations of our members, their families and our employees have progressed significantly.

When the first school opened there were only 12 students, but we now support over 650 members and their families each week through residential care, education, and lifelong learning opportunities.

Stephen Darke on his 80th Birthday

Last year, “little” Stephen Darke turned 80 years old, and now lives at Chipchase House.

Who was Percy Hedley?

Percy Hedley

So, who is Percy Hedley? Well, he passed away before the Foundation was formed and was never personally involved in any way with a project that would bear his name.

Before his passing in 1941, Percy Hedley decided to create a trust – the Percy Hedley Will Trust – to leave all his money to be used for charitable purposes in the North East.

After a chance meeting between the parents who founded the school and Percy Hedley’s solicitor, we became one of three charities to benefit from the trust.

Percy Hedley never knew how his accumulated wealth would benefit so many or that his name would become so well-known in the region!

Help us celebrate our 70th birthday

We turn 70 next year and we have some big plans!  We would love to hear your stories about the Percy Hedley Foundation. From your time going here, working here, volunteering for us or supporting one of your friends or relatives we would love to hear your memories.

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