How it all started:
Molly and Stephen Darke were inspirational people. Their son, Stephen Lawrence Darke was born on 8 January 1942 with Cerebral Palsy.
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 and they couldn’t access school education. So, the parents made it their mission to help their children realise their full potential and live life to the full.
They campaigned with other parents for a school for children with Cerebral Palsy. The legend goes that they used to visit local pubs collecting money as part of their fundraising efforts and wash it in the bath before putting in the bank. They placed an advert in the Evening Chronicle inviting parents of children with Cerebral Palsy to a meeting and from then on, the parents worked together to fundraise and campaign for the school.
Because of their passion and commitment, The Percy Hedley Foundation was founded in 1953 as a special school for children with Cerebral Palsy. When the first school opened there were only 12 students.
So, who is Percy Hedley and how is he involved?
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!
Percy Hedley School Opens
16th February, 1953
Percy Hedley School opened with 12 pupils
Official opening with a royal visit
16th February, 1954
Exactly one year later the school was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent. The population had grown to 32 in the first 12 months.
The Percy Hedley Clinic
1st June, 1955
The Percy Hedley Clinic was established with the help of funds raised by students during Rag Week at The King’s College (Newcastle Uni) and support from local Rotary Clubs. The clinic would later move and become part of the Child Development Centre at the RVI in 1971.
Extension of Percy Hedley School
8th September, 1957
Extension of Percy Hedley School a new residential block and classroom extensions meaning number of pupils increased to 72 by 1959.
Adult day activities launched
2nd April, 1959
Adult day activities launched from a hut at RAF Longbenton
Chipchase House Adult Accommodation Opened
1st September, 1964
First adult accommodation opened – Chipchase House, offering rooms for 30 adults
Adults working with locally based companies
1st March, 1965
Adult activities workshop established partnerships and contract work with locally based firms including Proctor and Gamble, Metal Box and Pyrotenax.
New Day Centre Opens
19th June, 1974
On June 19, a new day centre was opened by Sir James Steel CBE on the same site as Chipchase House
‘Integrated Education’ Offer pioneered
4th September, 1981
The school developed a unique system of ‘Integrated Education’ involving educational psychology, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, inspired by Conductive Education
Fir Trees Redevelopment
9th September, 1994
New purpose-built classes opened for Conductive Education, as well as primary classrooms for children with speech and language difficulties.
The Percy Hedley Centre fundraising appeal
1st June, 1996
An appeal was set up to raise funds that would help the charity continue to grow and meet increasing demand for services.
Centre spot for Jack
15th August, 1997
Football legend Jack Charlton kicked off the work to build a new part at The Percy Hedley Centre for adults to provide exercise, therapy and leisure facilities.
Adult Activity Centre - The Bradbury Building
10th October, 1998
With support from the Bradbury Foundation and the National Lottery Charities Board a new social activity centre for adults became operational at the Forest Hall site.
Residents move into new bungalows
24th May, 1999
Sir Ralph Carr-Ellison, Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, opens Ferndene Bungalows next to Chipchase House. The bungalows are set within a covered, secluded street to promote independence.
Charity becomes known as The Percy Hedley Foundation
1st September, 2000
The organisation as a whole became known as The Percy Hedley Foundation.
Percy Hedley School
5th September, 2002
The first wave of students – secondary students moved into the new school in Killingworth, Percy Hedley Upper School Bradbury Campus, which was officially opened by HRH Princess Alexandra the following year, exactly 50 years after her mother opened the original school.
Post 16 centre opens at new school
8th September, 2004
A purpose-built centre for Percy Hedley’s post-16 students was opened in 2004.
Percy Hedley Sports Academy opened
7th May, 2005
In May, former student and Paralympic Gold medallist Stephen Miller lay the Foundation stone for the new Academy for Disability Sports, which was opened by The Princess Royal in 2005.
Northern Counties School and Percy Hedley team up
1st October, 2005
Following discussions between the Foundation and trustees at Northern Counties School for Deaf Children the organisations merged in October.
4th September, 2006
Northern Counties College, which is now known as Hedleys College, was set up to provide individualised learning for disabled students who would have significant difficulties in accessing mainstream further education colleges.
Employability Project launched
1st April, 2006
After receiving funding from The Big Lottery, The Employability Project was set up to develop employment opportunities for disabled people.
Adult Day Service expanded to support people with profound and multiple learning disabilities
1st July, 2006
A community base in North Shields enabled the Foundation to introduce people with profound and multiple learning disabilities to a spa pool, sensory room, rebound therapy and iMuse.
The Orion Project
1st April, 2008
A new service was developed to offer people the chance to try out a range of work skills. Able 2 Print, Able 2 Cook, Soundscapes, Foundation Radio and the Karten Multimedia Suite.
Adult Services expands, launching Craftworks
1st July, 2013
Adult services expanded further with the launch of Craftworks, a fully-functioning woodwork and metalcraft workshop.
New hydrotherapy pool and children’s residence
1st October, 2016
The Foundation opened a new 26-bed children’s residential and short-break unit, Bradbury View, on the Bradbury Campus.
Percy Hedley School relocated to new site
3rd September, 2017
The remaining students from Percy Hedley School moved to the new school site after the construction of a new annex at the Killingworth Bradbury Campus.
Leybourne adult accommodation opened
1st December, 2017
Leybourne was fully refurbished to provide accommodation for 8 adults with a range of physical and learning disabilities.
College moves to Forest Hall
5th September, 2017
Hedleys College moved to the site of the former Percy Hedley School in Forest Hall.
Adult activities relaunched as Hedleys Horizons
1st September, 2020
Adult activity programme was relaunched as Hedleys Horizons, offering a range of activities tailored around individual interests.
Bradbury Hub opened
1st September, 2021
Bradbury Hub opened offering specialist further education and activities for young people and adults with autistic spectrum conditions with complex needs