Northern Counties School Football Presentation

Students celebrated the end of term with a lovely picnic in the school park, which finished off with Northern Counties School Football Team receiving awards at the Football Presentation, for playing their best throughout the year.

The team and their families sat together outside for the football presentation, after having a catch up with other parents, carers and staff around the park. They received awards and certificates — even a red carpet was set out for them for the presentation.

The coach, Josh, who has loved every minute of coaching the team and thinks they are a fab bunch — was giving out the awards in front of lots of proud faces within the crowd.

We will be looking forward to seeing what the team get up to when they return to school this September.

See full gallery below:

Northern Counties School Prom 2022

Last week, students from Northern Counties School had their leavers prom. Teachers worked tirelessly to set up an amazing outdoor space in the sunshine with a disco, buffet, sweet stand, and gift bags.

The party was so amazing that students from around the school wanted to join in and see their friends!

A huge well done to our 2022 leavers who have worked hard in school, particularly over the last couple of years.

We’d also like to say a huge thank you to our amazing teachers, support staff, and therapists for your hard work at Northern Counties School – despite the effects of coronavirus our key workers have pushed through and it was amazing to celebrate our students’ achievement together.

Families Learn BSL at Northern Counties

We absolutely loved seeing parents and family members return to Northern Counties School after a three year gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for our weekly learn British Sign Language (BSL) sessions. Among the team who teach the sessions is Mandy, who is the Head Learning Teaching Assistant (HLTA), in the Deaf Department and is a Native BSL user. Mandy also co-ordinates the school’s Signing Choir — which involves all of our talented Deaf students who learn and perform songs in Sign Language.

BSL lessons are hard to come by and can sometimes be quite costly, which makes it difficult for family members to learn the language that their child might use to communicate. BSL is the standard language that is taught at Northern Counties to deaf and non-verbal students, but the school also accommodates for users of Makaton, or those who have their own methods of communication.

Having the BSL lessons at the school provides a comfortable environment to learn a new language with other people, although some are at different stages of learning the language, it is an opportunity to learn a new skill whilst receiving guidance from Mandy, and also from each other.

We’re really pleased that we are now able to offer the sessions again, which have been long-awaited by parents, families and school staff as a result of restrictions in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sessions also offered an opportunity for Wellbeing and Engagement Practitioner, Lorna, who supports the students at the school, to meet parents and family members — who, alongside staff, she also offers support to.

The first lesson which was taught on Tuesday, covered the alphabet and how to introduce yourself in sign language. The lessons are every week, and will cover various different topics in sign language that will be useful to know when interacting with those who are deaf or non-verbal. A step forward to making our language more inclusive.

For more information on the sessions, please contact Mandy at Northern Counties School.

Platinum Jubilee Celebrations across the Foundation

We’ve had weeks of celebrations here at the Foundation as we commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee for 70 years’ service as British Monarch.

Percy Hedley School

Pupils at Percy Hedley School celebrated with a Big Jubilee Lunch before they broke up for half term. The corridors and halls were decorated with bunting and paper chains that students had made themselves while they are gathered to enjoy sandwiches and cakes. Some students dressed up in red, white and blue like the British flag, while others wore crowns they had crafted themselves! There was a real feeling of togetherness, especially after a difficult couple of years.


Residential services had a great time to celebrate the Jubilee. There was plenty of food to go round, with amazing decorations. Residents from Wansbeck had a BBQ in the sunshine, with burgers and party music. Leybourne had a mighty buffet for their jubilee celebrations. Chipchase had the Queen over for the day, and Tyne House went out in the sun. The cupcakes from our residential parties are making everyone else at the foundation jealous of not being in attendance!

Northern Counties School

From making crowns, to painting the Union Jack, Northern counties were up to everything artsy for the Jubilee. There was plenty of activities going on throughout the day – its safe to say there was plenty of red, blue and white paint used. Not to mention having the picnic in the park afterwards, which was lots of fun for students, staff and parents!

College & Horizons

College and Horizons wore some lovely hats to pay tribute for the Jubilee, there was some great contenders that would give Queen Elizabeth a run for her money! Everyone was laughing and smiling wearing their red, blue and white outfits which was a lot of fun.

Please see a full gallery of what everyone across the Foundation got up to, to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee!

Northern Counties School Teacher Finalist for Unique Art Awards

The Unique Art Awards are looking to recognise the work done by teachers in the arts in special education and would like to offer an award to highlight excellence in this field which includes Art, Drama and Music.

Our very own Lauren Tate is a finalist in these awards and will be off to Middlesex in September with a chance of winning £2,000 in vouchers.

Lauren is an Art Teacher at Northern Counties school. Lauren took a learning support role at school initially, to learn more about our very complex young people.  When the opportunity arose to apply for the art teacher role, she was able to step into the role naturally. Lauren did need to learn how to teach using British Sign Language (to Level 2 standard), to enable her to teach in our Deaf department and so she gave up her own time after school, in order to attend classes in BSL.  She also works very closely with our therapy team (Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists) to ensure she incorporates the right level of structure and correct equipment into her lessons for young people with autism and complex needs.  She has attended a vast amount of additional training in PECS, Autism, Teaching pupils with Visual Impairments, PMLD and Sensory Integration to equip her with many additional skills.

Lauren works across the whole of school and ensures that art is accessible for all.  Some of our young people, who say they ‘don’t like art’, don’t realise they are actually doing art through Lauren’s skills and techniques.  When pupils are unable to transition to her own art room, she takes her lesson and art resources to the child, supporting them to learn where they feel most comfortable and safe.  She is often seen around the school, transporting all her art materials in a trolley!  We see her teaching outside, in school corridors, in the Forest School and she is able to adapt her lessons to the needs of every single young person in school.  She effectively models how to make art accessible to our 200 support staff.  One of the ways in which Lauren goes above and beyond, is working as our sole art teacher, yet having such a large impact with so many staff. Being able to manage such a large number of staff, is way over and above what most teachers need to do. Some of our classes have 15 staff members to coordinate, manage and develop. 

Lauren plans her work and uses teaching styles to engage our young people.  Her methods need to involve a high level of differentiation, choice (for our pupils with Pathological Demand Avoidance) and individualization.  She uses a variety of medias and celebrates each pupil’s achievements through floor books, accreditation and sharing with parents on our social media platforms. Lauren plans for communication, science and numeracy skills across learning tasks and builds up each young person’s self esteem through their art. 

As we were unable to hold our Christmas performance this year, due to Covid measures in place.  Lauren filmed our young people taking part in their own version of Shrek-The Musical, which was broadcast to parents and carers.  This was a huge project, in terms of costume design, sets, use of computing and green screen technology. Mollie’s parents have said that they have never seen Mollie take part in anything like that before and they were thrilled to see her engagement and enjoyment.

Jan, one of our complex non-verbal young people, with autism and OCD, will often just take himself up to Lauren’s art room and sit.  It is the only classroom in school where he will specifically choose to go to complete ‘work’.  He designed his own way of taking part in Shrek, blowing tissue paper flames through a tube to become the dragon.  Lauren edited the film in such a way that all the pupils took part and felt a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

Lauren also gives up her lunch break, once a week, to run the school art club.  She plans a series of fun sessions, which is open to everyone in school.  Another example of how Lauren goes above and beyond.

We wish Lauren every success in her trip to the Unique Art Awards finals in September!

The High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear visits Northern Counties School

The High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, David W Bavaird, paid a visit to children at Northern Counties School to teach us all about the history and role of a High Sheriff.

There have been High Sheriffs for at least 1,000 years. The appointment is actually the oldest in our country. The original ‘Shire Reeves’ were Royal Officials appointed to enforce the King’s interests in a County, in particular the collection of revenues and the enforcement of law and order.

Many of the early Sherriff’s of Northumberland came from well know Northumbrian families, Armstrong, Delaval, Percy, Grey, Bewick, and Collingwood.

The children were even able to teach the High Sheriff that our very own Armstrong Department is originally named after the Armstrong family, who made a financial donation to what was Northern Counties School for the Deaf, back in the 1800s. Lord Armstrong of Cragside was a high sheriff in 1899.

The High Sheriff was also able to enjoy a brilliant performance from our Signing Choir!

Local Business Leaders Learn BSL at Northern Counties School

As part of Deaf Awareness Week and our students’ study programme, Northern Counties School hosted a Networking and Signing Session where CEO’s from local businesses attended to learn lots of British Sign Language basics from our students.

Our students not only got to raise awareness for BSL, in light of the recent BSL Act 2022 campaign from the British Deaf Association to give legal recognition to British Sign Language but they gained important experience as part of their ASDAN qualification.

We were delighted to see so many local business leaders come to support our students. They learned useful signs ranging from the alphabet and numbers, to daily phrases like family member terms and colours. Everyone learned a performance which they delivered in groups to the song “I Can Sign A Rainbow” which was given very enthusiastically!

To finish the session, the Northern Counties Signing Choir gave an emotional performance of The Greatest Showmans “This Is Me” and “A Million Dreams” which guests agreed was empowering to see. The choir haven’t been able to do an in person performance for over 2 years due to the pandemic, and students were ecstatic to be able to perform for an audience again.

The session was a hit, and we’re looking forward to be able to host more events like this. A huge thank you to all of those that attended!

John Knight – CEO, Percy Hedley Foundation
Hugh Welch – Senior Partner, Muckle LLP
Mark Bryce – Director, Agilico
Paul Szomoru – Director of Business Events, Newcastle Gateshead Initiative
Marc Cranston –  Director, Inspired Group
Olivia Macgill – Commercial Director, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead
Karen Emerson – Leadership Trust Executive Coach
Susan Jopling – Trustee, Percy Hedley Foundation
Louise Horsefield – Communications and Business Development, Percy Hedley Foundation
Kate Hellens – Managing Director, Hellens Group
Rachel Conroy – CEO, HLF Group
Annabelle Jones and Erin Bryce – 6th Form Students, Newcastle High School for Girls                                                                 

Here is a roundup of the day

You can see a full gallery of the day below

National Careers Week 2022

Last week we did our (slightly delayed) Careers Week which is about linking students with the world of work.  Students from our schools and college have been meeting with a wide range of employers and learning about lots of different careers. 

We kicked off Careers Week on Monday with TeenyWeenyVR who gave a demonstration with VR headsets and how they help children and young people with SEND.

On Tuesday, students also had a talk from Newcastle United Foundation, about their workplace, including a virtual tour of St James’ Part and a video about Club Manager Eddie Howe and player Matt Targett. There was also a presentation from Atomhawk, an art and design studio that provides animation and interactive design in the gaming industry; They spoke about roles within the industry. 

On Wednesday, Students and Members had an interactive visit from Newcastle Castle, where they dressed in Medieval clothing and made gingerbread with a 1400s recipe.

On Thursday, Impact Workwear visited to discuss Health and Safety in the workplace, with former student, James Piet, who discussed what he does for work there. 

On Friday morning, some students visited Eldon Square to help with an accessibility review of the centre with their Community & Events Coordinator, which helped them learn more about accessibility in the workplace. 

Students have had a very enriching week learning from a range of different employers, discussing careers and opening up their future opportunities.

Get in touch with the form below if you would like to be involved with any future employability programme events:

Please see our full gallery below of the full week.

Fundraising for Ukraine at Northern Counties School

On Friday 18th March, as part of Red Nose Day activities, everyone at Northern Counties School decided to do everything they could to raise important funds for Save The Children in aid of refugee children fleeing Ukraine.

Children throughout Northern Counties came together to create different arts and crafts to sell, and all money raised was donated. They made painted candle holders, friendship bracelets, tote bags, and painted hanging decorations. Everyone also enjoyed Ukraine flag tattoos, a delicious bake sale, and a raffle.

Teachers went all out to make it as fun as possible with fantastic activities like a sensory corner and a tumble splatter station with water balloons. You can tell just how much children enjoyed it by how covered they were in mess from the fun!

Please see our full gallery below of everything we got up to!