Northern Counties School - Newcastle

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Northern Counties School is a non maintained School situated within Newcastle upon Tyne. It provides all age (3-19 years) day and residential special education for children who have a hearing impairment or visual impairment, those with profound and multiple learning disabilities and autistic spectrum disorder all of whom require education, therapy and care within a specialist communication environment.

Northern Counties School is a strategic partner within the Percy Hedley Foundation’s Teaching School Alliance and we work in collaboration with a range of other schools, agencies and both Newcastle Universities to develop pioneering, best practice outcomes in education, therapy and care.

We offer a range of highly specialist provision which includes residential, short break, term time and 52 week placements. We currently provide 12 beds within the school grounds.

There are three distinct population pupil populations within our school provision;

  •  Sensory Impairment- hearing and visual.
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorders- pupils with severe and complex ASD including challenging behaviour
  • Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties-including medical conditions.



At Northern Counties School we believe that:

  •  All children and young people have the right to an education appropriately directed and managed to allow the fullest development of their personal, intellectual, physical, communication and social and emotional skills. 
  • All children and young people have the right to an education which provides equality of opportunity, recognises and respects individual needs, allows maximum access to a broad and balanced curriculum and ensures preparation for responsible adult life in society on leaving school. 
  • All children should be given the best opportunity to fully develop their potential and prepare for successful adult life through placement within a carefully defined and properly supported specialist communication environment.

Who to contact

Contact Name
Lisa Williams
Contact Position
The Head Teacher's Personal Assistant
0191 281 5821 0191 281 5821
Northern Counties School Website
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Informal visits to the school are welcome at any time.  Contact can be made by direct contact with the Head Teacher or through the Local Education Authority.

Ms Jo Allen

Mrs Claire Ramsay


Where to go

Northern Counties School
Tankerville Terrace
Newcastle Upon Tyne
View NE2 3BB on a map

Local Offer

Local Offer Age Bands
Pre-Birth - 5 Years
5 -11 Years
11 -16 Years
16 -19 Years
SEN Provision Type

Schools Extended Local Offer Response

How does the setting/school/college know if children/young people need extra help and what should I do if I think my child/young person may have special educational needs?

All pupils at Northern Counties school have special educational needs and associated difficulties. On going assessment of pupils by the multi disciplinary team determines the approaches adopted in supporting the pupils. These approaches are fluid in nature and may change regularly in response to changes in presentation or need. The school works with ten therapists to assess pupils needs prior to attendance within school.

This baseline information informs target setting, therapeutic approaches and the individualised programmes of work.

How will the curriculum be matched to my child's/young person's needs?

The school offers a highly differentiated curriculum for each population with at least one to one support for most pupils and occasionally two/three to one support for pupils depending upon their assessed need.  The curriculum offers many opportunities for children to develop their academic, practical and creative abilities within the context of a caring, supportive environment sensitive to individual needs and personal growth. 


A wide range of subjects and activities are available and we consider national guidance in order to plan our own programmes and meet the needs of each child. For some children, particularly those with complex special educational needs, materials and activities usually associated with early learning are used to enable children to progress and demonstrate achievement. 


All children and young people are taught in class groups which are generally organised according to their needs and with regard to age although, where necessary, we alter groups according to ability and the teaching requirements of individuals. Specialist rooms are available for some lessons including food technology and art and design technology.


 Integrated Teaching and Therapy


This is a unique service to the Percy Hedley Foundations two schools. The class teams comprise of a specialist teacher, special support assistants, on a one to one staff pupil ratio, and a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist and physiotherapist, who jointly plan to meet the teaching and therapy needs of between 4 and 8 pupils in classes and in individual specialist units for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. These pupils work on an individualised, personalised curriculum involving an increased staffing ratio of at least one to one. The class teachers and therapists fully collaborate on creating an individualised plan for each pupil within the class/tutor group. The integrated team jointly plan the curriculum and assessment for learning to meet the complex and severe difficulties of pupils effectively. We employ ten therapists and work with a further four health service physiotherapists.





The youngest children in the school aged 3 to 5 years work within the Foundation stage framework which is based on six broad areas of learning (Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Communication, Language and Literacy; Mathematical Development; Knowledge and Understanding of the World; Physical Development and Creative Development).




The National Curriculum subjects (English, Mathematics, Science, Information and Communication Technology, Design and Technology, History, Geography, Art and Design, Music and Physical Education) together with Religious Education and aspects of Personal, Social and Health Education and Citizenship are provided for children within Key Stages 1 and 2 (ages 5 to 11) using the primary framework. In Key Stage 3 topics are selected from the KS3 syllabus which teachers then modify to suit ability levels.

BSL is taught explicitly to all deaf children by a deaf tutor and all staff provide input and support both orally and in sign.


At Northern Counties School we provide a 14 to 19 curriculum route map which encompasses five different ability programmes of learning and accreditation.


Route 1 is a developmental pathway which is aimed at our most complex and profoundly disabled young people for whom a multi-sensory and therapeutic approach to learning is required.


Route 2 is for those young people who are beginning to access some nationally recognised accreditation programmes including the ASDAN packages of Transition Challenge and Towards Independence.


Route 3 - introduces a more formalised approach to accreditation for those young people who are able to carry out some independent recording or able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the outcomes required to complete a unit.


Route 4 - is therefore a similar model of learning to that of Route 3 at a higher level to include entry-level accreditation. As stated above, the Route 4 topic cycle is matched to that of Route 3 to ensure ability grouping is possible. At both Routes 3 and 4, the ASDAN Bronze award is introduced to add breadth to the curriculum. The Bronze award includes challenges which encourage the young person to focus on particular key skills including:


  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of number
  • ICT


The ASDAN model requires the young person to begin to develop skills in planning, reviewing and recording their own work and the young person is supported to keep evidence of their progress on specific challenges while referring to their planning and reviewing skills.


Route 5 - includes the provision of access to GCSE and higher levels of accreditation on an individualised basis. The school also works in partnership with Percy Hedley Secondary Department and is therefore able to ensure that young people can access available subjects at a higher level if required.


Should a young person be particularly gifted and talented in a subject that is currently unavailable within the Percy Hedley Foundation then we would seek to access the course required at other venues such as an alternative secondary school or local further education college.


The 14 to 19 curriculum also includes access to a range of accreditation linked to young people’ personal skills and/or interests, for example BSL Level one and two.


These programmes are provided on a personalised basis and can be accessed throughout the five years of the 14 to 19 curriculum. This means that young people can make progress at a pace to suit both their academic ability and also the pace at which they are able to demonstrate their learning using various output methods.

For those pupils with additional needs some curriculum areas are taught using a developmental approach.  This focuses on growth and progress through small steps towards achievement, determined according to the particular needs of each child.


Our groups of children with profound and multiple difficulties who may continue to function at an early developmental level throughout their life are taught using a specialised multi-sensory approach.


 Class groups usually have between four and eight children but paired or even individual teaching is often arranged according to individual circumstances. Teachers either have achieved the specialist post graduate qualification as a Teacher of the Deaf and/or Teacher of the Visually Impaired or have other Post Graduate qualifications in Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Profound Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD).  Specialist Tutors provide additional programmes such as Braille and mobility at an individual level.  We provide intensive direct teaching through our skilled team of teachers, therapists and learning support workers.

How will both you and I know how my child/young person is doing and how will you help me to support my child's/young person's learning?

Children’s progress and development is carefully monitored and assessed by teaching staff, therapists and, if a child is a resident, their key worker.  Individual records of progress and achievement (Personalised Learning Files) are maintained by class teams. All members of the team add their views and advice about children's development through regular dialogue, meetings and written reports.


Assessment in line with National Curriculum procedures is well established throughout the school.  Continuous assessment takes place and is an essential element of the school's recording, reporting and reviewing system for each child. 


A detailed Individual Education Plan is written at the beginning of each academic year based on the child’s priorities for development, as detailed in Local Authority documentation for development form the basis of individual targets in addition to the class based planning within which progress can be monitored..


In accordance with recent  legislation, children’s legal documentation is reviewed annually.  An annual review report is written each year for every child.  Parents are invited to submit a written report or submit comments which is part of the review process 

As national guidance is changing we are modifying our systems to incorporate the new Education, Health and Care plans as they begin to be introduced.


Home Learning

Additional work to be carried out at home is part of our support to enable pupils to reach their potential. However, a high level of homework is not appropriate for all of our pupils and parents views on this will be considered by the class teams to enable best support for learning at home.

Activities may include: reading, life skills tasks, sensory tasks, therapy targeted work and activities associated with pupils individual targets.

There is an expectation that pupils undertaking accreditation will receive some home based learning tasks. We subscribe to a number of online curriculum resources which pupils have the opportunity to access from home. 

What support will there be for my child's/young person's overall well being?

Pupil’s wellbeing is significantly important at Northern Counties School where every child is nurtured and treated with respect.

Pupil’s views are an essential part of our ethos and our ‘Young Persons Forum’ is popular with our pupils as they are supported to make decisions about life in school and beyond.


This is a priority for pupils at Northern Counties School as we strive for all in our care to feel safe, secure and happy in their environment. We work hard to provide a caring ethos, developing self- esteem and helping pupils to achieve success in all areas of their life. Our pupils are vulnerable and staff work hard to teach them how to stay safe within the context of their needs. This includes ‘e-safety’ as key staff are trained in the management of potential issues with our pupil’s use of social media.

At Northern Counties, safeguarding encompasses child protection, safe recruitment, managing allegations and responding to all the needs of the children. It is supported by our approach to managing challenging behaviour, bullying, the PSHCE curriculum, internet policy and the single equality policy.

Throughout our work we have a clear commitment to supporting families and we work hard to establish and maintain partnerships with parents and other agencies.


Key Staff

We have two designated safeguarding officers and a designated Governor for safeguarding within school and residential.



Parents can request a copy of the policy on Safeguarding from the school office.  This has been written and developed in line with Local Authorities Safeguarding Board who is involved in annual reviews of policy and procedure. We regularly update parents on safeguarding issues and safety in school and the community via our newsletters.


School Code of Conduct

Expectations of children and standards of behaviour are monitored throughout the school by all members of staff under the direction of the Head Teacher and those in senior positions. This ensures we operate within a safe, secure environment.  Guidelines and policies vary according to the age, stage, ability and the level of functioning of our children. 


The Foundation’s Educational Psychologist offers advice and support to pupils, staff and parents, if appropriate, and we work very closely with community health care professionals including mental health practitioners and LA Educational Psychologists to support pupil’s self- esteem and confidence. Pastoral care within the school is a whole staff responsibility.  All children have access to their class team of staff at all times.  Similarly residential children have allocated members of the care team who offer support and guidance.  In addition all children have access to senior staff in the school, the nursing staff and the Head Teacher if there are any concerns they wish to discuss.


Sex and Relationships Education

Personal, Social, Health Education (PSHE), including sex education, is an integral part in our approach to educating pupils in preparation for taking their place in society, with as much independence as possible.  Because of the disabilities of our children, their level of maturity very often does not correspond with their chronological age and we take great care to provide an individualised approach when dealing with sensitive subjects to ensure that we match the pupil's level of understanding and stage of emotional and physical maturity.


Parents are informed of any specific sex and relationships discussions which will be taking place and have the right to withdraw their child from sex education lessons. 


Physical Education

The importance of healthy living, exercise and activity is reflected throughout the curriculum.


Physical education which incorporates games, swimming/hydrotherapy and other sporting activities is recognised to be an important part of each child's timetable and usually amounts to around two hours per week. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in ensuring our pupils can access physical activities to the best of their abilities.

What specialist services and expertise are avaliable at or accessed by the setting/school/college?

Therapy is provided to all children on an individual needs basis.  We employ four full time speech and language therapists plus have additional input from a further speech and language therapist on a consultative basis.  We also have four occupational therapists plus several NHS physiotherapists who compliment our own physiotherapist and all are part of our integrated team working closely with teachers and learning support workers.  We promote a multi-disciplinary approach to planning and assessment, and IEPs are written in close collaboration to ensure therapy and education targets are integrated into every session. Our therapists work directly into classrooms, often in joint teaching and therapy sessions which ensure all team members have a shared understanding of the child’s needs and goals.

The school has a full time senior nurse, assisted by a part time school nurse and a health care assistant.  They provide continuity of health care for all children at the school as well as offering information, advice and support for parents.


The school has access to a consultant paediatrician who is able to provide advice and support. In addition, residential young people have access to a local GP to provide advice and medical appointments on a temporary residence basis.


Several paediatric consultants have close links with the school and arrange regular clinics in the medical centre.  In addition, Ear, Nose and Throat surgeons based at hospitals in the region, and the North East Cochlear Implant team visit children as required to ensure an optimum level of audiological support with minimal disruption to school attendance.

What training have the staff supporting children and young people with SEND had? Are any being trained currently?

All staff receive a comprehensive induction programme, including sessions on safeguarding, moving and handling, eating and drinking, NAPPI, postural management, assessment for learning and deaf awareness training. This ensures that the correct skills and knowledge are gained and statutory requirements are fulfilled. Each year the school undertakes a number of training days on which specific training is delivered either by external providers or school based specialists. Staff are also given bespoke training throughout the year if necessary to meet the needs of the pupils. This may  include gastrostomy and tracheostomy care.

The school actively supports those undertaking specialist training courses or advanced study.  As a strategic partner within the Foundation’s Teaching School staff have opportunities to access best practice in other education settings across the region.

Within Northern Counties, training involves engaging in innovative opportunities to improve therapy and teaching as well as ensuring staff are fully updated on policy and procedure.

Continuing professional development is undertaken by all staff and forms part of the performance management programme.

How will my child/young person be included in activities outside this classroom including school trips?

Extra Curricular Activities and Links with the Community

Wherever possible, out-of-school activities are organised for both residential and non-residential children.  Many of these provide additional learning opportunities in many curricular areas (e.g. art, drama, PE, etc).  Participation in these can involve an extension of the school day for non-residential children.  In such cases special transport arrangements have to be considered.  Residential trips are arranged each year and educational excursions take place periodically.


The school encourages links with the community and other schools whenever possible.  These can include visits, joint activities and participation in local events

How accessible is the setting/school/college enviroment?

Residential accommodation is available at the school for children who cannot attend daily on account of the distance between the school and their homes, or for whom education and support in excess of the school day is required. For some young people we offer regular nights in residence to develop independent living skills and training opportunities, which reinforce learning in an alternative environment to the home. We also offer respite care for families on a regular basis with support from social services.

At present the residential provision is spread over four properties named respectively Tees House and Coquet House, East Cottage and West Cottage.

The residential service operates on a weekly boarding basis for up to 22 residents some of whom return home each weekend while others also spend the weekend with us. Those in residence live in a group setting supported by a team of care staff who also live in residence with the children from Monday evenings until Friday morning. We also offer weekend respite services which include a range of short break options matched to individual pupil needs.


The care team includes a number of staff who works full-time in the residential setting and this is complimented by a number of school staff who provides additional support to individual young people. This system means that there is excellent consistency between the residential and the school setting with regard to communication approach, behaviour management and target setting for any individual pupil programmes. The staff are led by a House Manager, a Deputy House Manager, with support provided by the Head Teacher.  Senior staff are on call at all times to provide additional support if required.


The service is able to provide high quality respite care and independence programmes on a part-time basis. Short break services are offered regularly with families able to access a range of funding streams to support a child’s participation.

How will the setting/school/college prepare and support my child/young person to join the setting/school/college or the next stage of education and life?

We recognise that transitions within school, from school to school or from school to college can be worrying for pupils and families.

We work hard to ensure changes are managed very carefully, especially for our pupils with ASD who find transitions particularly stressful.

Staff who are involved in any handover of responsibility for a child have specific training if necessary and we try to minimise how many staff changes happen within any given period of time. Key staff are highly likely to remain associated with a child for significant periods of time to ensure all details of how a child learns, behaves and the planned approaches to management are embedded in the best interests of the child involved.

The school works in partnership with families, LA and community professionals in planning any significant change and this is part of the child’s Annual Review process .All annual reviews from year nine onwards have a strong transition focus,

How is the decision made about what type and how much support my child/young person will receive?


Percy Hedley Foundation provides a comprehensive assessment programme using its Core Assessment Team.  Referrals can be made by parents, school or local authorities and initial discussion will ascertain whether an assessment will be offered.  The week's assessment will be carried out by a team that may include:

Specialist teacher (e.g. of the Hearing Impaired, Visually Impaired, and Autistic Spectrum  Disorder)

Occupational Therapist

Speech and Language Therapist


Educational Psychologist


Recommendations of the child's needs would then be made and, if appropriate, the offer of a place within Northern Counties School. The Local Authority are responsible for SEND pupil placements. Parents /carers play an important role in the decisions on placement for their child. They are an important part of our assessment team as information gathered during initial assessment provides a baseline which supports target setting and approaches to learning and therapy.


Our end of assessment meetings provide an opportunity for families, school and LA representatives to discuss future provision.

How are parents involved in the setting/school/college? How can I be involved?

Working in Partnership with Parents

We actively promote a close working partnership with parents or carers as we recognise the need for consistency between home, school and residential life. Prior to admission it is hoped that the child's parents/carers will have visited both the school and the residence and we aim to provide a transition programme prior to full-time admission.

Parents are consulted on the content of the child's IEP in school and the child’s care plan in residence. Updated information on pupils is provided via reports, newsletters, e mails telephone calls and home/school diaries.  In recognition of the fact parents of residential children often live a significant distance away from school, special events are held once a term.


Family Support

We are very keen to work in partnership with families and welcome them to visit their children in school and residence.  We have a family room in school for the use of visitors at any time which has tea and coffee facilities.  We also run a signing group for family members which is very well attended.  Home visits can usually be arranged if parents feel these might be helpful.


Contact with home

All resident children are encouraged to be in close contact with home.  To facilitate this, the residence has a webcam to enable young people to contact family members using sign language. Young people are able to access the Internet and therefore can e-mail if this is preferred.  Young people are allowed to use mobile phones to talk, text or email but we encourage them to leave these in the central living area overnight.


Parents are encouraged to be involved in the life and work of the school and are always welcome.  Visits to the classroom and to see resident children after school are valued by members of staff and contact can always be made to "keep in touch" or if ever there are concerns in relation to individual children, the curriculum (e.g. religious education, assemblies, sex education), school events or any other specific or general matters.


Home-School Agreement

Parental support and encouragement are seen as vital in ensuring all children enjoy and benefit from their education.  To set out the responsibilities and expectations of school, parents and pupils, a home-school agreement has been drawn up and all parents are invited to sign, together with their child, saying that they understand and accept its terms.  The Head Teacher then countersigns this and the original is returned to the parents, with a photocopy on school file for reference.

Page last reviewed: 25/08/2020


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