Newcastle High School for Girls this week officially unveiled the Catherine Cookson storytelling garden at its Junior School in Sandyford in a special naming ceremony attended by Peter Magnay DL from the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust.

On Thursday 26 November Peter Magnay unveiled a commemorative plaque dedicated to the Catherine Cookson charitable Trust. The plaque is on a specially crafted storytelling chair that will take pride of place in the grounds. Some of the girls performed readings from Catherine Cookson’s work.

The Charitable Trust awarded a significant grant to Newcastle High over 18 months ago to part-fund a major landscaping project that has transformed the school’s five acre site into a giant outdoor classroom.

The Catherine Cookson grant has supported the creation of a forest trail, storytelling area, kitchen garden and a wild flower corridor. The grounds also include two all weather sports pitches, an amphitheatre, woodland walk, sensory garden, a picnic area and a pond and bog garden. The result has been the creation of a unique outdoor learning facility within the Jesmond Dene conservation corridor.

All these elements are used by the Junior School to deliver an outdoor curriculum that offers the girls aged 3 – 11 the opportunity to take their learning outside. The gardens and grounds provide the ‘classroom’ for Newcastle High’s Forest School programme, which is built into the school curriculum and offers the girls training in bush craft skills as well as the study of ecology and biodiversity as part of the science curriculum.

Hilary French, headmistress at Newcastle High said: “It has been a joy to see our vision to provide an outstanding and unique learning environment turn into reality. We are extremely grateful to the Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust for its support. The natural environment offers an immense number of learning opportunities in all areas of the curriculum.

“So many exciting storytelling opportunities have and will continue to be created in the gardens proving a wonderful way to honour Catherine Cookson’s many achievements.”

Peter Magnay from the Catherine Cookson Trust: “I am thrilled to see the gardens open and in full use. Children using this outdoor facility will have so many learning opportunities which will inspire them in all areas of their studies.”

“The gardens, storytelling area and outdoor classroom are an ideal match with the aims of the Catherine Cookson Trust, to support a wide range of activities including education and training, environment and conservation, arts and culture as well as general charitable purposes. The Trust’s principal aim is to identify and meet the local needs of the area in which Dame Catherine was brought up and resided.”

Newcastle High School regularly works with local schools and shares its facilities with other schoolchildren in the area.

Newcastle High School for Girls enjoys strong ties with the Catherine Cookson Trust, which has provided full bursaries for a number of students to attend the school.

The landscaping of the grounds was the second phase of a multi-million pound development of Newcastle High’s Junior School which included the refurbishment of a mansion designed by local architect, John Dobson.

Following the completion of the Junior School and its grounds, Newcastle High is now investing in an exciting new Senior School build in Jesmond with work expected to be completed for occupancy in the school year starting September 2016.


Click here to see the coverage in the Shields Gazette Click here to see the coverage in The Chronicle


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