Pupils Get Creative at Primary STEM Week

From firing rockets to racing cars, mixing chemicals and cooking up a storm in the kitchen, children from across the campuses took part in the Academy’s Primary STEM Week.

The extravaganza enabled all our Y5 pupils to get creative, with plenty of hands-on activities celebrating the best of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The aim of the week is for children to understand how STEM subjects impact on their daily lives through many different practical activities and investigations.

“The sweet and sour chicken was so tasty!”

“I’ve enjoyed it, as it was really creative.”

“I liked making the propeller cars”

Imagining the Sun Inspires Project

Students produced some fantastic work during a two-day creative project inspired by the sun.

Led by the science team, Imagining the Sun involved all students across the Josephine Butler Secondary campus.

Each department came up with their own ways to get involved:

  • Maths made sundial and pin hole cameras
  • English created a set of Icarus wings, stories and a ‘Sun’ newspaper
  • Humanities looked at sun worship through the ages
  • Science created a giant sun made from the signed palm print from everyone in school as well as a 2D and 3D solar system
  • PE played solar games
  • Vocational imagined life on another planet
  • Music made their own CD
  • SEND made a sensory 3D display of the solar system and sun-themed cakes were baked and sold
  • Art made solar themes displays




Magical Takeover

The Wonderfolk of Woodhorn took over William Leech Primary Campus when the whole school took part in a day of activities organised by Bedlington charity Leading Link.

Wonderfolk is a brand new interactive family trail opening at Woodhorn Museum. Equipped with a magical lantern, visitors help to track down and uncover the stories and secrets of the Wonderfolk – magical, mythical creatures hidden underground among the coal seams.

Headteacher, Mrs Mullen said, “We’re very much into developing the creative curriculum here at William Leech and anything that will fire the children’s imaginations and develop writing skills.

“When we found out the Wonderfolk project was all about exploring local culture and heritage we were really keen to be involved.”

Read more about what our pupils thought about their day:

Harvey, 8

“My favourite part was the dance. I had an absolute blast doing it. I had really good fun making things and doing the activities as well. We wrote a postcard to the Wonderfolk and drew a picture of what they look like on the back.

Matthew, 8

“I’d like to go to Woodhorn in the summer holidays to do the trail because we’ll know where to look for the Wonderfolk because we’ve learned about them at school. I enjoyed doing the dance the best. And I loved making stuff. We imagined what we think the Wonderfolk homes look like and drew pictures and made them out of plasticine.

Abigail, 7

We saw a Fir Borg and a Flade [two different types of Wonderfolk] at dinner time – one was down a drain and we heard them. We saw a little red and white pointy hat. I’ve drawn a picture. We found some glitter on the Wonderfolk hunt at school – there were messages in a bottle and other evidence.  We did Irish dancing and special football. I liked making the little houses the most because we used plasticine and it was really good.

Sinead, 6

We made postcards to send to the Wonderfolk. We made little houses and put lights in it. I liked finding the shiny stuff because I like shiny stuff. I might have to pour some glitter around to see if I can find one at home. I’ll ask my mam if we can go to Woodhorn in the school holidays to see if we can find some there and help the Professor.


Scarlett, 9

I liked learning the dance the best. When get home from school I’l do the dance for my little sister (age 2) and I’ll be able to tell her all about what we learned at school today.


Maddie, 9

I liked finding the clues about the Wonderfolk and working out what they meant – we found leaves with glitter on that made a word or sentence on them. Our clay houses will be part of the exhibition and we’re looking forward to people seeing what we’ve made. We can’t wait to hep the Professor at Woodhorn, there’ll be more clues for us to solve and we can help to explain about the Wonderfolk to other because we’ve learned about them at school.


Unique Book for Nursery Children

Quiet Book
Rebecca Langley, Year 13, has designed a unique book to help develop a range of skills for children in early years.
As part of her extended project qualification, which is a Level 3 qualification equivalent to an AS grade or half an A Level, she had to produce an independent piece of work.
Her only brief was to produce either a 5,000 word essay or a product/artefact that she created herself (accompanied by a 1,000 word essay).
Rebecca produced a ‘Quiet Book’ which was intended for use with 3 to 5-year-olds and an adult.
She assessed the impact of the Quiet Book by trying it out with children from the local Sure Start Centre and a family member. Each page has been uniquely designed to focus on a specific skill e.g. numbers, colours, fine motor skills, literacy etc.

Writing is Brought to Life Through Drama



“It was utterly breathtaking! My class were buzzing that they recognised their writing in it and it was all they could talk about.”

Young playwrights saw their words brought to life when a troupe of actors visited the Academy.

DSC02702Over the last five months, 50 Y5 pupils have been taking part in Unlocking Potential, an innovative project run by Mortal Fools that uses drama to boost attainment in literacy.

This year’s production, ‘Open the Door, is based on the theme of World War II.  Professional actors together with actors from Mortal Fools’ flagship youth theatre performed the play, which was written using selected pieces of writing from the children.

Creative Learning Company, Mortal Fools, aims to use drama to give children real and tangible experiences, building their understanding of other people, increasing emotional intelligence and generating excitement.

Unlocking Potential is designed to support the development of the whole child, understanding that building motivation, confidence and aspirations will have a secondary effect of improving educational attainment


Mrs Cowie, primary literacy director at NCEA, said: “The children have seen firsthand the power of their writing, which inspired the script for a new play. They can now see a purpose behind their writing journey. The pride they experienced just could not have been created in an English lesson in the classroom!

“We now hope to harness this exciting energy, generated from the first phase of the project, and use it to ensure motivation remains high, as we embark on the Explore Arts Award, where the children will complete a portfolio of high-quality work.”

Mortal Fools artistic director, Kiz Crosbie, said: “Presenting the children’s writing as a professional piece of theatre gives a purpose to their writing beyond the classroom.”

“The best part about drama was that it was good fun and I learned a lot of new things. I used to think that I couldn’t be able to do something, like I couldn’t believe that I could do something like gymnastics or anything but they kind of told you to believe in yourself and not give up. I do loads of things now, I believe in myself more.”

Participant, aged 10, Unlocking Potential 2016 (interviewed a year after the project)

At the beginning of the project in 2016, 52% children were on target or above for writing –  but at the end of the year, after the input from the drama project,
 100% were on target or above!

Listen to children talking about last year’s ‘Space’ project:


Young Reporters Interview Award-Winning Author


Award-winning author Alex Wheatle MBE inspired students to get writing when he shared his own moving story of how reading changed his life.

The winner of the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction award visited the Academy as part of an initiative organised by Blackwell’s University Bookshop in Newcastle.

Journalists from our Y7 Reporter Club went along to meet him as he talked about his new book Straight Outta Crongton.

The whole experience was a joy for everyone from teachers to students and even Alex himself. Alex shared his life story and details on his time in prison. The whole audience hardly made a peep as they were so engrossed in the story from the solid beginnings to terrific endings. Forty students purchased books from the event.

A highlight of the day was the exclusive interview with the four lucky Y7 students currently in the Reporter Club. One of our very own lead journalists, Ryan Wilson, said: “It was an amazing experience and I am very fortunate to have met and interviewed him.”

Review by Rhys Davison, pictures sourced by Mason Wass.


Alex Wheatle

Amazing Author Visit

by Ryan Wilson, research by Nick Forster

On Wednesday the 26th of April 2017, famous author, Alex Alphonso Wheatle, visited the very fortunate Y7 students of Josephine Butler Secondary Campus and told his inspiring life story.

He told us about how every story was actually based on different parts of his life, for example, ‘Liccle Bit’ was based on his life as a teenager in Brixton.

He also told us about his traumatic childhood, filled with threats of violence and homelessness. He went on to discuss the fact that he went to prison and how that’s where he got his education – his cellmate’s books.

Many students felt it was an honour to have the author speak to us. Alex even took the time to answer some questions from the reporting club:

What inspired you to become an author/writer?

I was inspired by loads of things, these include my old cellmate, my parentless childhood and the fact that I would be inspiring children to read and write more often. I’ve overcome many challenges in my life and want to share my experiences so that hopefully children can be inspired by my story.”

 How would you describe yourself in three adjectives?

“I would say I’m creative, determined and resilient, although my friends might say something such as obstinate!  They’d definitely agree that I’m bookish and hard-working.”

What advice would you give children who want to become authors?

“Keep in the habit of writing and being creative. Try listening to your favourite songs but changing the lyrics. Writing is so fun.”

What has been your favourite experience since becoming an author?

“As a fan of music, I was invited to the Jamaican University of the West Indies and was interviewed for their radio station. I got to choose songs to play for the whole of Kingston!

I also love coming into schools and inspiring children to read and write. I enjoy meeting all the people who are trying to improve the lives of children e.g. teachers and librarians.

I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to meet some of my heroes too, such as Kenny Dalglish and members of the Royal Family.”


Students from The Northumberland Church of England Academy at BALTIC where their Sound Collage features in the new Rodney Graham exhibition

120,000 people will hear their voices

“Art lets people’s feelings out”

“Everything is art really. There’s not right or wrong in art”

Students turned top critics when their views on the work of an international artist became part of a major exhibition at one of the North East’s top galleries.

Y7 students have been working with BALTIC Contemporary Art Centre and local artist and writer, Stevie Ronnie, to explore how visual arts can inspire creative writing.

Now their own interpretations of the work by the renowned artist, Rodney Graham, feature in a major exhibition which opened at BALTIC on March 17.

Over 120,000 people are expected to visit the exhibition which was given a five-star review in The Guardian and featured on the BBC.

Their “Sound Collage” is the first time the gallery has integrated community involvement into the main show and their comments will be heard by visitors as they walk around the exhibition.

At a special VIP preview, the students had the chance to meet the artist himself.

NCEA students meet artist Rodney Graham at BALTICTeacher of Art & Design, Louise Gatti, said: “Rodney Graham is viewed by critics as one of the greatest living artists of our time and this was an amazing project for students to be part of.

“Rodney came over to speak to them and told them that he loved their work and ideas. It was a very proud moment for all involved.”

Described as a “shape-shifter,” Rodney Graham is a Canadian artist whose genre-defying avant-garde experimentalism has confounded and thrilled audiences in museums and galleries all over the world.

He combines the roles of painter, photographer, writer, philosopher, actor, psychologist and musician and this exhibition features works in film and video along with his photographic images.

Steve ronnieThe Sound Collage project, carried out in partnership with New Writing North, is part of The Max Reinhardt Literacy Awards 2016-17 for creative writing and literacy work with schools, galleries, art museums and visual arts venues in England.

Vicky Sturrs, Schools and Colleges Programmer at BALTIC, said: “BALTIC believes in the power of contemporary art to provide alternative lenses with which to view the world.

“The project has supported pupils to creatively explore the themes and ideas associated with contemporary art and visual literacy.

“It has also improved engagement with, and understanding of, creative writing and produced outcomes that provide an alternative voice to interpret the show for peers, teachers and general visitors.”

As a result of the project, a resource was created for art teachers and arts educators designed to share some of the methods that were employed. This can be found on the link below:

MRLA Residency Resource

Harry’s Work of Art Selected for Display

A photograph taken by The Centre student, Harry Thompson, of a fruit decoration he made himself is now proudly on display in a new care home in Ashington. Harry was asked to submit the artwork while on a work experience placement with the home and it was selected by housing company, Bernicia.

Fantastic Beasts


In the first week of the Spring term, children were highly engaged in a Creative Week at James Knott Campus based around two books, Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The week opened with the children finding artefacts which led to them believing a beast was loose around the Campus. The activities which followed developed problem-solving skills and enabled the children to work in different classes.

Every Key Stage 2 child built part of a beast which is now on display in the hall.  All children and staff were invited to dress as something beastly on Friday and Key Stage 1 and EYFS children enjoyed a beastly party to celebrate their hard work. Children have been able to show the Academy values in action as they have worked hard to let their light shine by working together in a sensible and supportive manner.


Saints Art Project

The stories of four Northumbrian Saints have been captured in a colourful art project thanks to children from across the Academy.

The four banners of the House Saints: St Oswald, St Aidan, St Hild and St Cuthbert, will take a tour of the campuses before being placed in the chapel.

In hands-on workshops with two local felt artists, students found out about the fascinating process of transforming sheep wool into the eye-catching creations.

Academy Chaplain, Sally Milner, said: “These are four unique banners that tell the story, through the eyes of the children, of our four house saints. It has been a fantastic experience to see a ball of sheep’s wool transformed into such vibrant designs.

“The children enjoyed taking part in the project and learning how to make the felt. It has been an brilliant way to bring their stories to life.”