Friday, 13th April 2018

Students at South Tyneside College have stepped out to show support for a children’s charity based a short stroll from the classroom - and close to their hearts.

The learners, who study within our Interface department for young people on the autism spectrum, made a round trip of around two miles in a fundraising mission for the Charlie Cookson Foundation.

The foundation provides financial support to parents of seriously ill children who require round-the-clock nursing care or specialist nursing facilities due to life limiting conditions.

It was founded by Sarah and Christopher Cookson, from South Tyneside, following the death of their two-year-old son Charlie in October 2013.

Charlie suffered from muscle and bone problems and a blood disorder which compromised his immune system.

Six learners, as well as lecturers, walked from our Westoe campus in St Georges Avenue, South Shields, to the foundation’s fundraising shop at the town’s Denmark Centre retail area.

Along with other support events, the students raised £140.

Rachael Pippin, a lecturer from Interface who joined the students, said: “The weather was cold but dry and we were all able to enjoy a walk to keep warm.

“Once at the shop, the students enjoyed meeting staff and had a good delve around while also finding out a bit more about the foundation’s work.

“It is good that they wanted to support the foundation’s work by taking part in this activity.”

Joanne Nicholson, the foundation’s fundraising and events manager, added: “I’m delighted that the students wanted to show their support for our work in this way.

“The college is not too far from our shop, yet it still took effort and determination to organise the walk and follow it through with action.

“As a charity, it is important to us that we are able to carry our fundraising and support message into the community where we are based.

“Alongside the walk, our team enjoyed going into the college to meet the students to also find out something about them.”

The partnership was suggested by college learning support assistant Claire Brennan, a foundation volunteer. She arranged for students to hear a talk at the college from the foundation’s team about its work.

The foundation’s fundraising initiatives also fit in with the community action element of students’ college programme which sees them take part in activities outside the classroom. In this case, they also donated clothes to the charity.

Their walk coincided with an annual 14-mile trek between Sunderland football club’s Stadium of Light ground to St James’ Park, the home of North East rivals Newcastle United, by foundation supporters.

In a separate but also linked initiative, the students wore blue on Thursday, March 22, an activity that ties in with the foundation’s official ‘wear blue’ day on Friday, April 13 – the date of Charlie’s birthday. On that day especially, but at any time in April, it is asking supporters to wear that colour and to fundraise.

Lastly, the students also held a coffee morning at the college.

For the first nine-weeks of his life, Charlie was cared for within a special care baby unit, and over the next two years, he underwent regular hospital treatment for muscle and bone problems.

In April 2013, Charlie was given the South Tyneside Child of Courage Award and his condition appeared to be stabilising, but he also suffered from breathing difficulties, life-threatening infections and epileptic seizures, which deteriorated his condition.

Since its founding, the foundation has donated over £170,000 to support families.

Details on how to support the Charlie Cookson Foundation are available at or by calling 0191 466 1429.

Interface is a unique model of support in the North East for learners on the autism spectrum to access mainstream Further Education.

Part of strong Additional Learning Support offered at South Tyneside College, which is part of the new Tyne Coast College, its highly innovative post-16 learning makes it the region’s number one such support facility.

To maintain its originality and effectiveness, it combines personalised study programmes that focus on either a student’s social and emotional skills, independence or employability, and helps them build other essential life skills.

Interface employs specialists in communication, behaviour, emotional literacy, media and ICT to enhance the learner experience.

Operating from a dedicated unit, there is also special sensory room that supports learning by creating an environment where they can relax.

Learners also work towards nationally recognised qualifications such as City & Guilds, functional skills, GCSEs, and BTEC certificate in vocational studies.