An innovative new partnership with a decorative paints and coatings manufacturer is set to breathe life and colour into a Northumberland-based school for children with learning disabilities and special educational needs.

AkzoNobel Ashington has announced its new community partner of the year for 2019 as Castle School. Located in nearby North Seaton, Castle School is part of the Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust (NCEA) and supports children aged 3-19 years who have severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties.

AkzoNobel, which is best known for its household brands, Dulux, Cuprinol and Polycell, was first introduced to the school through another community project which saw the business donate paint towards developing a new sensory garden which was an initiative driven by the school pupils themselves. After learning more about the school and its provision, employees at the £100 million manufacturing unit were so inspired, they voted unanimously to support it with a number of volunteer-led projects and activities throughout the year.

The announcement of the new partnership follows the success of AkzoNobel’s 2018 collaboration with Northumberland National Park Authority.

“In years gone by, we have asked our employees to nominate a local charity for the site to support throughout the calendar year with in-house fundraising activities. Last year however, we decided to do something a little different which would allow our teams to really utilise their skills to give back to our local community,” said Jeff Hope, head of manufacturing unit at AkzoNobel Ashington.

“The success of our community partnership with Northumberland National Park has led us to continue the initiative with the selection of our new partner for 2019.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be working alongside Castle School. The staff at the school do a wonderful job, day in, day out to support the children and we’re excited to be able to support them with their vision to improve the school’s facilities.

“The team at AkzoNobel are already off to a flying start, making the most of the first two school holidays of the year by decorating the internal reception areas and corridors in the school’s brand colours during February half term, then going straight back over Easter to build new external play areas and new colourful fencing to rejuvenate the space for the students.

“Next on the agenda is for the 150-strong volunteering workforce to work alongside the staff and students to get involved in some garden maintenance work and create interactive outdoor areas to inspire the children to learn and play, as well as brighten up some of the classrooms.”

As an extension of the partnership, AkzoNobel will also be offering support and volunteering time to the other two schools which make up the NCEA Trust.

Sara Wild, principal at Castle School, commented: “I’d just like to say a huge thank you to AkzoNobel Ashington for choosing Castle School to be its community partner for 2019.

“The pupils that we support have a profound range of different learning difficulties. We also have some children who have physical disabilities and some children who have autism as well as learning difficulties, so the work that we do to support them through their education is absolutely vital.

“Everyone at the school, staff and pupils, are all very excited about the partnership project with AkzoNobel. The development work for our outdoor areas in particular is going to be absolutely fantastic.

“Our children love to be outside and it’s a great place to really make learning fun, so we’re looking forward to injecting a bit of colour to develop what is currently quite a grey area into a space where the children can engage in some lovely activities when they’re outdoors.”

AkzoNobel will be using its own specialist Dulux and Cuprinol paints for the delivery of the project and sourcing all of the decorating materials required to carry out the project work from its Dulux Decorator Centres to ensure that the work carried out will be durable enough to withstand the test of time.