ASTRONAUT training, rocket making and a night under the stars was all in a day’s work for pupils at the North-East’s first dedicated school ‘space hub’.

Children aged eight, nine and ten from Coundon’s Victoria Lane Academy, near Bishop Auckland, enjoyed a host of activities plus an out of this world sleepover as they took part in the region’s inaugural Stephen Hawking Foundation Space Camp.

The charity has given the school thousands of pounds worth of equipment including a telescope for the innovative project aimed at educating and inspiring greater numbers of young people towards aspirations for careers in scientific fields.

Jane Richardson, headteacher of Victoria Lane, said: “The pupils were really excited and have been counting down the days until the space camp – we’ve never had such a large uptake for a residential event before.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for the children to take part in such a special experience and hopefully something they will remember for years to come.”

Victoria Lane was selected as one of 30 schools nationwide to act as a hub school for the scheme.

As well as a telescope, the school was given 15 “space habitat” tents, sleeping bags, roll mats, a telescope, five binoculars plus celestial buddies - toy planets - and rocket kits.

Held yesterday and today, the camp has seen Years 4 and 5 children tasked with carrying out every day activities wearing space gloves as part of astronaut training while they have have heard from experts including Durham University astrophysicist Dr Pete Edwards.

They have also made rockets and string planets while taking part in a range of creative space-themed workshops.

And last night the youngsters camped out in the school hall and stayed up stargazing until midnight.

So-called “space visitors” Bishop Auckland Astronomical Society were on hand with advice and brought the group’s own state-of-the-art telescope to enhance the experience.

The class is due to deliver a presentation about what they have learned to parents this afternoon.

Lee Blake, deputy headteacher, said: “The children wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to see these kinds of telescopes. It’s also the first time sleeping away from home for most of them.”

Space Camp UK is a science themed residential project that was initially piloted in Warwickshire before being rolled out to a further 30 primary schools and two secondary schools across the UK.

These 30 Space Hubs will then take the lead in ensuring the project is delivered successfully in a further 120 primary schools.

Victoria Lane was selected as one of the lucky 30 as a result of their successful track record of developing primary science, along with the successful completion of a two-year STEM - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics - enthuse partnership supporting other schools.

Ms Richardson added: “We’re honoured to have been selected as one of 30 schools nationwide to become a primary space hub for the Stephen Hawking Foundation Space Camp.”

The school will keep hold of the equipment which will be used by other schools in the region.