THE transformation of an historic Teesside building into a school for autistic children has been completed after a charity’s £1.3m investment.

The North East Autism Society (NEAS) has worked in partnership with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council to give disused Kiora Hall an “exciting” new lease of life.

A date of February 28 has been set for the keys of the new school, in Ragpath Lane, Norton, to be officially handed over to the charity.

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson said: “It’s hugely exciting to have reached completion, and it’s been a pleasure to work so closely with a local authority that shares our passion for improving the lives of children with special educational needs.

“I want to thank my own staff for the work they have put into this project, and we have been so impressed with the enthusiasm shown by the council to improve the lives of families with autistic or neurodiverse children.”

Mr Phillipson praised Thornbrook Construction, and Cadman Associates, for keeping the project on track despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Kiora Hall has had varied uses since 1902, including family home, offices, Army gun battery, youth club, school, and community centre. It was also used as a prisoner of war camp during World War Two.

The new design, by Lee Parkin, of PW Architectural Consultants, features 12 classrooms, a kitchen, computer room, arts and crafts facilities, and sports hall.

Talks are ongoing with the Roseworth Big Local community group about making parts of the building, including the sports hall, available for wider community use.

Staff training and child assessments have already been taking place, with personal support programmes being put in place, ready for the first pupils to enroll in the spring. A second cohort of around 12 children will join in September, and NEAS is looking to recruit teachers and teaching assistants as well as support staff such as cleaners, and kitchen workers.

“We want to recruit as quickly as possible so we can start intensive training for the new staff and we are particularly keen to hear from people from the local area,” said Mr Phillipson.

Roseworth councillor Jim Beale said: “We are delighted to have been working with NEAS. It’s a win-win because the building now has an exciting new purpose that will change lives.”

Find out more about Kiora Hall