A new play area has been able to swing into action at a school for autistic children thanks to a donation of £15,000 from Darlington Building Society.

Tracey Train, principal of The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre, in Teesside, described the accessible outdoor play equipment as “a godsend”.

All of the building society’s nine branches are supporting five local charities under the ‘Local 5’ initiative, and NEAS is one of the good causes chosen by the Darlington head office team.

The £15,000 grant, which has helped fund the play area, came from the building society’s annual pledge to invest five per cent of its profits back into the community.

The play equipment, featuring an assortment of swings and climbing frames, was waiting for pupils when they returned to the school, at South Bank, Middlesbrough, after the summer break.

Mrs Train said:

The children weren’t told the play equipment was being installed so it was a big surprise when they returned for the new term, and it has eased the transition back to school more than I can say.

“It can also be hard for some of our children to go outside, but having the new play area has helped staff enormously to encourage them out into the fresh air, and that’s so important for health and wellbeing.

“Lots of our children have an abundance of energy and the equipment has helped harness that in such a positive way. It’s been a godsend and we can’t thank Darlington Building Society enough.”

The partnership between NEAS and Darlington Building Society has been championed by financial support officer, Alison Etherington, who has an autistic son.

I know from personal experience how much of a difference this will make, not just to the children, but to parents and carers. It’s fantastic to see what an impact the donation has made, and to see the children outside, having fun on the new equipment. It really brings home the importance of the Society’s five per cent pledge.

The school, opened in September 2020, has 29 pupils, with the 30th about to start soon. The building is named after Middlesbrough-born artist Mackenzie Thorpe, who is a patron of the charity.

Find out more about the school.