Parents of autistic children in Teesside have hailed Kiora Hall as a “game changer” for their families, just weeks after it opened its doors in Stockton.

The specialist school – run by the North East Autism Society, working in partnership with Stockton Council – has taken on 20 pupils so far, some of whom have been out of education for years.

Having a specialist school on their doorstep means they no longer have to leave the Stockton area for their education. And relieved parents say they can already see a huge difference in their children.

Kelly Tearney, of Billingham, whose 11-year-old son Mason started in September, says: “Mason has got on brilliantly and has settled in really well. He was laughing and giggling in the car after his first day.

“It makes him calmer at home too. It’s a huge weight off our minds to know he’s in a place where he’s understood.

As long as Mason is happy and surrounded by people who understand him, that’s all any parent could ask for.

The school, in Ragpath Lane, Roseworth, has six teachers and 25 teaching assistants all trained in autism and other neurodiverse conditions. Staff carry out in-depth assessments of each child before they arrive so they can create a personalised learning plan for them.

As well as the standard subjects, the school offers some pupils lessons in communication, preparing for adulthood, and sensory sessions that stimulate their senses and help them learn how to respond.

Andrea Galloway, whose seven-year-old daughter Amelia recently started, says: “Everything is totally suited to the children’s needs. The staff know what makes Amelia tick, which is amazing after only a few weeks.

Amelia has started sleeping better at home and can’t wait to go into school in the morning. It’s because she’s getting everything she needs there. It’s an absolute game changer.

“I live in Stockton and was resigned to the fact I would have to travel outside the area to get her into a school like this. When Kiora Hall opened, it was like every Christmas had come at once.”

Another parent, Helen Conway, mother of seven-year-old Isla, says: “It’s so scary when your kids go to a new school anyway, but when they’ve got additional needs it’s terrifying.

“But Isla hasn’t been fazed. The school has big rooms and a lot of outdoor space, which she loves, and the teaching staff are all really nice.

“They have seen a difference in her already – she is so much happier now. She’s even joined in circle time, whereas she used to stay in a corner on her own. It’s such a relief to know she can be there until she’s 19.”

Mark Ellison, the school’s vice principal, is preparing to take on more pupils. “Parents tell us it’s a lifesaver,” he says. “They can see the difference in their children straight away – they are happy to come to school.”

NEAS invested £1.5m to repurpose historic Kiora Hall after an agreement with Stockton Council to lease the building for 25 years. The council says the partnership is a real boost to the community.

Councillor Lisa Evans, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Kiora Hall’s opening has already given a significant number of children the opportunity to be educated within our borough and stay closely linked to the community, rather than having to travel further afield.

“And over time the council will work with NEAS to identify more children who would benefit from the highly-specialised offer the school has.”