WORK has begun on a long-awaited £8.5m rebuild which will bring a special school together on one site for the first time.

Durham Trinity School and Sports College has been split between three sites across Durham City ever since it was founded, more than 20 years ago.

Its Kirkham and Flambard facilities in Aykley Heads and Bek, in Hartside, are becoming aged and too small and the needs of its pupils, 189 youngsters with special needs aged two to 19 from across the county and beyond, are changing.

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The Government promised money from its Priority School Building Programme to completely rebuild the school in Aykley Heads and work began shortly before Christmas.

Recently, staff, pupils, governors and others gathered for a ceremony to mark the first steel girders being put in place.

Ann Southren, a former deputy headteacher who retired last summer having worked at the school for 40 years, cut a cake.

The new school will have an expanded capacity of 220 pupils including a nursery, specialist provision for autistic young people aged up to 19, a swimming pool and facilities for services such as physiotherapy.

The L-shaped building will be two- and three-storeys in height.

It is hoped lessons will move into the new facilities in November.

The Flambard premises will then be demolished to make way for sports pitches and a multi-use games area, which will be finished by May 2015.

Headteachre Julie Rutherford said: “Staff and pupils at the school are delighted to be chosen for the Priority Schools Building Programme and this is an exciting time for all involved as we await the construction of our new school.

“For the children, we will be in buildings fit for purpose. We will be able to offer more provision and the children will have a clear progression right through the school.

“We will have increased outdoor facilities and it will be excellent having everything together – it will make life much easier for everybody.”

The construction is being carried out by up to 100 workers from Sir Robert McAlpine. Children have designed safety posters and can watch the building work progress from their playground through windows in the perimeter fence.