A KIND-HEARTED schoolgirl's mission to combat loneliness at playtime has inspired a donation for a buddy bench at her school.

Emily Shepherd, a pupil at Staindrop CofE Primary School, in Staindrop, Teesdale, was inspired to write a letter to her headteacher, Steve Whelerton, after spotting a boy on his own at lunchtime.

In her handwritten letter, the ten-year-old said learning that the boy did not have anyone to play with "made me really sad" so she played with him and had "soooo much fun".

Emily, whose mother helped her write the letter, then suggested a friendship bench in the playground.

And Mr Whelerton thought it was such a good idea that he encouraged Emily to write to County Durham Councillor for Barnard Castle East, George Richardson, to see if he could help with funds.

Cllr Richardson was so impressed with Emily's letter that he told fellow councillor James Rowlandson about it and the pair decided to donate £400 to the project from their Members Initiative Fund.

Cllr Richardson said he was "moved to tears" when he read Emily's letter while Cllr Rowlandson said it was a "great initiative" that the pair were more than happy to support.

The councillors got to meet the Year 5 pupil in person when they were invited to officially open the bench at the school on Thursday and the trio got a round of applause.

A team of 14 buddies, who are unmistakeable in their bright yellow hats and armbands, were also voted in by their fellow pupils and will take on the responsibility of making sure every child has someone to play with.

Emily, who thanked the councillors for their donation, said: "I think it's really good and I love the sign."

Mr Whelerton said the school places a huge importance on writing and was praised Emily for her letter which was "beautifully written".

He said: "The way Emily put her thoughts across was so moving that I agreed to it but with funds being quite tight, we thought about writing to the councillors.

"We are thrilled about their generous donation and we offer our thanks because it will benefit the both the children in the school now, but also in years to come.

"It's a legacy Emily is going to leave and it's lovely that her writing had a purpose."