Five new schools are to be built across Redcar and Cleveland following yesterday's announcement of a multi-million pound project.

Engineering contractors Mowlem will start work this month on the £155million deal which will see new builds on Mersey Road, Redcar, and one school to be named South Bank Primary.

The joint venture between Mowlam and Redcar and Cleveland Council was announced yesterday following months of negotiations.

The private finance initiative will build, design, finance and manage the schools over the next 30 years.

Construction work on the key schemes, which have attracted around £50m of Government funding, are all set to start this month. A new Roman Catholic campus will be sited at Mersey Road with Scared Heart Secondary School and the newly-named St Benedict's Primary School, amalgamating St Alban's and St Dominic's.

Gillbrook Technology College, in South Bank, and Bydales Secondary School in Marske, will be rebuilt on their existing sites. The plans will also see the merger between Beech Grove and Cromwell Road moved to a new primary at the existing Beech Grove site in South Bank.

The Council's Cabinet Member for Education Councillor Steve Kay said: "Working in close co-operation with all parties for several months has resulted in the achievement of this major milestone.

"We now look forward to the construction phase and the continuation of the good working relationship we have built up with Mowlem."

Mowlem's Project Director Tony Jackson said: "The relationship with the Council in bringing this prestigious PFI project to financial close has been excellent and we look forward to the successful delivery of the schools."

The aim is to complete the primary schools by next spring and the secondary schools by Autumn, 2006.

Yesterday's announcement comes just a week after another school in the area launched an appeal for £12million of Government funding for a merger.

Plans were revealed for a joint site at Huntcliff Secondary School, in Saltburn, which will see pupils from Saltburn Primary School moved to the other side of Marske Mill Lane.

Ruth Headdon, headteacher at Huntcliff, said: "This will be a massive move for both schools and a major boost to the area."