SCHOOLS in five areas of the North-East will benefit from a £66m Government handout to improve buildings.

The money will be given to special schools in Middlesbrough, County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland as part of the Government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

These local education authorities have been included in the first three phases of the BSF programme, which has promised to transform every single secondary school in the country for the 21st Century.

Special schools play a key role in educating children with the most severe and complex needs, and share their specialist skills and knowledge to support inclusion in mainstream schools.

A Durham County Council spokesman said: "Glen Dene School, in Easington Colliery, is the only special school in our first-wave bid.

"The existing premises are in reasonably good shape, and we are only looking to undertake a programme of minor works to upgrade them.

"While they are unlikely to take up much of the £66m, we do not know at this stage how much our bid will bring us.

"Funding is also being sought through future waves of BSF cash for our other special schools -Hare Law and Villa Real, in Derwentside, which are to be retained and upgraded, and Durham Trinity School and Elemore Hall, both in the Durham City area.

"We welcome the fact that this additional funding is to be made available and will be pleased to access it for the benefit of special schools in the county."