COUNCIL chiefs have agreed to pay £10,200 in the hope of preventing an 11-year-old arsonist from setting fire to his new school.

Redcar and Cleveland Council's cabinet decided on Tuesday to approve the payment for a full-time mentor to continue working with the youngster.

Officials fear pupils and staff at an un-named secondary school in East Cleveland could be at risk unless the child is given support as he makes the transition from primary school in September.

A report to the cabinet by Ray Richardson, director of finance, performance and procurement, said the boy's behaviour had improved dramatically after the council appointed a mentor to help him in November.

He said: "If nothing is done to support this child through this transitional phase, then this child may revert to their previous behaviour and possibly set fire to the secondary school.

"By providing the child with support through this transition phase the authority will ensure the child will not be excluded from the school."

He hoped the mentor would be in place for the child's first day at secondary school.

Coun Steve Kay, cabinet member for education, said: "From time to time we look at making grants for exceptional cases when there is a real need and when we feel the child and the community can benefit from such intervention."

Les Jones, Cleveland Fire Brigade's community safety manager, welcomed the decision.

He said: "Mentoring is a fantastic idea. It offers support and provides the assistance needed to help those in need of it. More importantly, it can help save lives and prevent thousands of pounds damage to property. It is something the brigade is looking to introduce in future."

Det Con Graham Thompson, Cleveland police's fire and explosion investigator, said: "Anything which can be done to prevent arson has to be welcomed. If we can get one person to change their behaviour then excellent progress has been made."