PUPILS with special needs have finally got their own school nurse - after an 11-year wait.

Parents and staff at Villa Real School, in Consett, have been campaigning for more than a decade to get a dedicated, on-site nurse.

Their wish came true after Durham County Council and Derwentside Primary Care Trust agreed to joint-fund the post and Andrea Amos was hired.

Headteacher Fiona Wood said: "We are absolutely delighted.

"These children finally have the provision that they need.

"It means that teachers can concentrate on their core role of teaching. It is also good for the parents, because they have got someone to talk to about medical issues."

More than 80 per cent of the pupils have medical needs. Without a qualified member of staff for the past 11 years, the teachers have had to do all the nursing themselves.

"This is the first school of its kind that I have worked in that did not have a practising nurse," said Mrs Wood. "Not having someone on site to meet those needs on a daily basis is ridiculous."

Durham County Council is already looking to provide the same nursing cover to the other special schools in the county - Glen Dene, in Easington Colliery, Durham Trinity, in Durham, Rosebank, in Ferryhill and Murphy Crescent, in Bishop Auckland.

It followed a successful application to the Government's Standards Fund.

A spokesman for the authority said: "We see this as having long-term benefits for the children."

North West Durham MP Hilary Armstrong backed the campaign to bring a nurse to Villa Real and was one of the first to welcome her.

The Government Chief Whip said: "I am delighted to welcome Andrea to the school. The staff and parents campaigned very hard to persuade the local health trust of the need.

"A dedicated school nurse will improve the quality of life for the pupils and consequently their families. It is a lovely school and I am sure she will enjoy working here."