A MODERN, purpose-built school seems set to be built in Richmond with news that the Government has backed in principle the redevelopment of St Francis Xavier School.

The Department of Education and Skills has indicated it is willing to contribute 80 per cent of the cost - estimated at several million pounds.

However, the governors now have the task of finding ten per cent of the total, as well as leading a comprehensive consultation exercise with the school's neighbours.

If everything goes to plan, the design phase of the project could be complete within the next 12 months, with contractors moving on to the Darlington Road site to begin construction work after that.

Headteacher Dr Joe McAuley acknowledged there were still a number of obstacles to overcome before anything was set in stone - including the fundraising.

He said: "We are talking about the construction of a completely new school with all the facilities required to meet the most recent government guidelines."

St Francis Xavier - known locally as SFX - is one of only a few joint Catholic and Church of England secondary schools in the country.

At the moment, 400 pupils aged 11 to 16 are squeezed into the classrooms, but the roll would increase to about 450 in the new building.

"This is excellent news," said the Middlesbrough diocese's Bishop John Crowley. "A new building will enhance and enrich the existing provision and provide the best modern facilities for the children and the families of Richmondshire and the surrounding area."

Chairman of the governors, Dr Jim Whiston, said: "There are challenges ahead but the proposed redevelopment presents many exciting opportunities in developing a school for the future.

"There will be opportunities for individuals, businesses and organisations interested in securing the distinctive standards and ethos of St Francis Xavier to play a significant role in the development of the new school."