A BUS has been transformed into an inspirational learning environment to encourage students with special educational needs to read for fun and improve literacy skills.

Now a dedicated library space for 260 pupils at The Oaks Secondary School, in Spennymoor, the Go Read Bus was unveiled yesterday.

English teacher Sara Swales thought up the quirky concept as she wanted to update the school’s library facilities by creating an engaging area for students to focus on reading for leisure.

She said: “I realised if we wanted to really take literacy seriously and help our students, our tiny, bland library wasn’t going to cut it. "The idea for the bus snowballed from there and it’s turned out better than I’d hoped.”

Externally-wrapped in colourful book graphics, the inside of the bus has been invitingly-designed in the style of a cafe. Fitted with bookshelves and seats, students can relax while reading and take part in literacy workshops.

Having arranged the former Go North East, single decker bus donation last year, Colin Barnes, engineering director at the region’s biggest bus operator, joined children's author Terry Deary for the official ribbon cutting.

They were joined by 17 of the school’s best readers and well-known Darlington-based children’s author and illustrator, Liz Million.

Mr Barnes said: “Going on the bus can be a real adventure for young people in itself but this transformation has really gone the extra mile.

“It was a pleasure to help this creative project come to life and seeing how enthusiastic the children are about reading on the bus is incredibly rewarding.”

Upcoming writer, Lisette Auton, of Darlington, also attended the celebration alongside local fundraisers Alicia Cowie, Miss England 2018, and on behalf of Asda, community champion Donna Allison, who together have raised more than £2,000 for the project.

Ms Swales added: “Thanks to this generous donation from Go North East and fundraising activities by many local businesses including Asda and Alicia, our students are excited about reading.

"The bus promises to take their imaginations wherever they want without even leaving school grounds, which wouldn’t have been possible without this support.”