Work begins on a new academy school for autistic children in Sunderland
A new academy for children with autism is expected to be open in January 2021.
The Harry Watts Academy is being built in Ramillies Road in Red House. It is named after the Sunderland-born sailor and diver who saved dozens of people from drowning in the River Wear and North Sea in the 19th century.
The proposal to develop the academy was backed by Sunderland City Council following consultation with schools and parents.
Grant funding of £6.3m was secured to develop the academy on the site of the former Bishop Harland Primary School.
By 2022, Harry Watts is expected to have nearly 100 pupils and the academy will be overseen by the Prosper Learning Trust.
It has been designed by the council's capital projects team and is being built by construction giants Kier.
Phil McDowell, operations director for Kier Regional Building North East, said: "Breaking ground at the site of the new Harry Watts Academy is the first major milestone in the construction of this project.
“We are delighted to be working with Sunderland City Council to deliver this much needed specialist facility.
"Kier has a long held reputation within both the North East and the education sector and has been responsible for the delivery of over £5billion of education facilities in the last decade.”
Sunderland City Council's cabinet member for children, learning and skills, Councillor Louise Farthing, said: "Demand for school places for children with autism has been rising.
“These are children with complex, social, behavioural and emotional needs. As there is increasing demand for specialist school places, it is right and correct that they are met locally.
"As a council we are committed to providing the very best education and the very best facilities for all our children. The council has been working in partnership with its children’s company Together for Children (TfC) and has long-term plans to meet all needs.
“The Harry Watts Academy is part of this plan and the start of work on the building is most welcome."