PUPILS and staff at a specialist school are celebrating the official opening of a new building providing much-needed places to children with autism.

Christchurch-based Portfield School and nursery, which is run by charity Autism Wessex, opened new facilities to meet a growing demand from the local community.

The project means the the school’s capacity can grow from 69 students to 86.

Over the summer break a full renovation and conversion took place, turning underused buildings into two new specially designed classrooms, a soft play area, and outdoor play facilities.

The new facilities will be used by the six to seven age group, a key development stage for children with autism.

Siún Cranny, chief executive of the charity, said: “Our investment in the facilities at Portfield School is transforming the learning environment for pupils and their teachers.

“We are delighted to be able to increase our educational provision to children and families affected by autism.

“Ensuring children have access to the best possible facilities is just one part of our commitment to help our students reach their potential regardless of their circumstances.

“These buildings will provide modern, fit-for-purpose learning environment for students for many years to come,” Siún added.