A DECAYING mansion built in the mid-19th century has been transformed into a school for children with educational and behavioural difficulties.

The former Woodlands building in Holly Tree Close, Darwen, has been turned into Brambles East School, part of specialist ‘EBD’ schools firm Beechkeys’ growing portfolio.

The former old people’s home, which had been empty for a decade, has been refurbished through- out, but still retains its Victorian character.

Once at full capacity, there will be 56 boys taught at the school, all of whom are referred by the local authority as they cannot cope with mainstream education.

The boys, aged between 10 and 16, could be from across Lancashire.

Headteacher John Rider has more than 15 years experience in schools of this nature.

He said: “We are geared up and staffed to teach the full curriculum and provide opportunities for personal development.

“Children here do all the usual academic qualifications, such as GCSEs, and there are also vocational qualifications that can be taken on site, all of which are approved by City and Guilds.”

Mr Rider said he was delighted to be working in such a grand setting.

He said: “It is nice to work in a building like this. All the parents when they come round say, ‘can I come?’ But the builidng is also ideal to be used as a school.

“We have done a lot of refurbishment as it was in pretty poor condition when we built it.”

Teaching only began at the school earlier this month, and there are just four boys currently being taught.

Bosses also said there would be an open evening in future for people in the area to look at what has been done to the site.

Mr Rider said: “We have worked closely with residents in the area and held a public meeting before we took over where we reassured people about our plans.

“I think people are now pleased the building has been restored and is being used again.”

English and art teacher Kate Heathcote said the children really liked their new school.

She said: “I came from a similar school and this building is amazing. The kids think it is like Hogwarts so they are very excited.”