CHILDREN’S author David Melling helped a school in Abingdon celebrate the opening of a new extension which has been built to keep up with increasing demand.

The Hugless Douglas illustrator visited the Kingfisher School on Monday along with a life-size version of his famous creation, formally cutting the ribbon for three new classrooms.

The Radley Road academy is a special needs school for children and young people aged between two and 19.

The original building was created in the 1980s and added to over the years as the school grew.

It already has a special sensory room and swimming pool to provide for the needs of children with complex physical and mental disabilities.

An application to demolish two temporary classrooms that have sat at the site since 1996 was originally submitted to Vale of White Horse District Council in February.

The block was demolished to make room for three new classrooms, which offer almost double the teaching space as well as upgrading fire safety.

A design and access statement submitted with the application stated the previous building was “old and decaying and in need of major repairs”.

It added: “The rear fire escape steps and ramp is in need for major repairs and are not currently usable.

“These classrooms lack flexibility and are not fit for purpose, currently can only be used for able bodied pupils.”

The school also cited increasing demand for special needs education places within the area as another reason for expansion and stated the county council was putting pressure on the school, which is oversubscribed, to admit more students.

At the last Ofsted inspection 84 pupils attended the school, with an eight extra students added to September’s intake.

The extension was funded by Oxfordshire County Council who have also paid for a similar expansion of Fitzwaryn.

The Wantage academy recently announced their own plans to build a new two-classroom block with a ‘wet room’ and special disability hoists.

Work on the Abingdon school extension has been ongoing throughout the previous semester and pupils watched for months as the new building took shape.

On Monday, students and staff were eager to see inside the new classrooms, as well as receive a hug from book character Hugless Douglas, with even headteacher Lorraine Wilson not immune to his charms and posing for a selfie.

Mr Melling, who is from Abingdon, is behind the book series which tells the heart-warming tales of a bear who is always in need of a hug and it has proved a firm favourite with young readers.

The first book in the series Hugless Douglas, came out in September 2010, and he has been drawing illustrations for sequels ever since.

Kingfisher was rated as ‘Good’ during its last Ofsted inspection, with it gaining the rating across all categories.

It is a part of The Propellar Academy Trust, which also includes fellow special needs educator Fitzwaryn as well as Abingdon and Witney College.