A PRIVATE school has marked the first milestone of a major improvement project.

Builders have begun digging up land at Manor Preparatory School in preparation for a 'magnificent' state-of-the-art sports hall.

Pupils took a break from the first week of their summer holiday to pull on fluorescent jackets and hard hats, at a 'breaking the ground' ceremony on Monday.

David Ramm, bursar of the Shippon school, said: "These are very exciting times for the school as The Manor embarks on a comprehensive building programme, starting with this magnificent sports hall.

"As the school seeks to continue to provide the very best facilities for its pupils, it continues to review, improve, update and enhance its facilities.

"As the requirements in education continue to evolve, The Manor wishes to continue to be a modern, forward-thinking school.

"To achieve this, the buildings and facilities need to keep pace with this vision."

The sports hall is part of a wider project at the prep school, which also includes building a swimming pool, new pitches, netball and tennis courts, a new canopy to the school building, an extended car park and more classroom and dining space.

Vale of White Horse District Council approved the plans in October last year, and the sports hall will be the main focus for contractors throughout the summer holidays.

The ceremony marked a milestone moment in the major project, although the sports facility is not set to open until September 2018.

The school's planning application highlighted how its main hall is currently used for indoor sports, adding: "This is far from ideal as it causes conflict with other activities such as drama, music, assemblies and workshops for children.

"There is extreme pressure on this facility for all its competing uses and as such is not suitably designed for any of the uses."

It stressed a need to deliver outstanding sports facilities to compete with other private schools.

Pupils have already celebrated an improvement of the school library, which reopened last month after a fresh face-lift.

More than 4,500 books were boxed up and moved out so builders and painters could transform the space, which was unveiled last month ready for the summer term.

It was officially opened by Abingdon couple Mark and Nicki Thornton, former owners of Abingdon's much-loved Mostly Books shop.

Mr Thornton cut the ribbon to a ripple of applause before pupils were let inside to explore the new space.