SOUTHERN Oxfordshire's largest school has cleared another major hurdle in its £17m rebuild.

King Alfred's Academy in Wantage officially opened its new £6.2m science block at Centre Site on Friday.

The two-storey building replaces two 1960s science blocks and includes high-spec labs and classrooms for students from Year 9 to Year 13.

The block will eventually house a £75,000 Scanning Electron Microscope previously used at University College London.

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey and former KA's pupil Christopher Duff, who works at the National Space Academy, cut the ribbon in front of more than 100 guests.

The opening is the latest part of a massive project to close the 1,800-pupil school's East Site at the end of the year and move the academy down to two sites from three.

The £17m project is being overseen by the Vale Academy Trust, which also runs Larkmead School in Abingdon and six primaries in the Wantage area and Abingdon.

Trust CEO, Simon Spiers, said: "This is a momentous time in the history of this illustrious school; to finally have the school operating from two sites will bring untold benefits to the whole school community and marks a moment when the academy can look forward to a bright future for our students and staff ."

Headteacher Jo Halliday added: "This move has taken years of planning, and we have had many things to consider while the construction of the science building and refurbishment of our four-storey teaching block has been ongoing.

"Staff and students have coped admirably throughout this period and and showed remarkable resilience – it has been a privilege to lead them through this period of change and reconstruction. I cannot praise or thank them enough.

"It is almost impossible to believe that we are about to arrive at our destination: a two-site school, a wonderful new campus and enhanced facilities across both sites that can only take teaching and learning at King Alfred’s to new heights."

Ms Halliday also revealed that she will leave her her post at Easter after 17 years at King Alfred's.

The new science block is the latest in a series of new builds: a £3.5m new restaurant and teaching block, refurbishment of the assembly hall and art and design teaching block and the 'four-storey block', and the academy is now planning to overhaul its old science blocks with new classrooms and social areas.

KA's also revealed this week that the beloved Sweatbox youth club, based for decades at East Site, will be left without a permanent home for the first six months of next year.

After East Site is handed to a housing developer in January, the Sweatbox will lead a nomadic existence until its new home is completed at Centre Site in the summer.

Working with Wantage Youth Town Council, managers will take the club 'on tour' using spaces such as The Old Mill Hall in Grove to run fortnightly events including a roller disco, gaming night and open air cinema.

In a statement, King Alfred's said: "The aim is to ensure these events continue to provide young people in Wantage and Grove with an opportunity to engage with trained youth workers and access to Sweatbox services."

Georgina Hicks, who runs the club, said: "It's an exciting time: we are looking forward to moving into our new building and the opportunity to take The Sweatbox out on tour, allowing us to engage with even more young people."

The Sweatbox will hold a last open day this Saturday from 2pm-6pm.

From January, 650 pupils in Years 7 and 8 will be based at West Site on Challow Road and the 1,200 in Years 9, 10 and 11 and sixth form will be at Centre Site.