It has been a ‘momentous’ time for a school that opened its much-anticipated £6million science facility at a new campus.
A new state-of-the-art building at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage was opened by the area’s MP and scientists last week.
The two-storey facility replaces two 1960’s buildings and includes a suite of high-spec laboratories, classrooms and study areas for students from Years 9 to Sixth Form, following the Academy’s decision to move to two sites in January 2018.
Headteacher Jo Halliday said: “The move has taken many years and months of planning. 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, a scientist herself, who is leaving her post at Easter, added: “I can move on with confidence knowing that what was once an ambitious dream is now a wonderful reality.”
One of the new labs will now house a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), donated by JEOL, a supplier of complex scientific instruments.
To buy such a complex scientific instrument costs upwards of £75,000, but a parent and graduate of the Academy decided to donate it to be used by students at the school.
Chris Spencer, who is principal technical support engineer for JEOL, arranged for the machine to be delivered to his garage in Wantage last year, where he spent a lot of his free time getting it to a state where it can be used easily in school.
Neil McFeely, head of physics, said: “I know of only a few schools that are lucky enough to have [this kind of microscope] on site – this will be of massive benefit in our science teaching across the curriculum and open up a whole new microscopic world to our students.”
The opening ceremony was performed by Wantage MP Ed Vaizey and Christopher Duff, of the National Space Academy and STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, who, like Mr Spencer, is another former King Alfred’s pupil.
More than 100 guests attended the opening, including a number of representatives from science and technology organisations, including Culham Science Centre and Williams F1.