Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge MP James Heappey has officially opened a new £250,000 expansion to the sixth form centre at Highbridge’s King Alfred School Academy.

Mr Heappey, MP for Wells and the UK’s Minister of State for Armed Forces, has opened the multi-room extension at the school’s growing sixth form after work started last year.

He also opened the sixth form’s new Jill Dando News Centre, named in memory of the  popular BBC Crimewatch presenter who was killed in 1999 who was born in Weston.

Mr Heappey unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening in front of students aged 9 and 18 from Jill Dando News Centres across The Priory Learning Trust (TPLT) schools.

The extension has a new restaurant area and coffee bar, a new lounge area, classrooms and independent study area.

The King Alfred School Academy sixth form has been so successful that it has attracted an ever-expanding number of students from the local area, as well as Weston, Bridgwater and even further afield to Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

James Heappey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “It is fantastic to see the Sixth Form at King Alfred School Academy so popular that the building needed to be extended.”

“I remember so well meetings where closure was a real possibility. I may have made clear how against that I was, but the leadership at the school did such amazing work to make it such a brilliant option for students around Burnham and Highbridge.”

Principal Dan Milford says: “Everyone is thrilled with these expanding facilities. There is a big buzz around the whole school and we continue to make things even better. There is now a dedicated study place and a social space, as well as a place for the Jill Dando News Sixth Form centre.”

Nathan Jenkins, CEO of TPLT, adds: “To see the expansion of the Sixth Form is really incredible.  It is a really strong Sixth Form giving huge options to students to access the best universities, apprenticeships and jobs.”

Nigel Dando, the brother of the murdered presenter Jill Dando, also attended the event alongside young reporters from Jill Dando News. The scheme now has over 100 reporters across Somerset with some in Malawi and even in Africa. Nigel and other professional journalists help to train the reporters who are aged 8 to 18.

Compiled with input from Oliver Masley, 12, from the Jill Dando News team

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