The MP for North West Cambridgeshire was on hand to help cut the first sod as work on long-awaited improvements to Sawtry Village Academy began in earnest.

Shailesh Vara joined academy principal Sarah Wilson, Mark Woods, the chief executive of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust, Councillor Simon Bywater, Nick Hughes, of Hutton Construction, and David Carmichael, of LGH Architects, to break ground for the first time on July 12.

Following a long campaign to gain additional funding, which resulted in a £2million grant from Cambridgeshire County Council, the academy will be making improvements in two phases.

The first phase will see the construction of a new teaching block to include 18 new classrooms, with a second phase commencing when additional funding has been secured. The second phase will allow refurbishment work to take place on the rest of the school, including replacement of old windows and doors.

Cllr Simon Bywater was also in attendance, who has worked alongside the academy trust in helping to gain the necessary funding.

The desperate financial position of Sawtry Village Academy was raised in the House of Commons by Mr Vara, and came after it was revealed that a previous principal, James Stewart, 73, had misused funds for his own ends, including building a sex dungeon alongside his office.

Stewart was convicted of fraud and misconduct in public office for offences between 2011 and 2014, and was jailed for four years in October 2017.

Following Stewart's departure, Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT) took over the governance of the school in January 2015.

Mr Vara said: "It is great to see the development finally getting started, after years of hard work from principal Sarah Wilson, the academy trust and Councillor Simon Bywater. All of this would not have been possible without their hard work and determination along with the generous funding from the children and young persons committee of £2 million towards the redevelopments.

"This new building will give the children hope and enormous pride in their school, which will allow them to prosper in their education. I look forward to following this development through the stages and seeing the finished building next year."