THE opening of a new school has been put back after builders uncovered evidence of an Iron Age settlement.

Children in Somerton have had a sneak peek at the ancient settlement unearthed on the site of their new school.

Four classes from King Ina Academy Junior School were shown around by archaeologists excavating ahead of construction on council-owned land off Northfields.

Initial works have revealed signs of roundhouse buildings and some artefacts including pottery.

The site is now being examined and excavated in detail.

The 420-pupil, 14-class primary school will replace the King Ina campuses at Etsome Terrace and School Lane.

It had been due to open in September next year, but the significant discovery means the project has been put back until early 2021 at the earliest.

Experts from Wessex Archaeology will record the site and conserve any artefacts, allowing construction work to start again as soon as possible.

The children looked at the evidence of Celtic round houses and discussed what it may have been like living in them.

They learned how archaeologists look for evidence of farming and the remains of ancient food, and even tried out some authentic replica grain grinding equipment.

Cllr Faye Purbrick, Somerset County Council cabinet member for education and transformation, said: "We’ve got a great track record of delivering new schools, so any delay is a shame.

"But clearly, this is a special case, with some really interesting historical finds and it’s very important that this piece of Somerset’s past is recorded and preserved.

"The timescales are out of our hands, while the archaeological work continues, but I am pleased that the students who will inhabit the new school have been able to engage with the archaeologists and witness first-hand the exciting finds on the site.

"Hopefully it has fired some young imaginations and, who knows, it might inspire some future careers or hobbies.

"The new school is great news for Somerton and the surrounding communities and we will do everything we can to move the project forward quickly once the archaeological work is done."

Hedda Walker, deputy head at King Ina Academy, said: "The visits were excellent - really interesting and enjoyed by both the pupils and the staff. We were really grateful for the opportunity to visit the site at this early stage."