THE headteacher of a Southampton school where murdered teenager Lucy McHugh attended prior to her death has heaped praised on his students as they received their GCSE grades.

Jason Ashley, headteacher of Redbridge Community School, praised students for remaining focused on their studies with the background of Lucy's "tragic" death and the subsequent murder trial.

He also praised school staff and the local authority counselling service for helping students to remain focused throughout the year.

Mr Ashley said: “It has been an undercurrent all year, but the students have handled it well.

"We said at the start of the year that it can’t let us change what we do as a school and the best thing we can do is just continue what we do and take the time to reflect as well when we need to.”

Speaking yesterday as his students collected their GCSE grades, Mr Ashley said he was “really pleased” with students for their results.

He said the school had seen improvements across the board, including in Basics 9-4, where the school went from 50 per cent last year to 51.3 per cent.

As previously reported in the Echo, students and staff at Redbridge Community School were left in shock last July after pupil Lucy McHugh's body was found in a wooded area of Southampton Sports Centre.

Daily Echo:

Her death sparked a murder investigation, which resulted in the arrest of Stephen Nicholson, who lived with the 13-year-old as a lodger of Lucy's mother's partner, Richard Elmes.

Nicholson, 25, of no fixed address, denied Lucy's murder.

But last month Nicholson was found guilty of the rape and murder of the teenager.

The trial heard Nicholson, who had been sexually abusing Lucy for more than year before her death, had stabbed the teenager to death after she messaged him to say she was pregnant.

He was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court in July this year and told he will serve a minimum sentence of 33 years.

Following news of Lucy's death, Mr Ashley held an assembly with students on the first day of term last year.

School heads have also created a memorial garden for Lucy within the school grounds.