A SCHOOLS’ watchdog has praised a Southampton academy for improving its standards in its first year.

A report by Oftsed said there was an “over-riding picture of improvement” at Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill, which formed from the merger of Millbrook Community School and Oaklands Community School.

Under the new framework for school inspections, the 793-pupil academy was the focus of a two-week inspection aimed at schools previously in special measures.

Inspectors noted: “The impact of the academy’s strategies and provision can be seen in the improving standards, even though they remain low.”

The report said “substantial gains” were made in some areas including the number of students gaining five GCSEs at A to C grade, a figure which rose to 52 per cent this year.

Last year Millbrook Community School recorded a 31 per cent pass rate for A to C grades while Oaklands Community School scored 50 per cent.

The report highlighted “strong performances” in media, art, drama, music, sport and health and social care.

Inspectors agreed with the academy’s own admission that there are not yet enough consistently good quality lessons but noted the “enthusiasm and energy of the staff . . . produces an equally strong response in the students, and some make exceptional strides in their learning”.

The report said some students, especially those with special educational needs or disabilities, had made “good progress and in some instances made exceptional gains in their learning”.

The inspectors said they saw “good and exemplary behaviour in lessons and during assembly” and noted there had been a “marked reduction of exclusions this term”.

Principal Ian Golding was praised for his “skilful leadership, clear vision and direction” in the face of “considerable challenges” during the academy’s first year.

Areas for improvement included attendance levels which inspectors noted were “improving” despite being below national averages.

Inspectors said teaching staff should have “a clearer focus on the learning of individuals” in lessons.

Mr Golding said: “I am delighted with the report. It is the first concrete judgement about the improvements we are making.

“It is very gratifying to go through two weeks of inspection and come out with a great report.

“It is a big credit to the staff who work very hard to bring about change as well as being a huge compliment to the students.”