A GIRLS' school which is consistently ranked in the top 20 in the UK has been praised by inspectors.

St Helen and St Katharine in Abingdon passed its latest visit by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) this month – the private school version of Ofsted.

Inspectors praised the quality of education, efforts to tackle bullying and pupils' spiritual development at the school once attended by Samantha Cameron.

In their report, Andrew Storey and Susan La Farge started by noting that GCSE results at the £15,990-a-year school were 'well above' the national average for state schools and above the national average for grammar schools.

They said that A-Level results were also 'well above' the national average for comprehensives, but did not mention how any results compared with other private schools.

Under the category 'spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils' the inspectors said: "Principles and values are actively promoted which facilitate the personal development of pupils as responsible, tolerant, law-abiding citizens."

Under 'welfare, health and safety' they wrote that 'arrangements are made to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils by means that pay due regard to current statutory guidance; good behaviour is promoted; bullying is prevented as far as reasonably practicable'.

They also said health and safety requirements were met and pupils were properly supervised.

The Faringdon Road school's complaints procedure, leadership and disabled access were also found to be sound following the visit on October 11 and 12.

The inspectors said they had an 'extraordinary' high number of responses to a questionnaire they sent out, with 474 coming back from parents and 377 from students.

Headmistress Rebecca Dougall said she was very pleased with the outcome of the inspection.

She went on: "I am immensely proud of the team for all their hard work keeping the school running to such a high standard.

"We are particularly delighted by the positive endorsement from our parent body and students via the pre-inspection questionnaires."

The original St Helen's School in Abingdon was founded in 1903 by the sisters at the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage.

That then merged with its sister school St Katharine's in Wantage in 1938.

St Helen and St Katharine now has 735 pupils aged nine to 18.

Alumnae include Paris University theoretical physics professor Daniele Steer, barrister Belinda Bucknall, QC, and journalists Alice Thomson of The Times and Gillian Orr of The Independent.

Read a full copy of the inspection report at shsk.org.uk