A SCHOOL near Oxford is creeping closer to the highest possible standard of education, thanks to 'passionate' teaching and 'superb' results of pupils.

An Ofsted inspector thinks Matthew Arnold School in Botley has potential to join the few secondary schools in the county to be stamped as 'outstanding', if improvements continue.

The regulator visited the secondary school and sixth form in January and sent a letter to headteacher Katherine Ryan last week, packed with praise.

Ofsted concluded the school had maintained its previous rating of 'good', but could soon step up to the top standard.

The letter said: "The school has demonstrated strong practice and marked improvement in certain areas.

"This may indicate that the school is improving towards being outstanding."

Matthew Arnold School teaches 1,061 students, and has consistently been rated 'good' or equivalent throughout its inspection history.

This was the first inspection since it converted to an academy in 2015, and became part of the Acer Trust schools group.

It was last rated in 2013, when it was also judged to be 'good'.

Ofsted's letter to Mrs Ryan stated: "Leaders have established a culture and ethos which promote pupils’ superb achievement in a calm, caring and safe environment.

"The vast majority of pupils make good progress.

"This is because of the effective leadership of teaching, the appointment of passionate subject specialists; and leaders striving to continually improve provision."

Inspectors noted GCSE performance last year was 'well above average', and said pupils spoke 'eloquently' in class.

They said pupils reported their mixed-age tutor groups helped them to 'work as a family'.

Parents were 'overwhelmingly positive about the inclusive nature of the school', and 'recognise how staff support and nurture pupils', Ofsted said.

The letter also highlighted good safety procedures and training, stating: "The school’s work in educating pupils about the risks of drugs, alcohol and child sexual exploitation, e-safety and recognising radicalisation and extremism is given an appropriately high priority."

One area of improvement was identified as ensuring disadvantaged students and students with special educational needs or disabilities make better progress.

Mrs Ryan said she was 'delighted' by the report and credited staff, families and students.

The headteacher added: "All the evidence the team gathered reflects a highly supportive community focused on learning and excellent progress for every student who attends the school.

"I am very proud of the work that staff and students do to make our school a welcoming and successful school.

"Matthew Arnold is an exciting school to be part of - I am confident we will continue to build on our existing strengths."