HIS predecessor was described by a governor as an ‘absolute legend’ and praised by Ofsted for his pivotal role in turning the school around.

There are certainly big boots to fill at The Oxford Academy in Littlemore, but newly-appointed headteacher Andy Hardy looks set to take it in his stride.

Niall McWilliams stepped down from the role last month after four and a half years, during which time the academy rid itself of a bad reputation and gained its first ‘good’ Ofsted rating.

Both heads will be at the school to support students on A-Level results day tomorrow, with Mr Hardy officially taking post in September.

  • Follow our A-Level live blog online from 8am tomorrow, and see Friday's paper for full coverage of results day in Oxfordshire.

The father-of-two, who is a keen runner and sports fan, said it was ‘a privilege’ to have been given the role after a testing two-day interview process.

Speaking at the school in his first interview with the Oxford Mail, he said: “There is a feeling here that drew me – the vision and values, of respect, aspiration and responsibility, which run as a thread through the school.

“I had the opportunity to observe lessons and walk around, and a student panel asked me a number of insightful questions.

“Saying ‘thank you’ and holding the door open makes such a difference, and I don’t believe children ‘know’ that, you have to teach it. That’s already within the academy.”

The educator lives in Herefordshire with his wife and two daughters, aged 12 and 17, and their dog Woody.

He has previously held senior leadership positions at schools in St Albans, Birmingham, Barnfield West Academy in Luton and – most recently – as interim head at an inadequate-rated academy in Bristol, which he has helped to improve.

Mr Hardy said: “I feel very strongly about outstanding achievement for every young person.

“The Oxford Academy has a very rich and diverse community. The pupil premium [extra funding for pupils from low-income backgrounds] and demographic is very similar to Barnfield.”

Last month the school’s outgoing chair of governors John Putt told the Oxford Mail Mr McWilliams was a ‘class act and absolute legend’, but said he was confident Mr Hardy could continue the school’s success.

Mr Hardy commended the 1,600-pupil secondary school’s improvement in recent years.

But he said there is ‘still a way to go’, and he is looking to improve aspects such as attendance and pushing results even higher.

He added: “This is the next chapter for The Oxford Academy, ensuring we build on the previous work.

“High-quality teaching, learning and assessment will be at the heart of all that we do, with intelligent learning environments where students flourish.

“High standards and success will be an expectation for all students.

“I believe students should gain achievements they can be proud of, as well as a set of life skills that will enhance their value in later life in subsequent education and career.”

Despite current concerns nationally about funding and recruitment in schools, Mr Hardy said he believes teaching is ‘the greatest job in the world’.

He added: “I am really looking forward to leading The Oxford Academy in this thriving city.

“It’s in a good position and the ultimate dream is an ‘outstanding’[-rated] education experience.

“I want it to be the school of choice and maintain excellent achievements, and offer a world-class experience of education for every child that walks through the door, no matter their starting point.

“You can’t take education away from anyone – it’s with them forever.”