EDUCATION watchdogs have praised the leadership at the first Basingstoke secondary school to convert to an academy – but they have also said the school needs to improve overall.

Everest Community Academy, in Oxford Way, Popley, was visited by inspectors from the education watchdog in July.

In their published report, they graded Everest as “requiring improvement” overall, but rated it as “good” in leadership and management. All other areas, including the achievement of pupils and the quality of teaching, were said to “require improvement.”

The report said: “Teaching is not yet consistently good and is occasionally inadequate. This results in some students achieving less than they could.”

The inspectors added that students’ achievement is “improving rapidly” but remains below the national averages in maths and English.

Inspectors said that senior leaders and governors at the 708-pupil school are “totally committed to improving the school, especially students’ achievement, attendance and behaviour.”

Everest converted to an academy, sponsored by the Academies Enterprise Trust, in September 2011.

Julie Rose, principal, promised parents that the move would improve standards, but last year it became one of 195 schools in the country not to reach the Government benchmark for GCSEs, with just 34 per cent of pupils gaining five GCSES between A* and C, including English and maths.

The Ofsted report attributed this to “disruption in their education for a long period due to lack of continuity for leadership in English, teacher absence and inadequacies in temporary teaching that have almost all since been rectified.”

Ms Rose was happier with this year’s results, in which 54 per cent of pupils hit the benchmark.

She said: “We are the most improved school in the town. This was testimony to the hard work, commitment and dedication of the students and staff.”

Referring to the Ofsted report, she described it as “honest and fair”, and added: “We were held back, I think, by our results last year. Getting a “requires improvement” was all we could get.”

Ms Rose said last year’s results “rocked our confidence”, adding: “We had to dig deep into our reserves and focus on our self-belief.”

Mike Barnett, publicity consultant for AET, said: “Everest is a rapidly improving academy, and its huge improvement in GCSE results this year has been achieved through the enormous efforts of its staff, students, governors, parents and carers. We are extremely proud of them all and look forward with real confidence to the future.”