WHILE modest Niall McWilliams is reluctant to sing his own praises as he steps down, friends and colleagues have paid tribute to the pivotal role he has played at The Oxford Academy.

John Putt, chair of governors at the school, described his friend as a 'class act' and 'absolute legend'.

Mr McWilliams will leave the school this week after four-and-a-half years at the helm. 

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The Oxford Times: Headteacher Niall McWilliams of The Oxford Academy. Pic by Jon Lewis

Mr Putt is also stepping down at the end of term, after five years in post.

He said of the outgoing head: "He is just an extraordinary man.

"When I received his application I didn't even need to interview him, I just knew he was the man for the job.

"Clearly at The Oxford Academy it is a team effort, but he is an astonishing leader and has led that team through the most difficult time to the most successful time.

"In 10 years the school has never been as good as it is now.

"We were in the bottom five per cent of schools [for progress] and now are in the top 15 per cent. That is a phenomenal educational achievement.

"He wants to broaden his horizons and I wish him all the best.

"He has been a joy to work with."

The Oxford Times:

John Henry Newman Academy headteacher Katie Screaton. Pic by Ed Nix

Deputy head Katie Screaton, who is also head at nearby John Henry Newman Academy, said: "Niall really cares about the community and has that belief that students can succeed.

"He knew it was going to be hard work but he has never shied away from that, and has always had the utmost belief that we can get there.

"He has really fought for the school and made sure it's in a really good place going forward. He was exactly what the school needed."