A SCHOOL is preparing to welcome its first female headteacher following the retirement of its long-serving head.

Rod Walker, headteacher of Henry Box School in Witney, plans to leave the school at the end of the academic year.

He has been a headteacher in Oxfordshire for 22 years - 11 of them at Henry Box.

His replacement will be Nicola Edmondson, deputy head of Kingsdown School in Swindon.

Mr Walker said he was sad to be leaving, but delighted at being able to hand over the reins to the first woman headteacher in the school's 350-year history.

He said: "I have loved virtually every minute, but this is the right time for me to retire. I will be nearly 60, and feel I'm ready for another challenge.

"I am very proud to welcome the new headteacher to the school. She will be the school's first woman headteacher. And it's not before time!"

Mr Walker previously worked at Larkmead School, in Abingdon; Matthew Arnold, in Cumnor; Oxford School, in East Oxford; and Wood Green School, Witney.

As well as being headteacher at Henry Box - which has more than 1,300 pupils on its roll - he is a popular maths teacher and an accomplished badminton coach. He hopes to continue training young players, and providing maths tuition in his retirement.

When asked for his proudest moment at Henry Box, he said: "I am proud that we have had two very good inspections in the past five years - and that our badminton teams have won the county championship. I hope we do the same this season."

Mrs Edmondson said: "I'm delighted to be taking over such a good school, and am looking forward to becoming the first woman head in its history."

The headteacher of the town's other secondary school, Wood Green, is Miss Cynthia Savage.