Headteacher David Todd is preparing to leave his Barnham school of smiles.
Mr Todd will be saying goodbye to St Philip Howard Catholic High School at the end of next term.
He is heading to a larger Catholic school in Bournemouth. But he said his eight years at St Philip Howard were a perfect way to start his career as a head.
“I have enjoyed every minute of being here. This school is just such a lovely school to lead.
“I think being a faith school helps. Our values are very clear and everyone knows what we stand for. It makes the relationship between the staff and the pupils and their parents easier.
“But, even given that, there is something special about this school. You feel it when you are walking along the corridors. You see people smiling. You see it so much and you can see they mean it in their eyes.
“The staff are happy to be here and the students, on the whole, are happy to be here,” he said last week.
“We had a deep learning day today when different years spent all day studying different subjects. Year 9 looked at science, for example, and Year 10 at the world of work.
“It was lovely to see the children so engaged and interested in what they were doing.
“It’s because we are a faith school. It’s not a case of a few special RE lessons. That faith is part of our lives. But we are not a monastery. They are normal teenagers with regular lifestyles and regular problems.”
Smiles were in short supply, however, when Mr Todd experienced a baptism of fire after his arrival at the Elm Grove South site in September 2004. An arson attack two months later wiped out several classrooms and caused emergency plans to be put into action.
Mr Todd said: “The staff, students and governors worked together to get the school back up and running.
“It was the Blitz spirit and we had a lot of kindness and support from other schools and from the wider Barnham community.
“The information we got about the arson was overwhelming and it showed peoples’ regard for the school.”
A further, smaller arson attack occurred the following November though no-one was ever charged by the police in relation to the fires.
Mr Todd, 50, came to St Philip Howard from a deputy head’s job in Kent. He will leave to take over St Peter’s School in Bournemouth. Its 1,600 pupils compare to the St Philip Howard’s 900. There is also the challenge of a split site with campuses miles apart.
But he departs with the school riding high in the education league tables, as it has during his tenure.