THE head teacher at the Minster School in York is standing down - sparking 'devastation' for pupils' parents.

The Chapter of York said Alex Donaldson was stepping down today 'after 30 years of loyal service to both the school and York Minster.'

Mr Donaldson and two other staff members were suspended following the discovery of air guns and ammunition in an insecure area of the school in Deangate in the spring.

The two other staff members were subsequently reinstated but it is understood Mr Donaldson was not allowed back to work, and protests by parents culminated in the summer with some lobbying members of the General Synod outside York Minster, calling for him to be reinstated.

The Chapter said today: "Alex began his career at school in 1988 combining duties in the Minster Choir with a teaching timetable. He was appointed head in 2004 and since then has led helped develop the school, taking it to its current ratings of “excellent” and “outstanding” as judged by the Independent Schools Inspectorate."

In a brief leaving statement, Mr Donaldson said it was 'with great sadness' that he bade farewell to the school.

"However, I am aware that the uncertainty of the current situation is becoming unhelpful to everyone associated with the school, and I would not wish to do anything to jeopardise the school to which I have devoted so much of my life," he said.

"I have always maintained that a school is not a collection of buildings, but rather the community of the people who work together to one common end: the nurture and development of the children in their care.

"My wife, Jane, and I have been deeply touched by the many messages of love and support, and acts of kindness, we have received over the last few months from parents and pupils, both past and present, from all around the world.

"This, more than anything, has demonstrated to me the success of what we set out to achieve, that the values that we sought to instill in pupils have endured into later life, and this is a worthy legacy for any teacher.

"To friends, colleagues and everyone associated with the school, I send all good wishes for the future development of The Minster School.”

Canon Moger, Acting Dean of York and Chair of the Minster School Governors, said in a letter to parents that the Chapter would like to thank him for his 'significant contribution over many years as teacher, colleague, member of the Minster Choir and, latterly, as head..'

He said:"We wish Alex all the best for the future. The Chapter of York is committed to the flourishing and wellbeing of the Minster School and will now begin the process of recruiting a new head to build on the success of recent years.”

A group of parents of pupils at the school issued a statement saying they were 'devastated by the news that Alex Donaldson is stepping down as headmaster, after conducting himself with remarkable dignity over a very trying few months.'

They said: "Mr Donaldson has been a wonderful headmaster: a worthy teacher, role model and guide to the pupils of the school; a cheerful partner to the parents of the school.

"He saw each child as a kernel of possibility to be nurtured and nourished, and the school as his life's work. It is clear from the statement issued by the Acting Dean, that there is no suggestion of any wrong doing on Mr Donaldson's part.

"Alex Donaldson will be greatly missed by staff, pupils and parents alike: his loss will be immeasurable."