THE head teacher who turned around a York school is spending his last day with pupils today before he retires after 18 years.

John Harris joined Archbishop Holgate’s CE School in 1992 when it had the lowest results and the highest number of empty desks in the city. He said: “It had recurrent budgetary issues, low parental confidence and weak staff morale”.

The school has now grown in size from 439 students when Mr Harris, 60, started to almost 900, partly thanks to the addition of a sixth form in 2008, and achieved an “oustanding” Ofsted rating in 2007.

This summer, Mr Harris said the school hoped again to achieve its best exam results in its 464-year history. Mr Harris started his career in York, studying for a bachelors and masters degree in English at the University of York, training at York St John University and teaching English at Joseph Rowntree School. He took the helm at Archbishop Holgate’s School after various positions in West Yorkshire schools. Mr Harris, who plays classical guitar, the lute and piano in his spare time, said: “The role of head is a very demanding one so there’s a lot to catch up on.”

He will continue to work as a consultant to help schools in challenging circumstances in other areas.

He said the hard work of staff and support from parents had led the school to achieve many accolades in the last ten years, including becoming one of the first 24 science colleges and being invited by the Government to become one of the first of the new academies.

He said: “I’m certain my successor Andrew Daly will take the school forward again and the future of Archbishop Holgate’s School will be very exciting.

“He has got a number of important and exciting new developments planned. I’m sure the school will go from success to success.”