The headteacher who oversaw improved standards at Abbeyfield School and its transition to an academy is leaving.

David Nicholson has announced he is to depart in August after eight years at the Chippenham secondary school, spending nearly three years at the helm.

He is taking up a new headship at an academy in Hampshire. Costello School, in the more urban setting of Basingstoke, has 1,300 pupils compared to Abbeyfield’s 750.

Abbeyfield became an academy last year under Mr Nicholson’s headship, which means it receives five per cent extra funding from its sponsor, The Education Fellowship.

He said: “It may sound trite, but Abbeyfield School is a very special place and it will be a wrench to leave.

“I have always known it is people that make a place and I have particularly loved my time amongst some outstanding students and a talented, hard-working staff.

“I wanted to stay another year but I was approached to leave and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. This will be, however, a great opportunity for the school as well as for whoever is fortunate enough to follow in my footsteps. I believe what’s needed now is a new pair of eyes.

“There has been an upturn in applications so it’s looking very healthy for September.”

After a five-year spell as deputy head, Mr Nicholson took over as acting head in December 2011 after the suspension of James Fox for reasons undisclosed by the Local Education Authority Wiltshire Council.

He overcame this turbulence and in September 2012 led the school through a successful Ofsted inspection, resulting in Abbeyfield being rated ‘good’ in every category, with an ‘outstanding’ rating for the maths department. He said he managed to achieve this by “focusing on the classroom”.

The school has already begun its search for a new head.