Headteacher Gerard MacMahon is to leave Sheldon – the school he helped make one of the best secondaries in the county – for a job in the Middle East.

After eight years at the Chippenham school, Mr MacMahon, 46, will take on a new role as headteacher of Al Khor International School in Qatar in September.

He has been at the helm as the school achieved numerous accolades, including an appointment by the National College for Lead-ership of Schools and Children’s Services to the position of National Leader of Education.

The school gained specialisms in sport and languages, became an academy and was one of England’s first 100 Teaching Schools.

In its last Ofsted inspection, it was judged to be outstanding in all 38 inspection categories, an achievement matched only by six comprehensive schools in 1,500 Ofsted inspections.

Mr MacMahon said he was pleased to leave the school in a strong position. “It’s an amazing opportunity for me,” he said, after announcing his resignation on Tuesday.

“I don’t think I could ever have left Sheldon for another school in England – there is nothing out there that would match Sheldon for me. I’ve had a fantastic time here and I’m proud to be leaving when the school is so strong.”

Despite the change of country, there will be some similarities between Mr MacMahon’s work in Chippenham and Qatar.

Mr MacMahon said: “There are 3,600 pupils, aged four to 18, and this is due to grow to 4,500 over the next few years.

“Most of the school follows a British curriculum of GCSEs and A-levels, with about a third following an Indian curriculum. Teaching is in English, but the school is truly international.”

Mr MacMahon, whose wife Stephanie is headteacher of a secondary school in North Somerset, said there was much time to find his replacement, and he hoped the post would attract a strong field of potential candidates.

In a letter to governors, he said there was no need to be concerned about his departure.

“Our budget is very healthy and we do not need to contemplate staffing cuts,” he said.

“We can still afford to improve the site. Every year group is full.

“Our new constitution is designed to protect our ethos and values through changes in school leadership. I think it is a very happy school.”

He said working at Sheldon had been a great privilege.

“It’s really nice to think that I’ve seen some of the students here through from Year 7 to sixth form, and I have recruited the majority of the teachers here too,” he said.

“It is very easy to overestimate the importance of a headteacher in a large school like Sheldon, where there is strong leadership throughout our faculty and year structures.

“Nevertheless, we have plenty of time to make a great appointment to replace me as Sheldon’s principal.”