A NEWPORT head teacher, who helped turn her previous school into one of the UK’s most improved, is to leave St Julian's School leaving for pastures new.

Denise Richards joined the 1,600-pupil St Julian’s School as head teacher in 2011, having come from Priory Community School, in Weston-super-Mare, a school that was turned round to become one of the top six per cent in the nation.

She took over from former St Julian’s head teacher Stephen Marshall, who retired after 20 years in the role.

Mrs Richards said at the time that she wanted to ensure pupils were prepared to do well in society, despite the high rate of unemployment, as well as less able pupils celebrating success alongside high achievers.

She set about on a five-year plan to improve facilities, such as like the cafeteria and the library at the 101-year-old school, with projects to create a gym and repaint the halls coming to fruition later this year.

In 2012, Year 11 class sizes at St Julian’s were cut by half in a bid to drive up exam results even further, a tactic brought over from Mrs Richards’ used time at her previous school in North Somerset.

Mrs Richards, who gained a music and drama degree from the Welsh College of Music and Drama and a PGCE in music from Open University, even got up on stage at the school’s spring concert in April to perform with colleagues.

Mrs Richards is joining King Alfred School in Highbridge, Somerset.

She said: "I have been absolutely thrilled to be part of St Julian's school over the past three years.

"They have been incredible times, very fast moving, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"I am excited to move on to a new challenge but will so miss the fantastic students and staff who are a credit to the whole community."

She will be superseded by Rhys Evans, who has been appointed as acting head teacher from September, for one year.

“The governing body will work closely with the current head teacher and the acting head teacher to ensure a smooth transition for all of the school community,” said Dave Barry, chairman of governors.