A HEADTEACHER who is leaving his school after 15 years of success says he will do so with a heavy heart.
Joe Hughes has announced that he is in his final term as headteacher of English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College, in Catcote Road, Hartlepool.
In September he starts in a new role with the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, overseeing more than 160 Catholic schools.
The school has been through a string of highs during his time at the helm, with rising results, strong Ofsted reports and successes in art, sport and theatre.
Mr Hughes says he will also never forget the community's response to the school bus crash in July 2007 that saw 22 pupils taken to hospital.
Mr Hughes, who lives in Durham, said: "I think being a headteacher is the best job in the world.
"You have so much variety from dealing with major building projects to dealing with individual students.
"When students arrive here at 11 years old they are still children but when they leave they are young men and women.
"I feel privileged to be a part of that and having spent all my career in schools, I will miss it.
"There is a lovely line from a Vatican document that says 'teachers do not write on inanimate objects but on the very souls of human beings'.
"I am lucky to have had a very important and rewarding job."
Mr Hughes, 59, joined English Martyrs as headteacher in 1995 after working in schools in Oldham, Stoke-on-Trent, Norwich and Gateshead.
The married dad-of-three says the school was already successful and highly thought of when he replaced David Relton.
He says community has always been the most important aspect of the school and that came to the forefront during the bus crash that saw two boys airlifted to hospital after being caught under the vehicle's wheels.
He said: "At the time it was devastating and on that evening, when a number of students were injured and two were in a critical state, it was awful as we did not know how it would turn out.
"But the low point became a high as they made fantastic recoveries.
"When I reflect on it, the way everyone rallied around was fantastic.
"It really showed Hartlepool at its best."
Michael Lee, the current first deputy headteacher, will become acting headteacher from September