A LEADING North Yorkshire independent school has appointed a new head teacher.

Ampleforth Abbey and College has named Mark O’Donnell as head of St Martin’s Ampleforth.

He will take over in September, replacing Nick Higham, who will leave in July after a decade in the role.

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Mr O’Donnell joins St Martin’s Ampleforth from Alleyn’s Junior School, where he has been headmaster since 2003. Alleyn’s Junior School is currently ranked as the top co-ed prep school in London and the South- East by both The Times and The Telegraph league tables, and was rated as “excellent” and “exceptional” in its latest ISI report.

In addition to his experience of running a successful co-ed prep school that acts as a link to a senior school, the new head will draw on experience gained through a successful career spent entirely at prep schools. Prior to Alleyn’s he spent 15 years at Sydney Grammar School, Australia’s top selective boys’ school, and also served as Deputy Head of Thorpe House School in Buckinghamshire.

An expert in teaching and learning theory, Mr O’Donnell has a masters of education from Harvard University and a post graduate diploma in education from Oxford University . His appointment comes less than a fortnight after David Lambon was announced as the first lay head of Ampleforth College. When they start in the summer, they will both be charged with ensuring pupils from the age of three to 18 have a rounded education nurtured by Ampleforth’s Benedictine ethos.

Mr O’Donnell said: “Ampleforth is one of the world’s great Catholic schools and it will be a privilege to contribute to the work of a forward-looking Benedictine Abbey and thriving educational institution.

“St Martin’s Ampleforth has a strong ethos of providing an education for the whole person. Working closely with David, I’m looking forward to helping all our pupils flourish not only academically, but as children and individuals.”