THE faces at the top of Britain's leading Roman Catholic public school are about to change.

The headteacher at Ampleforth College, Father Leo Chamberlain, is to step down at the end of the year to take up the position of Master of St Benet's Hall, Oxford.

He will be replaced by a former Anglican priest who only joined the Roman Catholic Church 14 years ago.

Father Leo, who is 62, has been headteacher since 1992, and by December will have completed 40 years' service to the school.

Fr Leo will be succeeded by Father Gabriel Everitt, 47, who is the school's Third Master, a housemaster and head of Christian theology.

Ampleforth's Abbot, the Reverend Timothy Wright, said: "By any measure, Father Leo has been an outstanding headmaster.

"Under his guidance, the school has gone from strength to strength.

"Its pastoral care, its academic standards and its achievement for students of an exceptionally wide range of ability were all strongly commended in the recent inspection report.

"This record and the school's physical transformation in recent years will be a lasting testimonial to his leadership and vision, and his successful introduction of full boarding for sixth form girls has been marked this year by the achievement of Oxbridge offers for three of them."

His successor, Fr Gabriel was brought up as an Anglican and was first ordained into the Anglican Church in 1987 after which he served a Hartlepool parish.

In 1989 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, and joined the Ampleforth Community a year later.

He started teaching at the college and was ordained in 1994.

He will take up post as headteacher in January next year.