HE is the inspirational head teacher who has overseen the dramatic turnaround in fortunes of a Southampton school.
But now the principal of Oasis Academy Mayfield has revealed he is to hand over the reins after four-and-a-half years at the helm.
When John Toland arrived at the then newly formed secondary school, created through the controversial merger of Grove Park and Woolston schools, it was in turmoil.
Principal Ruth Johnson had quit after her short reign was marred by pupils rampaging through the corridors, staff leaving and more than 100 parents calling for her to quit at an emergency meeting with city MP John Denham.
In the next two years, Oasis Mayfield found itself bottom of a national league table for GCSE results and was then branded “inadequate” by Ofsted inspectors. But within 18 months of that report, the school had completely transformed itself.
Exam results have risen dramatically and delighted staff and pupils moved into a stunning new £15m building.
Shortly after, Ofsted last year confirmed things had improved rapidly and the academy was safely on track to continue getting better.
And now, Mr Toland, whose “excellent leadership” was praised by inspectors as empowering “staff at all levels to grow and excel with the prime focus of securing students’ achievement”, believes it is time for someone else to move that project forward.
He said: “I came here for three days and I’ve been here fourand- a-half years.
The work that is under way is a long-term plan to deliver an outstanding rating. The past two years have put the early few years firmly into history. If I felt it wasn’t secure then I wouldn’t be prepared to hand it on.
“I believe it’s in a positive place now to have somebody who is going to be here for the long term. Applications for next year are up massively. We’ve had 135 put us as first choice and 122 as second choice, and we’re looking at a very strong intake.
“That was the cherry on the cake because it shows we have converted hearts and minds.
Securing that was one of my aims. There’s a positivity and there’s an energy with the students and that’s what we’ve been driving.
Mr Toland, who is now involved in the process of recruiting his replacement before taking a break to consider his potential next role, said he will look back fondly on his time at Mayfield.
He said: “There’s no denying it’s been hard work, but every challenge has been outweighed by immense rewards and pride.
“We talk about lifelong learning and it’s definitely added to my learning. I’m taking away great memories and great experience.
It’s been a privilege to work with these young people – they’re just amazing.”