A WELL-KNOWN and respected headteacher will be stepping down after 21 years in charge.

Alasdair Coates, who battled a rare form of cancer two years ago, will be handing over the reins at St Christopher’s CE High School, Accrington, in September.

Mr Coates, 61, joined the Queens Road West school in 1992 and has seen significant changes, and experienced both personal, and professional, highs and lows.

He said: “In November 2011 we were being inspected by Ofsted.

“On the first day of the visit, I became a granddad.

“On the second day, I was told that the school had been rated outstanding, and just hours later I was told I had a virulent and serious form of rare cancer called Birkett Lymphoma – a form of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.”

Mr Coates underwent surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized tumour in his small intestine, followed by an aggressive form of chemotherapy, and four months in hospital. He has now been given the all clear.

He said: “I’m not retiring because of the cancer, I’m perfectly well now. I just feel it’s time.

“I am not just going to be spending time with my family.

“I will be using my expertise to offer support to local church schools.

“All headteachers have a shelf life because their expertise fades over time.”

Mr Coates has taken the school to academy status, increased the GCSE results from 40per cent of students gaining A* to C grades to above 80per cent, and added a new £7.5million sixth form centre. He said: “When Ofsted come in, they don’t measure happiness, but happy people work better.

“This is a happy school. People that have high self- esteem and think positively tend to give more of themselves.”

When he started at the school, it was a dilapidated 1950s building with low GCSE grades.

He said for the first 15 of the 21 years, St Christopher’s was the lowest-funded secondary school in the whole country.

He said: “We had money worries for a long time.

“It’s marvellous now we have solved that with academy status.”

He said he has seen generations of children come and go.

“We have teachers who used to be students during my time here, and the children of former pupils at the school.

“I am leaving before a grandchild comes to the school. It makes me feel old.

“Running a big secondary school of nearly 1,400 pupils requires such a broad list of different expertise.

“From pastoral care, awareness of the curriculum, awareness of employment, and finances, and an element of spiritual leadership.

“It has been a privileged position to have, and I will definitely stay in touch with the school.”

The closing date for applications for his post is on Friday.

The new appointment will be announced at the end of February.