AFTER seven happy and rewarding years at Wellington School, headmaster Martin Reader is getting ready for pastures new. MICHAEL MARSH spoke to him in his last year in Somerset and found out what makes him - and the school - tick.

MARTIN Reader loves Wellington – the head teacher has been at the helm of the town’s illustrious private school for the last seven years but in a few months’ his love affair with the place he calls home will come to an end.

“I am going to miss it hugely,” says Martin. “It's a school I've loved from the beginning and you can't do this job unless you love the place.”

Martin, 46, is preparing to head east to Sussex at the end of July next year where he will embark on his next chapter at Cranleigh School.

He announced the move with a heavy heart and says the time is right to move closer to family.

Martin said: “I think the decision is right for the school, especially in a modern age, to have a fresh pair of eyes on a regular basis.

“I will have done eight years here and I will have left the school in a good place. It’s up to the next person to take it on and have the same love affair with it as I have and move it on again.”

Henry Price has been chosen to take over the reins at the school, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.

Martin says Mr Price, who is moving from Rugby School, will inherit a big part of Wellington and admits it’s his own job not to take his foot off the pedal.

Asked whether he will find it difficult to focus on the 12 months ahead given his pending departure, Martin said: “Not at all. What I have, between the two schools [senior and junior], is over 800 pupils who deserve the very best.

“I have to deliver the very best to them - I am committed to those kids and their parents for the next year. We have a strategic plan in place which we have to meet and I'm not going to let those kids down.”

Martin also emphasised the role the school plays in the town and hopes that will continue under the new regime.

He added: “The school is one of the biggest employers in the town. It's enormous, not just in terms of employment of local people.

“I think we help, together with the rest of town, put the name of Wellington on the map.

“We are an integral part of the town and its character. During the summer we have a summer school, so all throughout those months you have more than 200 overseas students spending their money in the town. All of that is there to see.”

The father and his young family have certainly taken to country life in Somerset.

The school is his home, quite literally. Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt could get from Martin’s front door to his office 100 metres away in less than ten seconds.

Mr Reader said: “Wellington School is my home and Somerset we love. No doubt we will be visiting. We'll be coming back here regularly on holidays, we love it. I can see ourselves retiring down here.”

One of the headmaster’s self-confessed favourite features is the school’s stunning chapel.

He hopes that stays exactly as it is when he makes an emotional return, but he does hope the school is boasting an England international sportsman, preferably in rugby or cricket... but he’s not too fussed.

“The chapel was built 80 years ago as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War,” he explains.

“All those Old Wellingtonians that sit in that chapel, it's not just about the community; it's about all those that died. You just imagine that it was your friend.

“What the Government always forgets when it talks about education and why independent schools are successful is not just about what we do with results or drama, music or sport; it's about what we do with community and relationships.

“The fact that we're a school that has been here for 175 years and all that community feeling is symbolised by that building and all that it means about sacrifice, freedom, democracy and everything else says the best about human beings. It's pretty special to me.”

Over the last seven years Mr Reader abolished Saturday morning lessons, improved the performing arts centre and built the Alan Rogers Centre.

In 11 months, it’s up to Mr Price to make his own mark on Wellington.