AN 'INSPIRATIONAL' former head who oversees the education of thousands of children has announced his retirement.

Simon Spiers is set to step down as chief executive of the Vale Academy Trust, which runs eight Oxfordshire schools including King Alfred's Academy in Wantage.

The designated 'national leader of education' was head of the secondary school for four years, before taking the lead at the multi-academy chain at its helm.

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On Friday the trust announced Mr Spiers's successor will be Richard Evans, who is currently a director at a Surrey-based school trust.

Joe Pillman, chair of Vale Academy Trust, said: "Simon has given his all to the trust since playing a major part in its inception in 2013 and as former headteacher of King Alfred’s.

"We, and the local community, have benefitted enormously from his vision, his unbounded enthusiasm and his dedication to our young people over many years.

"We thank him and wish him well in his retirement."

Mr Spiers joined 1,780-pupil King Alfred's in April 1998 as a teacher, and has taught generations of Wantage families during his career.

His successor Mr Evans, currently director of education at 30-school chain GLF Schools Trust, is due to take the reins at the trust in April.

Mr Pillman said: "We are delighted to have been able to recruit someone of Richard’s calibre to succeed Simon, in delivering the trust’s vision of securing an outstanding education for children across the trust’s schools.

"Richard brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm and we look forward to the next exciting chapter in the trust’s history with Richard at the helm.

"We were fortunate to have a very strong field of applicants to choose from and are confident we have attracted a strong new leader for the trust."

Mr Spiers guided Vale Academy Trust's growth after it was incorporated in 2011, after King Alfred's converted into an academy - run by a trust as opposed to Oxfordshire County Council.

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It changed its name in 2013 after adopting two more schools into its community, Charlton Primary School and Wantage CE Primary, and has since grown to become one of the largest trusts in South Oxfordshire.

Mr Spiers served as headteacher at King Alfred's from 2010 until 2014, stepping up to become the trust's executive headteacher that year and then its chief executive in September 2015.

In 2011 the school was rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted, under Mr Spiers's leadership, though it is currently rated 'requires improvement'.

The report at the time praised the serving headteacher for his 'outstanding and visionary leadership'.

During his time at the school's helm Mr Spiers also presided over significant changes including the move from a three-site to a two-site campus.

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Mr Evans, who is also the chief executive of Oaks Multi Academy Trust in Surrey, said he hoped to build on the incumbent's success.

He said: "I am very much looking forward to working with the staff, students, parents and the local governing body of each school within the trust to celebrate what is going well and help each school continue to grow and develop.

"The Vale Academy Trust has many strengths, brought about by Simon and his team, and I hope to be able to build upon these in the years to come."