A FORMER pupil turned singing star led a musical farewell to Oxfordshire’s longest-serving headteacher, who is retiring after 22 years as head of St Birinus School, Didcot.

Chris Bryan, 60, has been at the boys’ school for 31 years.

At a retirement party for colleagues and governors at Milton Hill, a musical tribute to Mr Bryan was led by former St Birinus pupil Antony Hansen, of Steventon, who rose to fame after becoming a finalist in the BBC TV show Any Dream Will Do.

He was joined by fellow ex-pupils in extracts from Les Miserables, which they performed at school in 2007.

Mr Bryan said: “It was the best school musical we have ever done at the school, and the star of the show was Antony Hansen.

“When they found out I was retiring, they worked for six months to get everyone back together because I love musicals, and they knew I would be really, really delighted by that.”

Mr Bryan, who lives in Oxford, first came to the school in 1979 as assistant head, becoming deputy head in 1986 and headteacher two years later.

Since his arrival, the school has grown from 650 to 1,250 pupils, and Mr Bryan has overseen the creation of a combined sixth form with Didcot Girls’ School, plus the construction of a new library, music and maths block, humanities centre, reception area, sports pavilion and a £4.7m science centre.

He said: “I have to say that teaching is the best job in the whole world. You have the opportunity to have a huge impact on enabling young people to become more self-confident, and more competent in terms of their skills, abilities, and life-changing opportunities.

“I have always felt that our core business is to transform lives of young people and inspire them to become responsible members of society.

“I like to think that I never forget a face, but I cannot pretend I always remember names.”

He said he had not yet decided how to spend his retirement, but he wanted to continue having an involvement in education.

He said: “What I really want to do is have some space to focus on things I have not really had time for.”

Wife Diana, who is assistant headteacher at St Nicolas Primary School, Abingdon, is also retiring this year.

Mr Bryan was presented with a garden bench by the St Birinus School governors, while members of staff gave him a painting by former St Birinus pupil Ian Lewington, now an artist specialising in illustrations of birds.

Alwyn Richards, vice-principal at Thurston Community College, Suffolk, will take over as head in September.