The headmaster of Bletchingley's The Hawthorns School has announced he is to retire next year after 23 years in the post.

Tim Johns announced he will be stepping down from August 2015, having seen the school grow from 300 to 550 pupils.

Under his leadership, supported by his wife Evelyne and the senior management team, co-education was introduced into the Prep School and there has been a significant improvement in scholarship results.

The school's national profile has also been enhanced in sport, music, dance, and through Mr Johns' previous chairmanship of 600 schools in the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS).

Also under Mr John's headship, a rolling programme of building development has provided Science, ICT, Art and Modern Languages centres, a nursery and a sports centre, which is used by the local community. In September 2012, a new eco-friendly pre-prep building, Hawthorn House, was opened.

Future development plans have also been recently unveiled to improve facilities at the school's Pendell Court site, including additional sports centre facilities, a permanent classroom block and plans for a Performing Arts Centre, to be funded over the next ten years.

Mr Johns said: “It has been a privilege to live and breathe The Hawthorns across three decades - as teacher too - watching the creativity, energy and professionalism that have gone into its transformation.”

He said: “I have no doubt that the experience and clear joint vision of the leadership team which underpins The Hawthorns will ensure that it flourishes, going forward.

“Our own two children have fabulous memories of their early education here.”

Chairman of the school governors, Mrs Zoe Creighton, called Mr Johns an “exceptional headmaster.”

A selection process for a new head will now start, allowing for a detailed hand-over period.