ALAN Atherton will be leaving the teaching job he has had for 16 years - to start a new innings supporting his famous cricketing son.

Today the head of Harper Green School, Farnworth, was bound for the sun-drenched shores of the West Indies to indulge in another of his passions.

He is calling it a day and following his son, England cricket captain Mike to Guyana to start retirement in fine style.

Alan was appointed head of the former Farnworth Secondary Modern in 1982 and is the first to concede the school's reputation was then a far cry from its exalted place today.

Before joining Bolton LEA, Alan's teaching roots were firmly entrenched in Manchester, the city where he was born and brought up and which he remains tremendously close to.

Before Harper Green he was deputy head of North Manchester High School for Boys, a history, PE and games teacher at Wright Robinson School for 11 years, and a teacher at Newall Green, Wythenshawe.

From a strong working class background, Alan was the first member of his family to go into the teaching profession.

If teaching had not beckoned the young Manchester University graduate, a career in sport seemed on the cards.

As a former professional of Manchester United, he never quite made the first team but played for the club at the same time as Charlton, Best and Law. And his passion for sport is evident in the facilities which are Harper Green today.

But it is not just facilities such as floodlit training pitches and many sporting successes that have raised the school's profile.

His leadership and a "professional and highly committed" teaching force has helped the school rise in the academic league tables.

More than one third of pupils now achieve five or more GCSEs grades A-C and the school is now the most heavily oversubscribed comprehensive in the 11-16 age range in the borough.

Having achieved all this, Alan has decided to step down and make way for his temporary successor Barry Sharples, a deputy head at Harper Green, until Peter Jefferies from Broad Oak High, Bury, takes over the reins in April.

After Guyana, he will follow the Test in Barbados and he says he is looking forward to many more trips now that he doesn't have to rely on school holidays. NOW PETER'S ALL SET TO TAKE OVER BOLTON man Peter Jefferies is next in to bat as head of Harper Green.

Mr Jefferies, aged 45, has been headteacher of Broad Oak High School, Bury - currently the fastest growing comprehensive school in the borough - for five years. He previously worked at schools in Salford and Trafford.

The move to Farnworth means a shorter journey to work for Mr Jefferies. He lives in Over Hulton with his wife, Kay and has a grown up daughter, Michelle at university.

"It is a bit like coming home," he said.

He takes up his new post on April 20, after the Easter holidays. "I am very excited about the prospect of joining Harper Green," he said. "It is a truly outstanding school and fully deserves its immense popularity among the people of Farnworth."

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