A POPULAR head teacher who has turned round a Bournemouth secondary school is giving up a six figure salary to pursue her love of portrait painting.

Jackie Steel, principal of the Bourne Academy, will leave in December, five years after she first took up the £105,000 a year post.

Her time at the helm has seen a complete transformation of the academy, which has benefited from a £10m rebuild, as well as a big improvement in results and standards.

She is now hoping to develop a career as a portrait painter. This is something she has always loved doing and she has previously exhibited her work in London but put it on hold to concentrate on her job at the Bourne Academy.

Jackie said: “I’ve made a decision to write myself out of the job because I feel my particular work is done and that schools need different sorts of heads for different phases.

“This school will be entering its next phase of going forward. “I’ve always felt that I wanted to really try and do something that was important for children’s future careers and then once I had done that try and do my own thing.

“The next phase will be an exciting phase, both for the school and hopefully for me too.”

She said she had developed the strengths of the old Kings High school, including its caring ethos and support for families in the community, and concentrated on providing strong leadership and developing a sense of aspiration amongst students.

She says the 20 minutes she spends shaking every individual pupil by the hand as they enter school is the most important part of her day and adds: “I would say my main job is to smile.

Everybody smiles at each other, they say good morning and that’s the underlying basis, a mutual respect that goes in tandem with the discipline atmosphere.”

Richard Knott, chair of governors, said the academy had thrived under Jackie’s leadership. “We needed a certain sort of person who was going to inspire and be firm and charismatic and we got that,” he said.

“Of course we would have liked her to stay but it’s not critical now the way it was four years ago. There’s a confidence here now, we’ve got momentum.”

“This has become a school that the community is proud of, that we’re proud of and where the staff are happy.”