The chairman of the governors said governors, staff, parents and pupils wept openly when they learned of the departure of Jim Abraham, who has been in charge of the award-winning school for 23 years. He decided to take early retirement at the age of 56 after he read a draft report of the inspection that described his leadership as "not satisfactory".
Parents of children at Arthur Dye, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, this week have been queuing up to beg him to reconsider his decision to quit.
Kate Bingham, who sent her three children to the school, said: "He's an old-fashioned teacher who teaches his pupils to care about each other. He has done a wonderful job. You cannot afford to lose people like him."
Kevin Samuelson, a father of four, said: "I have nothing but praise for the man. He is such a good headteacher. It is such a waste of a man with so much experience."
Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education visited the school last month. Their final report is expected in September.
In an emotional letter to parents, Mr Abraham said: "The inspectors spoke in glowing terms about a lot of the things that are happening here. But they decided they didn't like my leadership.
"It seems they either want a strong head, who is leading teachers as if they have rings through their noses, or one who is whipping them from behind. Well I cannot work like that. I regard myself as part of a band of professionals who work together and I can't sign up to anything else."
Mr Abraham told The TES that the inspectors' comments were the final straw after he had battled against changing education strategies.
"When I started in teaching in the late Sixties, teaching was a wonderful, exciting job," he said. "But not any more. Teachers are no longer able to exercise the freedom of their own professional judgment.
"The curriculum has become ridiculously overloaded. We shouldn't be filling little children with facts and making them feel their every move is being judged by an exam. Results have come to mean so much to the status of a school that the majority have sacrificed a balanced curriculum."
Bill Riley, chairman of governors, described Mr Abraham's decision as "tragic" and criticised the inspectors who visited the school. He said: "He is determined to go. He has been pushed too far by nincompoops."
In the school's last OFSTED report in 1997, Mr Abraham was praised for his "strong pastoral leadership". And in both 2001 and 2002, Arthur Dye won School Achievement Awards for standards gained by pupils and staff.
Mr Abraham decided to quit after reading the draft report, which he was sent to check for factual accuracy.
An OFSTED spokeswoman said: "We cannot comment on this case until the school receives the final inspection report."