THE head of one of Britain's oldest and most famous public schools has resigned, citing family reasons.
Nick Tate, former head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, is leaving Winchester College after two-and-a-half years.
In a statement, Dr Tate, 59, said: "While it has been a great privilege to work at Winchester...the move from London has not been an easy one for my family.
"Much as I care for the college, I feel I must put my family first, a decision I hope parents will understand."
News of his resignation was greeted with shock by some with close links to Winchester, but teachers are believed to have been speculating that Dr Tate might leave the school since last term.
In 2001, Dr Tate suspended 40 boys for smoking cannabis and drinking.
An old boy with close links to the school said Dr Tate's wife Nadya, an Open University philosophy lecturer, was apparently not entirely happy living at the school, where Dr Tate worked seven days a week during term-time.
He said Dr Tate had not been expected to stay at Winchester long, because of his background. He was its first head not to have gone to private school and had tried to update some of its more arcane traditions.
His predecessor, James Sabben-Clare, spent most of his life at the Hampshire college where he had been a pupil. Changes Dr Tate introduced to modernise the 621-year-old school were broadly welcomed by the staff and housemasters, who wield much behind-the-scenes power, had warmed to him.
But the source added: "The trouble is when you take a job like this, your whole family cannot escape the responsibility. Essentially, the whole family is on show, and that can be difficult." Dr Tate is thought to have negotiated a substantial pension: he was appointed on a pensionable salary of pound;98,000.
He introduced open days for prospective pupils, set up an alumni appeal, and attempted to increase the number of bursaries to boys applying from the state sector.
Famous old boys at the school, which charges pound;19,644 a year and whose motto is Manners Makyth Man, include Viscount Whitelaw and Lord Geoffrey Howe.
Norman Hale, a former headmaster of Milbourne Lodge school, in Esher, Surrey, one of Winchester's feeder primaries, said Dr Tate's resignation had come "completely out of the blue".
Tommy Cookson, a former Winchester pupil and housemaster and former head of Sevenoaks school, is to take over from Dr Tate at the end of next month.
The school was on half-term this week and Dr Tate could not be reached for comment.