THE head of a high-achieving north Hampshire independent school is moving on from her role after seven years to expand a pre-school education project worldwide.

Professor Pat Preedy will become Chief Education Officer of Little GEMS International from September, after handing over the role of head of Sherfield School.

The Little GEMS concept was set up at the school, in Sherfield-on-Loddon, for children aged five, and has now developed interest from countries all over the world, with the next Little GEMS school opening next month in Chicago.

Prof Preedy said: “It’s very exciting. We are developing it internationally because there’s a massive interest in it. It’s about quality education, quality care and quality staff.

“It all started at Sherfield. We know that if you want to raise standards, you need to do it with the younger children. What we do with them impacts their whole life.”

Prof Preedy will also become an advisor on GEMS early years education worldwide, playing a crucial role in developing it across the world.

She said: “My ambition is in the future for everyone to know about the Little GEMS method. I have an opportunity to do that which is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Prof Preedy said she will be sad to leave her role as head of Sherfield School, but will still be involved with the school, adding: “I’m very proud of what we have achieved. We started from nothing and we have got nearly 500 children from three months to 18 years, and it’s been great. GEMS Education is a big company and I’m still part of that.”

Taking over the role as head will be Richard Jaine, who is currently surmaster (deputy head) of St Paul’s School in London.

He will start in September, and will also have a senior role on GEMS UK Education Committee and in co-ordinating a working group to develop a strategy for boarding schools for GEMS.

Mr Jaine started his teaching career at Marlborough College before joining St Paul’s School in 1980, where he has held a variety of management roles, taking on the surmaster position eight years ago.