HOWARD Tomlinson, the retiring head of Hereford Cathedral School, has described education when he started in the job 18 years ago as like a different world.

"Indeed, perhaps there has never been a period of greater educational change than that of the past two decades," he told his final speech day as head.

"In the mid-1980s neither the national curriculum nor the Children Act existed, old style O and A levels were still being taught, the school leaving age had been raised to 16 within recent memory, school mission statements were in their infancy and performance tables had yet to be devised."

He said the school had seen many changes and now had more students than ever achieving better academic results than at any time. But exam results were not the only criteria by which to judge a school and he was proud of achievements in activities such as sport, music and the arts.

The retiring head warned that new was not always best and that change should always lead to improved teaching and learning.

"What I hope will never change about this place are a loosening of the strong bonds that now exist between school and cathedral."