A YEAR in which St Richard's Catholic College achieved "outstanding" ratings in its Ofsted report has been crowned by a New Year Honour for its principal.
Tony Campbell receives an OBE for his services to education.
This week, Mr Campbell thanked the communities in the three town's the college serves - Bexhill, Hastings and Eastbourne - for their support for the college.
Mr Campbell said: ""I am absolutely delighted - very, very proud.
"I think it is a great honour personally but, more importantly, it is also for everyone who has ever been associated with me over the years from day one.
"This includes my family, because there has been a lot of sacrifice in terms of time.
"It includes all the people associated with St Richard's, the people who have supported me, my school governors, the staff, the PTSA, the community and especially my chairman of governor, Peter Champion."
Asked what was the key to building a successful school, he said: "It's the people around you who are involved, the parents who want the best for their kids, it about being in a community where you are establish expectations about behaviour, expectations about achievement.
"The chief ingredient is to have very good professionals who are dedicated. I am very pleased with the people I have about me, particularly my vice-principal Doreen Cronin.
"It's the fact that they want the best for the kids and the staff make tremendous sacrifices for them.
"It's a matter of everyone pulling together, working on the same lines."
He added: "..it's also been about hard work."
For Tony Campbell personally and for St Richard's in general, 2006 was a momentous year. The letter from the Prime Minister's office informing him that he was being considered for inclusion in the New Year Honour came a day after St Richard's was top-ranked as "Excellent" overall and "excellent" in every single category of its Ofsted report.
"I am so flabbergasted. I am a very simple person. I keep things very simple. Schooling is about getting good resources into the classroom; having the right teachers standing in front of the kids; having high expectations of children in terms of behaviour and work.
"The results, in academic terms and in personal terms - personal development - are what flow from this."
Now in his 19th year in charge of St Richard's, Mr Campbell has overseen massive changes both in the expansion of the school's facilities and it the results it achieves. In the coming year the school roll will top 1,000.
He says he is grateful for the support shown not only by the diocese and at county level but from the local community. His initial aim had been to become a priest.
"I was in a seminary. That I suppose was one of the things I wanted to do. I wanted to be of service to others."
The turning point came when he left the seminary in 1970 to go to Queen's University in Belfast.
"I started a new degree down at Queen's. I decided I wanted to teach at that time. I thought that was the best way to be of service."
Looking back, he said: "I never envisioned that I would be a head teacher - never in my wildest dreams. It was always at the behest of other people that I should move myself forwards. I always enjoyed being in the classroom - I still do whenever I can get in there.
"Opportunities arose; I am not an ambitious person. People tell me I am driven but that is driven to do the job right.
"While the honour is a very personal thing, I believe it is also about the community I serve - all the community because the community is very central to all aspects of my life."
News of Tony Campbell's honour was announced at Catholic masses in the town on Sunday.