Downside Abbey School has broken with tradition by appointing the first lay head master in the history of the school.
Dr James Whitehead will take up his post at Easter next year when present head, Dom Leo Maidlow Davis, steps down at the end of his ten years in the role.
Currently Dr Whitehead is Senior Deputy Head at Worth School in Sussex.
The leading Catholic independent school can trace its foundations back to the Benedictine community of St.Gregory in France in the 17th century.
Downside School, attached to the monastery at Downside School, has been on its present site for almost 200 years.
The trustees and governors of the school say that Dr Whitehead has been appointed to lead the school into a new era.
Dr Whitehead has a proven commitment to Benedictine education and is involved in a number of educational projects.A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he was at Downside from 2004 to 2007 when he was Head of English and then Director of Studies.He was educated at Stonyhurst College and at Hertford College, Oxford before obtaining further degrees from Stirling and Manchester universities.
During his career, Dr Whitehead has also taught at Radley College near Oxford.
As well as his fellowship of the RSA, he is passionate about literature and sport. In his spare time he also enjoys going for a long walk with his dog.
Dr Whitehead is married to Nicola and the couple have two children, Ignatia and Chiara.
He says that the family are very much looking forward to their move to Somerset.
Abbot of Downside Abbey, Dom Aiden Bellenger, said the appointment of a lay head master was an historic moment.He said: "This is an historic moment, the appointment of our first lay head master, but I know he has a profound understanding of our ethos and tradition.We are very pleased to welcome him back and could not have chosen a better candidate to pioneer the next period in our school's history and a new era for the monastic community here at Downside.We wish Dr Whitehead and his family every success in their future life at Downside."