The headteacher at the centre of the controversial Worthing High School academy conversion has resigned.

Alison Beer, who has come in for fierce criticism from opposition groups , has stepped down just days into the new term citing ill health.

After a long-fought battle spearheaded by Ms Beer, the school is set to convert to an academy on November 1. But campaigners have repeatedly questioned her leadership skills and the validity of the school’s consultation period.

Disagreements came to a head in July when teachers went on strike over the move. Despite the opposition, the school has pressed ahead with the plans which were signed off in principal by the Department for Education last month.

The Academy Action Group said that they did not wish ill health on anyone, but viewed her departure as a “good thing”.

Group member Corianda Sweetman added: “We have questioned her leadership skills in the past and we think that the move needs looking at again.

“She was the driving force behind it and the question must be asked how positive the remaining staff are about the conversion.”

The group, which is not ruling out further strike action, said that it would now turn its attention to governors chairman Tony Cohen.

Local MP Tim Loughton criticised the group for its campaign against Ms Beer.

He said: “I know it will be a great sadness for her personally and many others involved with Worthing High that she is not able to complete the progress of the school through to academy status under her leadership.

“It is to be deplored that in doing so she and others have recently been subject to such a negative campaign by a small clique of anti-academy activists, backed by militant trade unionists and others who are purely politically motivated with little or no direct interests in the school let alone the aspirations of its pupils.”

It is understood that Ms Beer had been off before the holidays before officially taking sick leave in August.

Paying tribute to the departing head, Mr Cohen said: “We have valued her commitment to the school over the last 10 years. The governing body of school remains focused on our conversion to an academy.”

Deputy head Carolyn Dickinson will stand-in until the end of the summer 2013 term.