One of a school’s former head boys has been named as the first principal of the academy which will replace it.

Dr Joe Vitagliano has been appointed to lead the Midhurst Academy when it opens in January 2009.

His identity was revealed by the academy’s sponsors, Christian schools group United Learning Trust, along with announcements about the rest of the management team.

They also unveiled the chosen name for the new school, which will be called Midhurst Rother College.

Dr Vitagliano grew up in the area and was head boy at Midhurst Grammar School, which the academy will replace, in 1977/8.

He said: “This is the dream job for me. I am coming back to the area I grew up in and love. There have been more than 300 years of education in Midhurst and this is the beginning of a new era.”

Dr Vitagliano is currently headteacher of Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School in London and was previously head of English and deputy head of Robertsbridge Community College.

He attended both Midhurst Grammar and Herbert Shiner Intermediate School in Petworth, which will also be replaced by the academy, before studying at the Universities of York, London and Cambridge.

A third school, Midhurst Intermediate, will also be closed to make way for the academy.

Dr Vitagliano said: “To have the opportunity to take three precious local schools that I know well and transform them into a successful, thriving academy is incredibly exciting.”

The new name was selected from a shortlist of eight drawn up in a public consultation. ULT said it was intended to reflect the entire rural area the academy will serve as well as its links to Winchester College which is partnering the scheme along with the University of Chichester.

ULT chief executive Sir Ewan Harper said: "We were delighted to attract an outstanding field of candidates for the post of principal. Dr Vitagliano therefore won this position against high quality competition. He brings with him a combination of educational leadership, innovation and academic achievement which will ensure that Midhurst Rother College has the best possible start.”

Midhurst Grammar’s acting head Jonathan Barrott and Midhurst Intermediate’s head Chris Denne have been named as vice principals.

The academy project must still complete several planning and financial stages before it goes ahead.