THE PRINCIPAL of Christ the King College is to be honoured by The Pope who has also agreed to pray for the college.
Pat Goodhead is to be made a Dame of the Papal Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great in recognition of her service to the Catholic Church through her work in education.
The award will be presented at the college later in the term by the Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, Bishop Philip Egan, and is one of the highest awards given by the Catholic Church.
Such awards are made only on the personal authority of Pope Francis and are seldom made to those who are not themselves Catholics, such as Mrs Goodhead.
Mrs Goodhead said: "The news came as a complete surprise, rendering me unusually speechless, but deeply grateful to those who deem me worthy of this honour.
"However, this is much more than a personal achievement; it is really a tribute to all those who have worked, and continue to work with me, to secure Catholic and Christian secondary education on the Isle of Wight."
Newport West councillor, Chris Whitehouse, who is a parent of children at the college, said: "By force of personality and sheer determination, Mrs Goodhead has driven forward Christ the King to be the top performing state school on the Island, spiritually, pastorally and educationally, often in the teeth of determined opposition.
"I had the privilege of being invited to attend on Sunday a private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis in the Vatican.
"I was astounded to be presented to him and have a few quiet words.
"I thanked him for the award of this honour to our principal and asked him to pray for the college’s continued flourishing. Pope Francis agreed and asked in return the college pray for him, which I am confident they will do with gusto."