Ex-St Bees School pupil Vanessa O'Dea is set to take up a new role in the county.

Mrs O'Dea has been appointed the new Director of Education for the Diocese of Carlisle – the Church of England in Cumbria.

She will take up her new role in January after more than 14 years teaching religious education, latterly at St Teresa’s School in Surrey, where she was also Head of Boarding.

It means a return to the county where she grew up, completing her GCSEs and A Levels at St Bees before gaining an MA at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in Religious Studies and History of Art.

Vanessa said: “I come from Kendal, and my parents still live there. I’m delighted to be moving home and that our children will have the chance to grow up in these beautiful surroundings.

“Although I am sad to be leaving my school and will miss the day-to-day interactions with the young people and staff, I am so excited to take on the challenge of helping the church realise its vision for education here in Cumbria.”

Confirmation of her appointment comes a month after the current Director of Education, Michael Mill, announced he was to retire at the end of the year after more than 40 years’ working in education.

Vanessa is married to Gerard, a training consultant, with whom she has three young children aged nine, five and three. The family plans to move up to Cumbria in December.

The diocese is responsible for 104 CofE schools across the county, along with 13 academies and two affiliated schools

A number of church school headteachers were closely involved in the recruitment process and have welcomed the appointment.

Sheila Hughes, head of St Herbert’s Keswick, said: “I was delighted to see how passionate Vanessa was about the role of DDE and to hear about the things that she would like to develop.

“I am certain that Vanessa’s naturally encouraging style will inspire and support many headteachers in our church schools. I am excited to be able to work with her both as member of the board and as a headteacher in the diocese and I look forward to helping her find her way in her new role if I can."