Having been at the school for close to 15 years, new headteacher Sean Maher is a familiar face at Richard Challoner.

Since joining the Old Malden school as a fresh-faced PGCE student in 2001, Mr Maher has been a popular teacher with pupils and fellow teachers.

The Surrey Comet was invited in to meet him this week. As he walked around the school, almost every student said a cheery hello and he greeted most pupils by name – telling the odd one to neaten up.

The father-of-three said: “I remember when I first came into teaching, someone said to me, ‘do not smile at them [the students] for about six weeks – set your standards’.

“And that is the worst advice I have been given. If they are happy coming in, then that is the best thing.”

Mr Maher, who enjoys rugby and performing arts, took over in September from longstanding head Tom Cahill, who had spent 20 successful years at the school in Manor Drive North.

Returning to his office to put his jacket on, he said: “I am a big believer that if you look smart then you will act smart and, of course, you have to lead by example.”

In September 2013, Mr Maher was seconded to a temporary headship position at St John’s Catholic School in Gravesend after the school received a “requires improvement” Ofsted rating.

Within a year, the school had received a “good” Ofsted rating for the first time in its history.

He has returned to Richard Challoner and hopes to continue the school’s successes – including the “Maher-ism” of being at the school gates to wish students farewell at the end of every day.

He said: “Sometimes if I have got meetings, I will stop the meeting and come out because I want to be here for this bit.”