The crucial element of any successful school is a top class headteacher. An effective, visionary head can bring success out of failure - such is the contention of Francis Beckett's fascinating new book. In it, he looks at the methods of nine leading head teachers of primary and secondary schools with a non-selective intake. The profiles he features are nine heads with very different views of how to run a school, united only by the fact that he or she is succeeding against the odds and turning around failing schools in areas of social deprivation - often despite government interference. They include that of Paul Kelley of Monkseaton Community High School on Tyneside, from where Laura Spence graduated to Harvard after being turned down by Magdalen College, Oxford. Beckett argues that education is a route out of poverty. A child in a household living below the poverty line is less likely than other children to gain the qualifications which allow him or her to succeed in life. Often, these schools represent the only chance in life these children will receive.
Each profile includes statistical information about the school - results, social and ethnic backgrounds - designed to show where the school stands and the extent to which it has improved under the head being profit led. "How to Create a Successful School" is a brilliant addition to the eternal debate on public education, but more importantly, a signpost to what can be achieved in the most difficult of situations.
Francis Beckett is an author, journalist, broadcaster and comtemporary historian. his books include Gordon Brown, The Great City Academy Fraud and Clem Attlee.