Tony Blair wants an "outstanding headteacher" to bring on a new generation of dynamic, charismatic school leaders who will modernise the nation's education system.
The prime minister, in an exclusive interview with The TES, said he wanted someone with the "practical experience" of running a school to take on his pet project, the National College for School Leadership.
Despite a week which has left the Government bruised over its handling of the NHS, Mr Blair re-stated his commitment to raising standards in education, calling it "the most important national service for us in the first few years of the 21st century".
But success rested on creating a "cadre" of young dynamic headteachers - a new generation who would have to be coaxed out of the classroom through greater incentives and support. "There are a lot more leaders in the system that we have not bought out," he said.
The early retirement programme launched last year, which has seen almost 300 heads in their late 50s quit, is to be extended. It will free up more space at the top by offering a route out for those heads who, according to Mr Blair, "cannot rise to the challenges".
By demanding a headteacher as director of the National College, he appears to have overridden the Department of Education and Employment, which failed to find a candidate first time round and in its second trawl is leaning towards the business sector.
Ministers today held out an olive branch to heads by relaxing the rules on exclusions which had provoked huge opposition. Education secretary David Blunkett made clear that pupils could be expelled for first offences where violence was involved.