At the North school in Ashford, Kent, 60 per cent of pupils passed five or more GCSEs at grade A-C last year; when head, Simon Murphy, arrived in 2001 the figure was just 9 per cent.
But on an open day before his interview Mr Murphy was struck by the spirit of pupils and felt that with a curriculum they could identify with and more confidence, they could get the grades. The timetable now includes psychology, electrical engineering, forensic science, and car maintenance.
Mr Murphy said that the key to success had been improving the standard of behaviour and a complete review of the key stage 4 curriculum to make it relevant to industry.
He inherited a budget deficit of pound;250,00 and says money from Excellence in Cities was a huge help in allowing him to appoint extra staff and mentors.
Teaching skills are monitored every two years internally and by the LEA, but the results are not used in individual staff reviews.
The school is now bidding for specialist sport status and is being rebuilt as part of the Private Finance Initiative.