How we did it: confidence and an open mind

"I'm not sure it's about personality, so much as experience," says Alan Roach, headteacher at Chalvedon school and sixth-form college in Essex. "There comes a point in your career when you have everything under control. You have the confidence to take huge leaps rather than just shuffling forward."

In 14 years as head, Mr Roach has turned Chalvedon into a pioneering school - the UK's first technology college, the first school to lead a successful single regeneration budget bid, the first schools-led education action zone. "The things I've got for my school have been available to everyone. The initiatives have been there and I've taken advantage."

The only personal attribute he will admit to is "working more hours than most". But he admits he sees something of himself in the HTI's picture of an entrepreneurial head.

"We became the first grant-maintained school in Essex. Successful entrepreneurs choose their business partners, and I felt that the LEA was not the best business partner."

As for making enemies, he admits he may have "a reputation". "But it's usually people who don't know me. They seem to think I have an agenda. But my only agenda is getting the best for children, who only have one chance.

"I suppose I'm a grey-haired revolutionary. This is a deprived area. The politicians have already failed, so the community has to drive itself. The school can help do that."

When Preet Sahota became head at West Heath junior school in Birmingham in 1998, he found "the past was dictating the future" there. Since then, West Heath has won more awards than any other school in the UK.

Mr Sahota spent his first term listening. Not everything he heard was promising. "Some teachers said we couldn't make a difference. I said anyone who believed that should leave."

When the questionnaires and comment boxes had been put away, he launched Project 21 - his vision for taking the school into the 21st century. This included power-sharing and a commitment to staff development. Members of the management team at West Heath swap roles from time to time, and there is a programme of secondment. "Doing someone else's job is fascinating," says Mr Sahota. "I wanted staff to go into the world and come back with ideas. Nobody was keen. So I brought people into school."

One of them was Maria Aldridge, who had wide experience of working in business. She became the school's "effectiveness co-ordinator". Her job was simply to find new ways of doing things. "Sadly, she died last year," says Mr Sahota. "But she had more influence on the school than anyone."

While recognising elements of his own leadership style in the HTI blueprint, Mr Sahota doesn't see himself as a rebel. "I don't worry about league tables. I'll happily take pupils who have been failing elsewhere. But we work within the rules - then find some flexibility."

As for taking risks - he admits only to carefully calculated ones. "We're dealing with children's lives," he points out. "You can't be quite as bold as you might be in business."

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