When Paul Kyte arrived at Glenboi primary, he was accompanied by a police escort.
As the new headteacher and his escort walked into the playground, they could see pupils drinking lager among the bushes. Other pupils sat on the rooftop hiding from lessons.
Mr Kyte had come to Glenboi as a one-day replacement for the previous head, who had been suspended. Five years later, he is still there.
The 58-year-old, who had previously held three other headships, took on the challenge of raising standards and bringing calm to a primary which serves the Fernhill estate, in Rhondda Cynon Taff, one of the country's most disadvantaged communities.
Almost 90 per cent of pupils receive free school meals, and many are from single-parent families. But soon after his arrival, in 1999, Mr Kyte was praised by inspectors for improvements to the school.
The percentage of pupils achieving the expected level 4 at key stage 2 rose from 0 per cent in 1999 to 71 per cent in 2003. And attendance improved from 58 per cent to 91 per cent in the same period.
The dramatic turnaround in the school's performance was highlighted during the national congress of the National Primary Centre, Cymru, in Llandudno this week.
Mr Kyte outlined several successful Glenboi initiatives at a conference workshop.
These include forming a school-improvement committee which involves pupils in decision-making. He also takes Year 6 pupils on an annual, three-day hostelling trip. And, each year a bicycle worth pound;250 is presented to the pupil of the year.
"I'm a great believer that, whatever their background, all children can enjoy learning," he said. "They just need the opportunity to explore for themselves."
The conference was also attended by Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly minister for education and lifelong learning. Addressing delegates, Ms Davidson said that schools and official bodies must work together to ensure the proposed new system of testing and assessment in Wales is a success.
In July, the Assembly announced that from 2005, 11-year-olds will no longer have to sit key stage 2 tests. Instead, new "learning skills" tests will be developed for 10-year-olds.
At the NPC conference, Ms Davidson said: "The new arrangements put teachers and pupils firmly at the heart, focus on skills and support the move from primary to secondary school."