Why are we writing a new book about Risinghill?






Much has been written about Risinghill and its Head teacher, the late Michael Duane. It is a fascinating story, the truth of which appears not to have been fully told. While Leila Berg’s book came very close to uncovering the facts, the material available to her was clearly limited – and in more ways than one. The book was as factual and accurate as was then possible, but did not reveal many of the motives operating when certain political and administrative decisions were made. For example her book was documented and completely written in the twelve months of 1965, but it took two years to get legal clearance from libel lawyers before it could be published, such was the nature of the “sensitivity” of the material involved. Even today, many of the official documents of the time are closed to the general public and one file in particular - the London County Council file on Risinghill – has never been recovered. It was lost in 1965 and has not been seen since!

Some of the reasons given for the closure of Risinghill make as little sense today as they did in 1965, and a number of important questions remain unanswered. ‘Risinghill Revisited’ will attempt to find these answers and will include, for the first time, the perspectives of a number of pupils who attended the school, and also the views of some who were involved in the drama at the time. A great deal has been written and “assumed” about the pupils who, up until now, have not been given the opportunity to respond. Like many children today, we had no voice insofar as our education was concerned and neither did our parents.

‘Risinghill Revisited’ will be dedicated to Michael Duane (MD) who, when the school was opened in 1960, appeared to be light years ahead of his time insofar as his approach to education was concerned. Unlike John Newsom, however, who was knighted in 1963 for his “visionary” report on education (entitled ‘Half our Future’), MD’s reward for embracing the Newsom principles was the loss of his job, his school and his career. Our book aims to remedy that humiliation by vindicating his beliefs in us and thereby the wider issue(s) of inclusive education. In MD’s view, every child did matter; it was not a cliché and was not something that he paid “lip service” to in order to maintain the status quo. At the time of the school’s closure, those who supported the campaign to save it strongly believed that MD was a man of compassion and immense integrity, whose teaching methods were making a difference. Indeed those sentiments still hold good today and many feel that he deserves to be recognised for the enormous contribution that he has made to the education debate, and to the Risinghill pupils in particular.

It was not just Michael Duane who made such a difference to our lives. There were a number of equally dedicated teachers at Risinghill who, despite all the problems, believed we had a future “beyond the dustbins” and they deserve recognition too. Although Risinghill could not be classed as a truly comprehensive school, we are living proof that such a system can be made to work - if there is a desire to support it at all levels.

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