Risinghill: Death of a Comprehensive

This book created a furore on publication by Penguin in 1968. It arose out of, and became part of, a passionate fight for the life of a school which was eventually closed by the government regardless of local and national concern.

Risinghill was a school which really lived up to the original ideal or vision of comprehensive education in England, and was a glowing example of an inclusive and tolerant society. Its success was very much a product of the personality of the headmaster, Michael Duane, but as a State employee his values were not entirely welcome.

Although there was incredible resistance from the kids themselves as well as their parents, the battle was lost to the internal politics of the teachers, the employing local council, the right-wing press, and the government.

Leila's book went deeply into the ethos and daily life of the school, its birth in its desperately deprived surroundings in North London and growth in stature and recognition to a point where its success clearly became a threat to the status quo. Then she chronicles the entire debilitating attack and the resistance to it, blow by blow, to the very end.

It is a fight which classically illustrates the issues which have galvanised Leila's writing throughout her career. She was commissioned by Salisbury Playhouse to turn the book into a play (Raising Hell) and a small touring company took it round to institutions of all kinds in their educational region, including an open borstal, where it moved the boys to tears, and a night at the Young Vic.

Click here to see the Risinghill Revistited website
dedicated in 2005 to a sequel to Leila's Risinghill book
ex-Risinghillers can make contact with old friends and contribute to the book

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