Michael Duane (1915 – 1997)

William Michael Duane was born in Ireland in 1915. He was a teacher, a headmaster and a lecturer and was best known for his 'progressive' educational views. He encouraged informal relationships between staff and pupils and opposed corporal punishment.

He lived in Dublin until the age of 10 when he moved to England. His first English school was the Dominican School at Archway, North London. He then received his grammar school education at the Jesuits School, Stamford Hill.

In January 1935 he started studying at Queen Mary College, London, from where he graduated in 1938 with a degree in English Language and Literature.

From 1938 to 1939 he trained as a teacher at the Institute of Education, University of London, and then took up a teaching post at Dame Alice Owens School, Islington until 1940 when he started war service.

In 1941 he was promoted to Second Lieutenant. Then in 1942 he became a Captain and was second in command of a squadron of tanks. Later that year he took up a post as Staff Captain of a Brigade. He became a Major in 1945. In March and April of 1946 he received several medals for bravery including two from Belgium. The ‘Chevalier De L’Ordre De Leopold II Avec Palme’ which translates to ‘Knight Of The Order Of Leopold II With Palm’ and the ‘Croix De Guerre Avec Palme’ which is the ‘War Cross With Palm’. He was demobilised in 1946.

He returned to Owens in June 1946 and stayed there until December that year. In January 1947 he became a tutor at the Institute of Education for a year. In September 1948 he took his first headship at Beaumont Boys' School, St Albans. At that time he was one of the youngest heads in the UK and he impressed the Divisional Education Officer with the way in which he turned the school round in one term.  (Please use Link below to read testimonial).   Then, in January 1949, he became head at Howe Dell Secondary School, Hatfield, when it first opened and stayed there until February 1952.

From March 1952 to February 1959 Michael was Head Master of Alderman Woodrow Secondary Boys' School, Lowestoft. It was in March1959 that he took the headship of Risinghill School in Islington, a post which was to make him a famous figure.

Risinghill opened in 1960 after the amalgamation of four pre-existing schools and under his headship became the subject of much public and media attention and controversy focused on his non-authoritarian approach. There were difficulties with the London County Council and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools, Risinghill was closed in 1965 and he became a peripatetic lecturer at various London colleges of education.

He wrote and lectured widely on the topic of education. In 1995, for example, he published The Terrace: An Educational Experiment in a State School (Freedom Press, London, 1995) about a joint scheme established by Royston Lambert, Head of Dartington School and Sir Alec Clegg, Director of Education for the West Riding of Yorkshire at Northcliffe Comprehensive School, Conisbrough, Yorkshire to provide non-school education for fifteen-year olds after the raising of the school leaving age in 1972-1973.

Michael Duane died in January 1997.

Click icon above to view a list of congratulatory letters sent to Michael Duane.