Tim Brighouse is not a nutter. He won a rumoured Pounds 90,000 in an out-of-court settlement from former education secretary John Patten to prove it. And the present government clearly thinks he has his head well screwed on. It has adopted many of the ideas he introduced to Birmingham, where he is chief education officer, appointed him joint vice-chairman of the Standards Task Force and tipped him for a leading role in plans to cream off bright pupils in inner-city comprehensives for extra tuition.
A believer in getting the best out of teachers through support rather than pressure, he tirelessly visits schools in his authority and sends - barely legible - handwritten notes to teachers, caretakers and dinner ladies to congratulate them on successes.
In Birmingham he introduced tests for five-year-olds, academic targets for schools and proposed that grammar schools should admit pupils after 14 regardless of ability.
Birmingham heads describe him as "inspirational". Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools, calls him "hysterical". Brighouse returns the compliment. He has described the inspection process as "a reign of terror" and says inspection reports "bring to mind ... a poker-playing sixth-former writing for a tabloid".
Born 59 years ago, he attended Lowestoft Grammar School, Suffolk, before studying history at St Catherine's College, Oxford. He taught in grammar and secondary modern schools before becoming assistant education officer at Monmouthshire and Buckinghamshire county councils.
He became under-secretary for education at the Association of County Councils in 1974, then deputy education officer at the old Inner London Education Authority, chief education officer at Oxfordshire and professor of education at Keele University.
His hobbies are gardening and politics. His hero is Cyril Washbrook, former opening bat for Lancashire.