Mike Fairclough is the Headteacher/Principal of West Rise Junior School, Eastbourne, UK. He has been widely discussed in the UK press, such as the Guardian, Times, BBC News, Telegraph and Mail, for his unusual approach to education. His school is famous for breeding water buffalo and for teaching its pupils to shoot, fish and to light fires. They are also building a Bronze Age replica village on the school grounds with the children.


Mike has written a new book, “Playing With Fire” which is about embracing Risk and Danger in schools.

The book explains that the UK National Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Ofsted (UK Inspectorate) want school children to do risky and dangerous activities, from playing with conkers and throwing snowballs, to firing rifles and lighting fires. Most teachers and parents are currently unaware of this fact.

West Rise Junior school is an award winning school in the top 5% of schools for the 2016 SATs (National Tests) and with the top grade from Ofsted for Behaviour and Safety.

In his book, Fairclough shows the reader how to cultivate Grit and Resilience in children and move them out of their comfort zones, whilst also giving them more trust and freedom. Children can then be trusted to use guns and knives and to light fires responsibly. Fairclough also tells teachers to go to the gym and to step out of their own comfort zones and to stop complaining about “The System” if they truly want to help their pupils.

West Rise is on a council estate in Eastbourne, UK, within an area of high social deprivation. It is on the edge of marshland, which the school runs as a farm, with animals such as water buffalo and bees on it, all of which the school own and care for. The story behind this unusual school is revealed in the book.

The book describes the power of learning outside and its impact on child development. It also explains why Fairclough believes that children are being misdiagnosed and labelled with Autism, ADHD and anxiety and why this limits their ability to cope with life’s challenges.

“Playing With Fire” offers an ideological framework within which to embrace Risk and Danger within schools and with the full permission of the authorities. An opportunity for teachers and parents to change the way in which we educate our children.

New York Times Bestselling Author, Barbara Oakley, says "This is a very important, very necessary and very beautiful book for all parents, educators around the world to treasure".

Professor Bill Lucas (Author and International Speaker) says "This is an Educational manifesto for our times".

Keith Budge (Headmaster of the legendary Bedales School) says that Fairclough is, "An inspiration to us all".

Known as the "Hunky Headmaster" thanks to the Telegraph and Mail, Mike Fairclough is an advocate of conservative educational values, such as good discipline, high standards and respect and yet has many "hippy" vibes about him too!