Tracy Lucas is determined to get the best for her daughters - so much so that she's prepared to move house to ensure she makes it into the catchment area for the 'best' local comprehensive. She sees it as her only choice: "A comparable house will cost us another 100,000 on top of what ours is worth but we have to do it to ensure the children's future."
|The inner-city head:
Mo Laycock turned round a failing comp in the heart of Sheffield. She's very aware of the changes in the profession over the years: "When I first came into teaching my parents were proud, because teachers were up there with doctors and lawyers. Now life is more complex. Parents are aware of their rights and not so good at responsibilities, which is when things can be difficult between schools and parents and young people."
|The inner-city teacher:
Winston Ellis teaches advanced skills in an all-boys comprehensive in Forest Hill. He's also a parent, giving him mixed feelings about school league tables. He's got very firm ideas on teaching: "I try to make my lessons not, 'This is a lesson', but 'We're talking, communicating', and when you leave my classroom you're leaving with a lot of knowledge."
|The primary head:
Anne McRae is in charge of a primary school in the Scottish Highlands. There's just seven children on the roll; and Anne has to be all things to all people: "I'm the only person here so apart from being the janitor I'm also head of science, RE teacher, special needs co-ordinator, head of maths, language, history, geography. The one that beats it all was when I got the letter for the teacher in charge of saving the planet."
Claire Borrill is training to be a teacher at a school in the heart of Broadgreen, Liverpool. It's a place which offers challenges that even an experienced teacher might baulk at: "With the nature of the children in this school, you can't expect them to work from a textbook and get on with writing in a book - you have to be this all singing, all dancing entertainer on a stage at the front of the classroom."
|The classroom assistant:
Peter Theodule was, as a child, repeatedly suspended from his primary school and expelled from his secondary school; now, he's back in the classroom offering support to teachers. But he's keen to stress that his role is distinct: "I'm not the teacher, I'm talking to you in a different way, but at same time I'm telling you the same thing the teacher's telling you."
|The attendance support officer:
Frank Copland is the modern answer to the truancy officer. Sweeping Middlesbrough town centre, accompanied by a police officer, Frank is more concerned with ensuring young people get their education than in meting out punishment: "Truancy is a passport to nowhere, it's a passport to unemployment, a passport to crime so we need to crack down on these children and get them back to school."
|The sixth-form student:
Lousie Manley had been thinking of taking a law degree but has decided to follow her heart and study music. We follow her as she auditions at the University of Ulster. But even if she can overcome her nerves and win a place, she's still got the challenge of paying to follow her dreams. She expects to end up twenty thousand pounds in debt: "Student days are supposed to be the best days of your life but they're going to be the most expensive days."
|The bus driver:
Andy Teagle has been ferrying kids to and from school for seventeen years. The school run might have changed, but the children themselves haven't - they're still quiet in the morning ("except the Year 7 boys"), more rowdy as they head for home. But busloads of pupils aren't as difficult as they're sometimes painted: "I don't get many problems, they see to themselves and it's been like that ever since I've done school bus."
|The man from the Ministry:
David Miliband has been the Minister with responsibility for School Standards since May 2002. As the government minister in charge of the league tables, he has a very particular view on their importance: "It's wrong for me to know this information and not the parents, but it's important to look at the rounded view, look at how much progress its pupils are making, listen to the head teacher, talk to pupils and parents."
First broadcast: Wednesday 12 May 2004 on BBC ONE