Former basketball captain and TV host turns talents to running West Auckland high school.

The whispers about Massey High School's new principal began almost as soon as he arrived.

He was huge, they said. He was famous. He wanted to change the school uniform. He'd built a new office in the middle of the school.

As it turns out, it was mostly true - at 2.01m, former Tall Blacks captain and television host Glen Denham is a very tall man, and he's returned from England with a passion for education and long list of changes he would like to make at Massey.

"My career over there was going really well but I realised I'd got away from what I love - which is kids," Mr Denham says. "I just think teaching is the best job in the world. And I couldn't retire without doing something for New Zealand."

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Mr Denham spent the past 15 years in Britain as an "executive principal", where he helped struggling schools to turn their fortunes around with better leadership and by lifting aspirations. At one school he helped to improve GCSE results by 38 per cent.

He has similar hopes for his new school, which begin with changing the uniform to one where all students wear blazers - although first they have to work out how to fund it. Massey is a decile 4 school, so has children from underprivileged backgrounds among its 2000-strong roll.

Mr Denham himself wears a three-piece suit to work every day and insists on calling the students "sir" and "miss" to create an atmosphere of mutual respect, but where the students feel they can approach him.

The desire to get to know the kids is also why he moved his office to an unused classroom in the middle of the school. (He's since had to give it over to a graphics class, but has his eye out for another spare space to shift into soon.)

As well as the uniform change, he wants to work with other schools and the tertiary sector to create a senior college and to get the best teachers into classrooms.

"And I want our kids to stand shoulder to shoulder with any kid in Auckland," he says. "We've got kids here where no one in the family has been to university. I want them to be able to tell their grandchildren they were the first."

A lot of what he plans to do will be based on his experience in the UK - analysing the data and working out where kids need the most help.

He's already set a goal of 95 per cent attendance, and is keen to share what he knows with others, and learn from them, too, he says.

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"I ring up [predecessor] Bruce Ritchie all the time. He's my coach," Mr Denham says.

As for being famous, Mr Denham says although the kids get excited about seeing him on TV - he still appears occasionally - he'd prefer the focus was on his students.

"It doesn't matter who I am. The kids are the most important thing."

Glen Denham
What: Massey High School principal
Age: 51
Height: 2.01m
Born: Dunedin.
Education: King's High School, Otago University.
Career: Spent 13 years as Tall Blacks captain, playing 200 international games. Presented the 1998 television programme Across the Ditch with Lana Coc-Kroft. Basketball commentator for NBL, as well as RadioSport. He was a host of the radio show The Bigger Breakfast. Started his teaching career with new entrants. Taught for 15 years in Britain, including as an "executive principal".