He was born in Leicestershire (1940) and was brought up there and in East Anglia.He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School and at Lowestoft County Grammar School and St Catherine's College, Oxford. He took his PGCE at the Oxford University Department of Education in 1961. He began his career as a schoolteacher, becoming a deputy head in a South Wales secondary modern school in 1966. 
Later he was Professor of Education at Keele University (1989–1993), and Chief Education Officer in both Oxfordshire (1978–1989) and Birmingham Local Authorities.
Whilst he was at Birmingham, he was described by Conservative Education Secretary John Patten as a "madman....wandering the streets, frightening the children". Brighouse sued and won substantial damages, which he donated to charity. He used some of it to set up the University of the First Age, to encourage out of hours activities to enrich school children's learning.
He was the Schools Commissioner for London between 2002-2007, where he led the London Challenge.
He is married to Liz, who is Labour leader of Oxfordshire County Council. They have four children and eight grandchildren.
- The A-Z of School Improvement: Principles and Practice(28 Mar 2013)
- Inspirations: A collection of commentaries and quotations to promote school improvement(1 Oct 2006)
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- The Joy of Teaching(15 Apr 2008)
- Wilby, Peter (2007-04-24). "London schools tsar Tim Brighouse retires". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
- ‘BRIGHOUSE, Sir Timothy Robert Peter’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012 accessed 19 May 2013
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- Morrison, James (2006-08-03). "The University of the First Age: summer schools with a difference". The Independent. London: Independent News and Media. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
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- RM Directors' biographies
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