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The Hercules left to fight alone

Your report on the achievements of Clapton girls' technology college, rightly praises the fantastic work it does (TES, June 25). Cheryl Day is an excellent head and thoroughly deserves the credit for making the school so successful.

Having been head of a school on the other side of the "murder mile" I can testify to how tough an environment Hackney is. At one point during my headship I took the decision not to allow staff to take pupils out of school because of the risk of them being caught up in the regular shootings. This was a particular pity for our pupils with severe learning difficulties, as practice of social, literacy and numeracy skills "in the real world" was crucial.

What leading a school in such an environment has taught me, particularly in a borough where one's school is left to fend for itself while local government struggles to get the basics right, is that facilitating a settled teaching and learning environment can be ludicrously difficult.

While I applaud the achievements of Clapton I cannot help but reflect on how little account central government and the Office for Standards in Education take of the herculean struggles going on in similar environments across the country, and how quick they are to assume that schools in areas like Clapton can bear the burden of addressing social problems that are too deep-seated and uncomfortable for anyone else to look at.

Phil Goss

Retired headteacher 22 Ruskin Drive Kirby Lonsdale Lancashire

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