When Ofsted first inspected Liverpool in 1999, 24 schools had been in special measures. Today, the figure is two as support services in the city bear fruit.
One school that had failed its inspection was Breckfield School, where John Toye had taken over as head the previous July. He faced severe problems with the budget, staff absenteeism, poor GCSE and SATs results and inadequately maintained buildings. But he found being in special measures helpful. "It sharpened the focus for everyone," he says.
A substantial turnover of staff and governors followed. Threeyear financial plans and a refurbishment programme were introduced. Intensive in-service training concentrated on teaching, planning and learning. Interviews with staff led to attainment targets for each class teacher and attendance targets for each form tutor.
Seven per cent of pupils getting GCSE top grades in 1998. This climbed to 11 per cent in 1999 and 18 per cent last year. The target for this year is 25 per cent.
Breckfield is now out of special measures. "Teacher expectation has risen, and pupil expectation is starting to rise," says Toye.