The London borough of Islington received another blow this week with the news that the Office for Standards in Education considers that Holloway boys' school, an 11-16 comprehensive, is losing its battle against disadvantage.
This comes four weeks after OFSTED's harsh critique of reading standards in Islington and two other London boroughs. Islington's secondary schools were also rejected by Labour leader Tony Blair, a local resident, as unfit for his own son.
Holloway boys is, however, the first Islington secondary to be in need of special measures. The school starts from a position of disadvantage: 58 per cent of pupils receive free meals compared to a national average of 23 per cent. A third are not fluent in English.
OFSTED found that children at the 948-pupil school were underperforming badly in exams and key stage 3 tests. Only 10 per cent left school with five or more GCSEs grades A-C last year, compared with the national average of 43.5 per cent.
Inspectors considered two out of five lessons to be unsatisfactory; standards in reading, writing, numeracy, and using books for research were poor, but the report admits that pupils' reading levels are generally low on entry.
Pupils are criticised for restlessness in lessons and teachers for failing to match expectations to ability. "Teachers do not check what has been learnt, pupils are not clear about the aims of the lesson and work of a poor standard is too readily accepted."
The special needs staff and the head, Paul Smith, were praised, however. Mr Smith said the school was "not going to bemoan its fate" and accepted that the report was fair and deprivation was not an excuse for low expectations. Staff and parents are determined to get the school back on the rails, he said. He is introducing an intensive programme to improve literacy among new entrants.