This week, Islington was told by David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, that most of its education services must be put out to tender. The London borough's inspection report, he said, set out "a sorry catalogue" of inadequacies.
Many will fear that this is the thin end of a sinister privatisation wedge - but they should beware of over-reacting. Such strategies are likely to be used only sparingly. First, the Government's stated aim (clumsily expressed) is that intervention should be in "inverse proportion to success". Effective schools and local education authorities will be left alone, to get on with what they do best.
Secondly, by intervening, the Government is putting its own reputation on the line. If the measures imposed upon Islington also fail, who will be blamed? After all, there is no guarantee that a private company will be able to work some kind of magic on Islington's schools. But at least it might find a way of injecting energy, efficiency, and fresh ideas into a system which desperately needs them.
The key criterion must be: what works? When the traditional system fails, so abjectly, we are in unknown territory. So let's explore.