This chapter provides the background information for the story of the Robert Clack School, a state-funded secondary school in England in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, which went from being a well-respected school to one that was in a state of abject failure in the mid-1990s. The chapter initially details the history of the outer London borough which has experienced radical changes to the local population and economy in the current century. Throughout this time, the borough has experienced sustained high levels of poverty with a decline in the local manufacturing industry (notably the Ford Motor Company) and despite radical changes in the age and ethnicity of the local population. The local education authority (LEA) was committed to the notion of equal opportunity for all students and subscribed to the ‘comprehensive ideal’, the education of all local children in a single school. During the 1990s, however, the Robert Clack Comprehensive School (as it was named at the time) was exhibiting chronic levels of underperformance, highlighted in an inspection report of 1995, which ultimately led to a change in school leadership in 1997. The appointment of a new headteacher was surprising as the successful candidate, Paul Grant, was a radical choice as a head of department within the school with no previous senior leadership experience.
KeywordsSecondary education Comprehensive ideal Working-class Critical hope Improvement
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