Meg Maguire and Justin Dillon
Successive governments have failed to resolve the educational
problems of the major cities. Standards have been too low for far too
long. Raising standards in order to lift opportunities for our children
is the key priority for the Government. It is clear that schools in our
inner cities demand urgent attention.
(Tony Blair and David Blunkett, foreword, DfEE 1999a: 1)
In this chapter, we focus on the sorts of schools that are currently described as 'facing challenging circumstances' (DfES 2006). These are schools whose intake reflects the higher levels of social deprivation and disadvantage that are usually, but not only, found in large urban areas (DETR 2000). What we want to do is to provide a brief historical background to these schools in order to contextualize them. Then we want to review some earlier policy approaches towards these schools. The chapter then considers some contemporary policies in the area for, as Tomlinson (2005: 108) has put it, 'the long association of inner city schools with disadvantaged, disaffected and disruptive pupils (has) continued to be regarded as a major public policy challenge by New Labour' (Tomlinson 2005: 108).
Schools facing challenging circumstances (SFCCs) often experience higher than average teacher turnover (Menter et al. 2002). This means that many beginning teachers will be doing their training and then taking up posts in these predominantly city-based schools as this is where vacancies will tend to occur. Teachers choose to teach in SFCCs for a wide variety of reasons; sometimes because they have done their teacher education in these schools; because they want to enjoy the cultural richness of the city where many of these schools are located; or because they come from the city themselves (Menter et al. 2002). Recent research has also shown that some teachers elect to work and stay working in SFCCs because they have a