Gracious living, fine restaurants, and a lousy education

ISLINGTON MAY have some of the most desirable housing and restaurants in London but its schools are a source of endless angst to middle-class parents. The dilemma is particularly acute for Labour politicians.

So appalling is the schools' reputation that the Prime Minister sent his children half-way across London to be educated, and nearly half of Islington parents have followed suit.

They include the Education minister Margaret Hodge, who was Islington's council leader in the days when the town hall displayed a bust of Lenin and a red flag flew overhead, and Rupert Perry, who chairs the council's education committee. Last week Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP for Islington North and his wife said that their marriage had foundered over whether to send their son to one of the borough's schools.

With a pass rate of just 25 per cent in five or more GCSEs in 1997, few can blame them. Even neighbouring Camden, another socially mixed area, has a more respectable pass rate of 40 per cent. Islington teachers also suffer from an image of Left-wing militancy.

How can such a desirable area have such dreadful schools? The answer is that Islington, once you subtract a few wealthy pockets, is not well- off; it is, in fact, the 10th poorest area in the country.

The borough stretches far beyond the New Labour haunts of Upper Street, across to Holloway, up to Archway, taking in great sprawls of public housing including the Packington and Marquis Estates, notorious for their crime, vandalism and social problems.

Just 42 per cent of secondary pupils in Islington are white, and more than a third of all children do not speak English as a first language. The proportion of secondary pupils on free school meals - the main indicator of deprivation - is 59 per cent, compared with a national average of 18 per cent.

As yesterday's Ofsted report points out: "Some of the most expensive homes in London are to be found only a short distance away from areas with severe social problems, including drug abuse, high crime rates and vandalism."

In the Eighties, Islington Council was a notorious Socialist stronghold, home to one of the so-called "loony Left" councils excoriated by the tabloid press. It was here, so the tale goes, that a five-year-old child was reprimanded by nursery school teachers for humming the politically incorrect Baa-Baa Black Sheep.

Tony Blair's elevation to Labour leader gave a different gloss to Islington's image. Overnight it became synonymous with everything that New Labour wished to stand for: chic, modern, metropolitan. The leadership deal itself - in which Gordon Brown agreed not to run for the top post, leaving the way open for Mr Blair - was hammered out in Granita, an Islington restaurant that is now a local landmark.

Centrally located with good transport links to the City, Islington bristles with bars, restaurants and antique shops that draw large crowds from outside the area at weekends. Upper Street, the main thoroughfare, is one of the hippest spots in London.

Islington also has some of the city's choicest real estate, offering - for those who can afford it - gracious living in leafy squares of Georgian terraces. In Barnsbury, where the Blairs lived until they moved to Downing Street, and Canonbury, houses with a pounds 500,000 price tag are not uncommon.

When Islington took over responsibility for schools from the Inner London Education Authority in 1990, Ms Hodge declared that education in the borough would be "in a class of its own". As yesterday's report shows, her prediction has proved correct, although not in the way she expected.

Islington has an unemployment rate of nearly 12 per cent compared with an inner London average of 9.5 per cent and a national average of 4.6.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing