Islington: Children as guinea pigs of the Left

During the Sixties and Seventies, Islington’s elegant but crumbling Georgian terraces were bought and renovated by an influx of vaguely bohemian professional couples — “the white wine and marijuana brigade” in the words of one historian. In keeping with their countercultural outlook, many of these couples sent their children to a clutch of new “progressive” local schools, where the rudiments of a traditional school — academic subjects, uniforms, strict discipline, examinations — were giving way to experiments in “child-centred” learning and minimal adult authority.

Here, middle-class children rubbed shoulders with the inhabitants of Islington’s large new council estates, including many recent immigrants from Cyprus and the West Indies. These schools set out to provide a liberated school environment where children from all classes and cultures could be freed from adult authority and achieve self-fulfilment. The reality could not have been more different.