In terms of school features, pupils’ educational experiences were shown to match previous research on schools in disadvantaged areas (Thomson, 2002). The school had a long history of teachers taking leave with stress. Behavioural problems were widespread. In the past there had been many staff changes although the new head teacher at Woodside School had brought increased stability. During the course of lesson observations, no homework was set and much time was spent copying and writing from textbooks. Several unqualified teaching staff or ‘Cover Supervisors’1 had responsibility for teaching whole classes. Sometimes this was to cover unexpected staff absence but others said that they were timetabled to take specific classes on a regular basis every week. At Ethyl Common School, there was a more extreme example of the caretaker’s role being changed to work offsite within the behaviour unit. The everyday reality was very much on ‘coping’ and fire-fighting at both schools at the time of this study.