Ten years on, school cuts ties with widow of murdered headteacher

The widow of Philip Lawrence, the headmaster who was stabbed to death by a 15-year-old as he went to the rescue of a pupil being attacked outside his school gates, wants some good to emerge from the tragedy.

To that end, she is presenting awards on Tuesday in his memory to celebrate the achievements of youngsters who have chosen the path of community work rather than being tempted into a life of crime like his killer.

However, she is worried that this will inevitably lead to her being portrayed as a victim again.

To many people, 8 December is more likely to be remembered as the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. Philip Lawrence was a great fan of the former Beatle - an irony which is not missed by Mrs Lawrence, who still lives in the house in Ealing, west London, she shared with her husband.

In contrast to her approach to the anniversary, though, his former school - St George's Roman Catholic comprehensive in Maida Vale, Westminster - is just hoping it will go away.

It has cut ties with Mrs Lawrence to draw a veil over the past and will not be staging any commemoration of his life's work next Thursday.

"No, I'm not in touch," said Mrs Lawrence. "I would very much have liked to have been in touch with the school. They seemed to decide at one point, though, that it was time to erase the past. I can understand that decision although I do find it a bit odd."

Dame Marie Stubbs, the headteacher brought out of retirement to turn the school round after it had failed its inspection by Ofsted - the education standards watchdog - a few years after Philip Lawrence's death, also believes the school should seize the occasion to show how far it now lives up to the ideals that he would have set for it.

It received a glowing inspection report when her successor, Philip Jakszta, built on her reforms to improve standards. Now, though, it has an acting head as it could not appoint a full-time one to replace Mr Jakszta.

Dame Marie, portrayed in the ITV film Ahead of the Class starring Julie Walters, believes that the school "should seize on what has been achieved - to give a positive image of what has happened at the school". Mrs Lawrence is adamant that she will not dwell on the school's decision. Instead, when she is not devoting time to her teaching career (she is still an English teacher), she focuses on preparing for the awards. "When Philip died, I suddenly found that the entire world and news and media were taken up with an obsession with gang culture," she said.

"Philip would have been the first person to have been horrified by it. I didn't want his death to be the occasion of so much negative publicity against young people. It is only a very small minority that engage in that kind of activity."

Just two days before his death Philip Lawrence held an assembly at his school, stressing to all pupils they could achieve greatness. It is the motto of the awards ceremony which, in its nine years, has given recognition to groups like the Kosovans in Barrow - a group of young refugees in Cumbria who sought better integration with the local community, and a skateboarding project in Camden, north London, which sought to stop youngsters from using car-parks in shopping centres, intimidating shoppers, and built a park for them to use.

Mrs Lawrence said: "I don't feel like I'm the person that's being written about when it describes my work with the awards - a victim. I'm still the same person I was. I've long had a passion for human rights and social justice. I'm a political animal."

She recalls how - when she was a young girl - she would write countless letters to presidents of the United States criticising them for their treatment of black people. She shows her compassionate side in her reaction to the news that Learco Chindamo, her husband's killer, is in an open prison being prepared for eventual release.

"I'm not a vengeful person, I think," she said. "I do understand that Chindamo needs to be prepared for a fulfilling life outside." As to the future, Mrs Lawrence - whose four children have now all left home - will still be dedicating a large part of her life to the awards. They are to be extended for next year to recognise the work young people are doing for overseas charities.

She and Philip's former school will go their separate ways. Its future is in doubt now as a result of the proposal to make it one of Tony Blair's 200 privately sponsored academies, which would mean the closure of the present school. Mrs Lawrence said: "It doesn't matter what it is called so long as the pupils are having a happy life."

It will, however, mean the severing of any remaining link with Philip Lawrence, the man who turned it round for the first time.

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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 Education

Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Practitioner - Faringdon

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunity for you to jo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Developer - Cirencester - £29,000

£25000 - £29000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have be...

Recruitment Genius: Primary School Sports Coach

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Calling all talented Level 2 qu...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project