The murder of Philip Lawrence

21 Aug 2007

The murder of a head teacher is such a shocking event that it is, perhaps, no surprise that it is still in the news 12 years later. The news that  Learco Chindamo, who was convicted of the murder of Philip  Lawrence outside his school,  is not to be deported to Italy has understandably shocked Mr Lawrence's widow.

For the school - St George's in Westminster - any reminder of this story is unwelcome. It took the school many years to overcome the trauma which followed this shocking event. It made little difference that Chindamo was not a pupil there. The school suffered from guilt by association.

Today's pupils, of course, will not remember Mr Lawrence. Nor will many, if any, current members of staff. 

I returned there recently to make a film for Teachers' TV about the consequences for the school of being caught in the media spotlight. 

It was strange to return. I had reported the original event in 1995 and had been back subsequently when the school, having been put into Special Measures, was once more showing signs of improvement under the leadership of  Lady Marie Stubbs.

The story of the school's roller-coaster ride in the year's after the murder of Mr Lawrence is both fascinating and, I hope, instructional for any schools that might find themselves caught up in traumatic circumstances. 

The head teacher who took over after Mr Lawrence had a particularly difficult time. Until now she has not felt able to give her side of the story of the school's slide into failure and of the difficulties of succeeding Mr Lawrence at a school that remained under intense media scrutiny. In my film, however, she does, finally, speak about what is, clearly, still a very raw memory. 

Details of the transmission times for the film will be available on the Teachers' TV website soon.

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