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The BBC's Mike Thomson
"Pupils will return in two weeks' time to a system that expects much more of them"
 real 28k

Monday, 21 February, 2000, 11:37 GMT
Violence closes murdered head's school

St George's School
The school faces the possibility of permanent closure

The school where headteacher Philip Lawrence was murdered is to be temporarily closed after an outbreak of pupil violence - and could face a permanent shutdown.

St George's School in Maida Vale, north London, is to have its half-term extended by a week to allow the local authority to clamp down on a wave of violent incidents between pupils.

However the local authority, Westminster, says that the option of permanent closure for the school has not been ruled out - as the latest outbreak of violence follows its designation as a "failing school" by inspectors.

Philip Lawrence Philip Lawrence was murdered trying to protect a pupil outside the gates of his school
Police were called to the school last week to break up fights and a pupil received injuries that required hospital treatment.

And following the incidents, the headteacher, Margaret Ryan, has agreed to take early retirement - with a team from private education company, Nord Anglia, set to take over the temporary management of the school.

In the extra week's break, school staff will work with this 'task force' of advisers on ways to "make changes in how the school is run".

When pupils return, the local authority promises a tougher regime. "There will be a clear difference in expectations as to their behaviour; a change in discipline, practices and procedures," said the chairman of Westminster council's education committee, Simon Milton

My heart bleeds at the moment for the pupils, and for the uncertainty, and for their parents
Frances Lawrence

The school came to national prominence in December 1995 when headteacher Philip Lawrence was stabbed to death outside the school gates, as he attempted to protect a pupil.

The school, where half the pupils do not have English as a first language and half qualify for free school meals, failed an inspection and the local authority has been seeking to raise standards to an acceptable level.

The school will now re-open on 6 March, a week later than other schools in the borough.

A decision on the school's future is expected to be made within a month.

'Strong leadership needed'

Mr Lawrence's widow Frances said she believes recent attempts to improve the school have not fostered a spirit of warmth and togetherness, and that strong leadership and clear principles are what it needs.

But she says she does not think the school should be written off, because of what happened to her husband.

"My heart bleeds at the moment for the pupils, and for the uncertainty, and for their parents," she said.

"If it can re-open with a new ambience and ethos, and a very strong leadership, that would be the way that one would hope it would go."
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See also:
10 Jul 98 |  Education
Special help for murdered head's school
11 Nov 97 |  UK
Teenager loses appeal against murder of headteacher

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