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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
School learns lessons from Damilola
By Alison Freeman
BBC News, London

Photograph of Damilola in school hall
The photograph reminds pupils to stay safe
A photograph of Damilola Taylor still hangs in his old school hall.

The 10-year-old's image is used to remind the pupils at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School of the importance of confiding in an adult if they ever feel scared, according to the chair of governors Bola Ogun.

"There was the immediate effect [after Damilola's death] which was a tragedy and the school was in shock and the community was in shock," he said.

"After that there was the lessons which needed to be learnt and the school asked itself if there was more that we can do to ensure that the pupils in our school know the importance of talking to an adult about what's bothering them."

Head teacher Mark Parsons agrees the one and only remaining difference to the school, in Peckham, south London, is its determination to make sure the pupils stay safe.

What good schools do is they teach young people how to relate to each other, how to relate to adults, how to grow as individuals
Bola Ogun
School governor

Damilola would have been a teenager now, so his peers are in secondary school but the Oliver Goldsmith's current pupils are clearly aware of his story.

Mr Ogun was brought up and schooled in the same south London area and says he narrowly avoided becoming what he calls a "statistic" - one of the many young people who enter into a life of crime.

In the media frenzy after Damilola's death, accusations were thrown around that the perpetrators had been bullies at the school.

But Mr Ogun said he, or head teacher Mr Parsons, would have known about it if one of their pupils had been threatened by another - such was their determination to tackle discipline problems head on.

He said: "The reason we were able to defend the school so vehemently was because I was confident about the structures we had in place.

Children on the school council
The school has a caring ethos

"But at the same time I remember we were asked some challenging questions and we did need to be challenged. We needed to be open."

Oliver Goldsmith's does have its challenges, including the area's transient population, with Mr Parsons able to recount one class where only one child completed year's one to six.

He says only 10% of pupils fall under the English, Scottish, Welsh banner with about 48% having English as a second language. A total of 50 different languages are spoken at the school.

The school achieved 40% of children getting the required SAT results - compared with the target of 85% - but Mr Parsons says up to 80% of the youngsters get certificates for their outstanding behaviour each year.

This is evidence of the school's ethos of citizenship - something it emphasises to its pupils.

Challenging background

Mr Ogun believes this should be given a higher priority in schools in general.

He said: "We've had too much emphasis on academic attainment. We always judge someone by their GCSEs or SAT results.

"But what good schools do is they teach young people how to relate to each other, how to relate to adults, how to grow as individuals.

"A child may come from a challenging background but that doesn't mean they don't know how to behave or have a right to a good education."

Governor Bola Ogun
Bola Ogun grew up in Peckham

During my visit a new pupil, who has English as a second language, is brought up to Mr Parsons, as he is desperate to show off the new phrase he has learnt that day.

And in a school of more than 500 pupils, Mr Parsons still seems to know most of the youngsters' names.

This relationship is something Mr Ogun feels is a key part of Damilola's legacy.

He said: "It's a reminder, when a tragedy like that happens, that all children are special and that they need to be taken care of."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See what lessons Damilola Taylor's old school has learnt from his death





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