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Proletarian issue 23 (April 2008)
Letter: Philip Lawrence was no saint
A necessary postscript to the article on Learco Chindamo (Proletarian, Oct/Nov 2007) must be an explanation of the role of Philip Lawrence himself in Chindamo’s downfall.

There is an excellent television series called Whistleblowers, which follows a fictional male/female team of solicitors who take on cases which expose corporate and governmental wrongdoing. One episode analysed government education policy, in particular the policy of ‘turning round’ alleged ‘failing’ schools. The programme concluded that the central pillar of the policy was the expulsion of ‘disruptive’ pupils, ie, children with special educational needs (SEN).

This was precisely the route followed by Philip Lawrence. In his first year as headmaster he expelled 120 children with special educational needs from his school.

Previously, children such as these would have been regarded as ‘vulnerable’ and requiring a bit of extra care and attention. However, the introduction of league tables in education means that, instead, they are blamed for bringing the school down in the tables and, where they would formerly have received a little bit more care and attention, now they are regarded as a ‘liability’, a ‘piece of ineducable trash’ to be got rid of at all costs.

Chindamo was one of these children. Having been thrown onto the scrapheap himself, he learned that Lawrence was preparing to expel his younger brother too. Chindamo went to the school to try and reason with Lawrence. We cannot know what passed between them, but it is certainly possible that Lawrence could have incited the attack by his attitude.

To have this acknowledged in court, however, would be a serious threat to the government’s policy of privatising education and making secondary schools a working-class-free zone. Philip Lawrence was not the saint he was made out to be by the mainstream press, and Chindamo’s conviction was clearly politically motivated.

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