Lady rides to St George's rescue

10th March 2000 at 00:00
The private team sent into murdered head Philip Lawrence's former school will be led by Marie Stubbs. Sarah Cassidy reports.

THE WEST London school whose headteacher Philip Lawrence was murdered reopened this week under the management of a private-sector taskforce.

The new head Marie Stubbs came out of retirement to take over as acting head of St George's school, in Maida Vale. She promised a return to old-fashioned values and discipline to save the school from permanent closure.

But Lady Stubbs, whose title comes by marriage to Sir William Stubbs, chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said she will take "an extremely tough line on aberrant behaviour". She also aims to "capture young people's hearts and minds".

Lady Stubbs heads a management team of four put in place by the private company Nord Anglia, which has been given a year to take St George's off the list of failing schools where it has languished for two years. The company is being paid pound;400,000.

Also on the team are two deputy heads from Lady Stubbs' former school, Douay Martyrs Roman Catholic school in Hillingdon, London, and a third deputy, David Edwards, who was recruited to the school as a consultant by Nord Anglia in September.

St George's was closed temporarily by Westminister council last month after an outbreak of violence, including a fight which left one pupil in hospital, an assault on a teacher and vandalis of teachers' cars. Half-term was extended by a week to allow Nord Anglia time to take over.

Lady Stubbs said all children would start with a "clean slate" this week, but that she had clear expectations of them.

Pupils will be expected to walk, not run; to speak, not shout; to say "yes headmistress", not "yeah".

She said she would not tolerate violence in the school, or truancy - St George's recently had the worst truancy record in England.

The last head, Margaret Ryan, who took early retirement in February abandoned the "tough love" approach of her murdered predecessor who expelled 60 pupils in the three years before his death.

Mrs Ryan attempted to reduce the number of exclusions but was blamed by some for allowing discipline to break down because troublemakers remained in school.

Lady Stubbs said: "Inclusion is a laudable aim. It may not be able to be realised in every instance, but it is a laudable aim."

Kevin McNeany, chairman of Nord Anglia, said: "This is a school which has considerable strengths - including its improving exam results.

"We do not want to make ourselves hostages to fortune by publicly setting ourselves targets that will have to be achieved by particular dates."

Lady Stubbs, a 60-year-old Scot and a devout Catholic, spent 13 years as head of Douay Martyrs before retiring last autumn. Before that, she ran education in a secure girls' unit in Lambeth.

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