Stephen's spirit is living still;Stephen Lawrence inquiry

26th February 1999 at 00:00
STEPHEN LAWRENCE'S contemporaries have long since left Blackheath Bluecoat School in Greenwich, writes Nicolas Barnard. Even his sister, Georgina, who started the September after he died, left last summer - but the teenager's presence is still felt.

A tree planted in his memory greets visitors and a portrait by a school friend of Stephen, his sister and then-head John Thurley dominates a stairwell.

A memorial prize goes each year to the most promising art and design A-level student - the Bluecoat student Stephen once was. Pupils raise money for the Stephen Lawrence memorial trust and his father, Neville, has visited the school to discuss racism with older students.

"He is in our hearts and prayers, as are the family," says headteacher Kay Bickley, who joined the school only last summer but has heard much about the youngster. She's protective of her staff and pupils at the school, only a mile or so from the bus stop where Stephen was murdered.

For teachers who were there in April 1993, it has been a painful six years- since the murder has been revisited through a trial, an inquest, the inquiry and now in the report. The horror of Stephen's death was made greater for them by the inaction and incompetence of the police investigation.

"Children at the time were saying they knew who did it. They talk all the time about what is going on on the street, and teachers here at the time say there was a lot of talk about who was responsible. They spent days listening to this and waiting and nothing happened."

An anti-racist ethos is central to Bluecoat where 47 per cent of pupils come from an ethnic minority and 32 per cent are black. Race is explored in personal and social education, English and, heavily, in religious education.

Assemblies are often themed with plays and presentations from students. The immediate catchment area takes in both well-heeled Blackheath and the deprived, ethnically-mixed estates of Charlton and Woolwich. But it attracts many pupils from beyond Greenwich.

Mrs Bickley said: "There are strong racist groups in the Eltham area. It doesn't come into the school and I haven't had a racial incident to report or been confronted by racial attitudes by parents.

" I put it down to the Christian ethos in the school. Justice, fairness, equality and overall love and respect for one's fellow human being are central to our existence."

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