Sunday 20 October 2013

Copland own goal over football coach redundancy

Local press coverage some time ago
 'Fourth Official' writes a Guest Blog
Just 3 months after their ‘postponement’ (ie cancellation) of the school’s  long- planned annual Sports Day in July, the new management at Copland  are planning another spectacular sport-related own goal by proposing to sack  the school’s long-standing and widely-respected football coach Paul Lawrence, who has done so much for the school, for the development of boys’ and girls’ football  in north London generally, and even for the England national team in the shape of new 18 year old  star and ex-Copland student, Raheem Sterling, (coached from age 10 by Paul and  who recently joined Roy Hodgson’s squad in England’s successful qualifiers for next year’s  World Cup in Brazil).         
 This latest public relations disaster by Copland and Brent is likely to go national when Monday’s edition of the Independent carries the story of coach Lawrence’s inclusion in a list of 32 Copland mentors, caretakers, support staff and librarians who are the subjects of a redundancy ‘proposal’,  an axing of key support staff aimed at cutting the school’s debt in order to make Copland easier to flog off to some dodgy academy chain looking for a prime-site bargain. (The school’s debt dates from the recently-convicted Sir Alan Davies’s  ‘false accounting’ days.)
 The London Borough of Brent, whose ‘light touch’ approach to auditing and ostrich-like attitude to the nepotism and dodgy dealing in the school at the time contributed to the budgetary black hole, have always refused to cancel the debt or even to attempt to retrieve for the school the missing money, estimated at the time at up to £2million).         

 While the Copland management were drawing up their hit-list of who was to receive the early Christmas present of 32 red cards, Greg Dyke, now head of the Football Association, was announcing the setting up of a special Football Commission to try to find out what is wrong with football in this country; why we underachieve internationally; why top English clubs have to import foreign players,  and so on. 

With immaculate timing worthy of Theo Walcott at his best, Copland was simultaneously planning its own uniquely helpful answer to some of these questions; which is that, while at one end of the system the sports minister and the FA are spouting aspirational bromides about grass-roots, academies and excellence, at the other end, in the real world,  Brent’s  benighted bean-counting administrators, anxious to satisfy the demands of Gove’s ‘forced academy’ policy, fail to see the irony in casually sacking  a successful football coach who has made a huge contribution to community cohesion, let alone to the enjoyment of the ‘beautiful  game’ itself,  at a school situated  a few hundred yards from our national sport’s national home.        
 Meanwhile, Heather Rabbatts, now an FA director, on Saturday criticised Greg Dyke’s all-white Football Commission for its lack  of ethnic diversity. She said: ‘we are not only failing to reflect our national game but we are also letting down so many black and ethnic minority people - players, ex-players, coaches and volunteers, who have so much to offer and are so often discouraged and disheartened by the attitudes they encounter.’  Paul Lawrence could be forgiven for yelling ‘Tell me about it!’ when he read those words.      

Greg Dyke’s  reply to Ms Rabbatts  was this:  ‘The aim of the Commission  is to ensure that talented English kids, whatever their ethnicity or creed, are able to fulfil their potential to play at the highest level in English football, something which currently we are not sure is happening. We still want to see people with relevant experience from the BAME community on the Commission.’  

Well, the people of Brent might know one of those people you say you’re looking for, Greg. Time to call  Paul, maybe?  Perhaps the Commission would  appreciate his contributions more than a Wembley school’s management seem capable of doing. Perhaps Copland’s  loss could be English football’s gain.          

  But, of course, what Paul Lawrence would really like to do at the moment is to simply carry on doing what he’s done so successfully up to now: coaching Copland’s ordinary kids and its prospective England stars to fulfil their potential, so that they may  ‘have that true sense of self-worth which will enable them  to stand up for themselves and for a purpose greater than themselves, and, in doing so,  be of value to society.’          
 Just like it says in the ‘Welcome’ message on Copland Community School’s website, in fact.

Previous coverage of Raheem's connection with Copland and Wembley  LINK


Anonymous said...

Indy article here:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article by Brent resident Sam Wallace in the Indy. Should be required reading for anyone involved in sport or education from Michael Gove up.