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Ring Leaders
December 2012

Kemar Duhaney: The former London Boxing Academy Community Project student was tragically killed on July 11, 2012  

On October 12 the funeral of Kemar Duhaney, a 21-year-old from north London, was held at Islington Crematorium. At 11.47am on July 11 he had been stabbed in the chest outside his girlfriend's house in Hackney Wick. Paramedics performed open-heart surgery at the scene but couldn't save him. He died the same day.

If this sounds like a tragically familiar tale, Kemar's story, and the circumstances of his funeral, are not.

Kemar lived with his grandmother in Jamaica until he was 12. He moved to the UK when his mother, working seven days a week as a hairdresser in London, had saved enough money to accommodate him. A disruptive student with what he called an "anger problem", Kemar was eventually excluded from school. In 2006 he wound up at an alternative provision project, often the last stop for expelled teens: the London Boxing Academy Community Project.

The LBACP dealt with young people—usually boys—who had "emotional and behavioural difficulties". It was run at that time by Chris Hall, a former champion amateur boxer and boxing coach for 30 years. The project was housed in the same building as Hall's boxing gym, and some of his boxers worked as "pod leaders" to the students—acting as both teaching assistants and mentors. A teacher at the project, Tom Ogg, has just published his account of his two years at the LBACP, Boxing Clever (Civitas, £9.50). It is a vivid and moving portrait of South Tottenham and this very special school.

The distinction between alternative provision projects and pupil referral units is that the former are free from state control, are not inspected by Ofsted and do not have to follow the national curriculum. They can therefore experiment and innovate. Ogg describes the emphasis that Hall placed on building relationships; for the teachers it was as important to provide the students with pastoral care as it was to teach them how to read. The aim was  to escape what Hall called the "blinkin' ridiculous" state welfare benefit culture, and to provide young men with positive male role models. In his foreword, the "Blue Labour" peer Lord Glasman calls Boxing Clever a story about an institution "with a strong sense of moral purpose . . . upholding good practice and a sense of virtue in an ecology of broken relationships".

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