The headteacher of the school at the centre of the media storm over the cancelled appearance of Tommy Robinson has said that the decision was related to protocol on school visitors. Duchess’s Community High School head Maurice Hall said:
“The planned visit was organised through the Quilliam Foundation, a well-respected anti-extremism think-tank and would have involved Tommy Robinson and Usama Hasan (co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation). This would have been a good opportunity for our students to hear about extremism and how it develops, as well as what can be done to counter the dangers of extremism.
“However, it appears that procedures for outside visitors to school may not have been followed on this occasion and so the visit was cancelled. We are now carrying out a full review of policies and procedures relating to visitors taking part in lessons, which will be concluded by the end of half-term.
“We hope to find other opportunities to help our students, who live in a relatively non-diverse community, to meet and learn from people from a range of cultures and faiths.”
It was a sixth-form student from the high school who first reported that Mr Robinson was due to appear through a story in school newspaper The Alnwickist, which was published in the Gazette in December.
In the article, the school’s head of RE, Louis Spence, said that the guests would be visiting GSCE and A-Level RE classes. “By inviting visitors as diverse as Tommy Robinson and Usama Hasan into schools, students are given the opportunity to rise to the challenges they will all face as adults in modern British society,” he added.
The paper has also published an entirely uncritical interview with Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) himself. See “Cancelled visit gives kids the wrong message”, Northumberland Gazette, 16 January 2014
If they talk to Lennon again they might ask him why, if he no longer incites hatred against the Muslim community, he thought it appropriate to retweet the following message from an admirer following the cancellation of his speaking engagement at the school:
The Gazette might also ask why, if Lennon has broken with the poisonous ideology of the English Defence League, he happily retweeted this message of support from the East Anglian EDL: