Alnwick school cancels controversial visit by former EDL leader

A Northumberland school has cancelled a controversial visit by the former leader of the English Defence League

Anthony Devlin/PA Wire Former leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson
Former leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson

A school in Northumberland has scrapped plans to host the former leader of the right wing English Defence League.

The Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick has also announced a review of its position on outside speakers amid anger over the planned visit of Tommy Robinson.

Mr Robinson, a 30-year-old convicted fraudster and football hooligan, quit the defence league (EDL) in October, saying he was unable to control some extreme members.

He said he had suffered death threats ever since.

Mr Robinson has now joined Islamic think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, which aims to tackle extremism.

News of his visit to the Alnwick school emerged in The Alnwickist, a newspaper produced by students at the high school.

The paper tells how Mr Robinson was to visit this month, accompanied by Usama Hasan co-founder of the foundation.

The duo were due to visit GSCE and A-level religious education classes.

Andy Commins Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick, Northumberland.
Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick, Northumberland.
 

Louis Spence, head of RE, was quoted as saying: “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 face as adults in modern British society.

“There’s a moral courage in thinking through difficult issues, standing up for what you believe in, whilst still showing respect and humanity.

“If students can develop that capacity in any way, then this visit will have been worthwhile.”

The talk was part of a planned tour of schools on the subject of tolerance.

But following an outcry from some parents, Duchess’ headteacher Maurice Hall last night said: “The visit has been cancelled and we are carrying out a review of policy and protocols in respect of outside speakers.”

He declined to comment on whether the school had received any complaints about the planned visit.

Mr Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is an ex-BNP member.

He founded the EDL in 2009 after Muslims staged a demo as UK troops returned from Afghanistan.

Critics say he went on to incite hatred against Muslims in violent rallies but since quitting the organisation he has moved away from some of its more extreme views and actions.

In November last year, he admitted mortgage fraud and he faces sentence this year.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer