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Canterbury's Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School head teacher blasts anti-vaxxers in letter to parents

A head teacher has accused anti-vaxxers of spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation during a protest outside his school gates.

Simon Langton Girls’ boss Paul Pollard has hit out at the jab critics, who gathered at the Canterbury grammar school and handed leaflets to pupils.

Paul Pollard, head teacher at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School
Paul Pollard, head teacher at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School

In a letter to parents, he has accused the group of engaging in “propaganda that has much in common with familiar far-right tropes”.

It was sent following the recommendation of Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty that the government offer one dose of the Covid vaccine to all children aged 12-15.

Downing Street later confirmed it would do so as part of its plan to tackle Covid this winter.

Mr Pollard writes: “Following the recent events outside the school, where an anti-vaccination group staged a short protest, and with this announcement raising the possibility that this could happen again, I would like to ensure total clarity around this situation and the difference between the protest made and reasoned debate.

“The group that protested outside of the school were not engaged in a science-led debate on the decision of whether or not to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds.

“Instead, they were engaged in conspiracy theories, disinformation and various other propaganda that has much in common with familiar far-right tropes.

The protest happened outside the Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School in Old Dover Road
The protest happened outside the Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School in Old Dover Road

“Whilst their protest outside school was peaceful, and very few students accepted leaflets, groups of this nature are working to spread fear and misinformation, not engage in discussion or debate.”

Anti-vaxxers staged the protest outside the school on September 6 and they dished out literature to pupils.

Two days later the Abbey School in Faversham was targeted, with police called after a woman was reportedly assaulted.

Mr Pollard has told parents the Langton will alert police if the anti-vaxxers return.

“We will do all we can to discourage students from speaking or accepting material from them,” he said.

“As previously, they will not enter the school site.

Anti-vaxxers outside The Abbey School in Faversham. Picture: Hannah Perkin
Anti-vaxxers outside The Abbey School in Faversham. Picture: Hannah Perkin

“We would welcome parental support with this and ask that you reinforce with your children that in the event of further protests they should enter school without taking any literature or engaging in conversations.”

Mr Pollard said that since the protest he has been in contact with the Kent County Council Prevent Education Officer.

Prevent is the government’s controversial strategy to combat extremist views and terrorism.

KCC shared documents with the school, which have been circulated to pupils and parents.

One is called The Anti-Vaxx Playbook, which outlines many of the common tropes and narratives used.

“As a school we continue to develop our approach to all areas of safeguarding,” Mr Pollard added.

“This academic year we will be undertaking further whole staff training around extremism and the Prevent strategy, with a focus on contextual threats for our students.

“We will also be commissioning an external review of our whole school’s safeguarding practices, policies and procedures, something we will routinely do to ensure all areas of safeguarding are as robust as we expect.”

The UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) have said children aged 12-15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on “public health grounds”.

They say it is “likely vaccination will help reduce transmission of Covid-19 in schools”.

“Covid-19 is a disease which can be very effectively transmitted by mass spreading events, especially with the Delta variant.

“Having a significant proportion of pupils vaccinated is likely to reduce the probability of such events, which are likely to cause local outbreaks in, or associated with, schools.”

Jabs will be administered at schools by NHS staff, with parents asked for their consent.

But parents may be over-ruled if a child is considered competent to make a decision by themselves.

The government hopes the first jabs will start being given from September 22.

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here

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