Brexit ‘propaganda’ appeared on school digital noticeboards, MP claims

‘I don’t think it should be there as it is a really sensitive subject,’ says concerned parent

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Thursday 26 September 2019 20:25 BST
Stella Creasy confronts Boris Johnson over Brexit propaganda in schools

A presentation on Boris Johnson and his Brexit stance which was allegedly broadcast to hundreds of digital noticeboards in primary schools has sparked outrage among parents and MPs.

Labour MP Stella Creasy called on the prime minister to ensure schools remain “Brexit propaganda-free zones” after parents raised concerns about alleged pro-government slides.

The clips, shared on social media, included the image of a Union Jack with the caption “He [Mr Johnson] wants to unite the UK”. Another said: “He has promised Brexit will be done.”

“He had promised to put more money into schools, more money into the NHS and 20,000 police officers back on the streets,” another caption said.

In the Commons, Ms Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, claimed that the messages were streamed on 3,000 digital noticeboards in primary schools “without the prior consent” of headteachers.

It is understood that the digital noticeboards are run by company Anomaly – which produces content for screens in schools. Parents were told that the video would be removed amid the concerns.

Nicola Herring, whose two children attend schools in Walthamstow, raised her concerns with Ms Creasy and Anomaly when she saw the video had been broadcast in a nearby school.

“It was all very one-sided with colourful pictures to get the attention of the kids,” she told The Independent. “As it was being streamed out, I was concerned that it might affect other schools.”

Ms Herring claims that she spoke to the firm’s managing director who said the video had been sent out to 3,000 schools on Wednesday morning. “I don’t think it should be there,” she said.

“It is a really sensitive subject at the moment and I think the reason there is so much division is because every single person has a personalised view and response to what’s going on,” she told The Independent.

The company’s website and Twitter account were unavailable on Thursday after complaints were raised.

In an interview with trade newspaper Schools Week, Phil Austin, managing director of Anomaly, claimed that the screenshots of the videos had been taken out of context.

He said the slides were from a wider educational presentation about British prime ministers, adding that it also covers anti-Brexit arguments.

Mr Austin has apologised for any distress caused but he has refused to share the full presentation, according to the report.

Following these comments, Ms Creasy told The Independent: “Schools were not asked for their consent before this video was shown and the refusal of the company to hand over the full document, as well as aggressive approach to parents who asked to see it, raises further questions about their conduct.

“That the prime minister didn’t answer the concerns parents raised with me will further trouble many and our ability to ensure our schools are propaganda free zones.”

It is understood that Anomaly runs content on school noticeboards covering issues such as British values, anti-bullying and healthy lifestyles.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are not immediately aware of instances in which propaganda has been transmitted on to digital noticeboards without the knowledge of schools. Any such instance would clearly be completely unacceptable and we are sure school leaders would take immediate and appropriate action.”

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Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday evening, Ms Creasy said: “Earlier today parents in Walthamstow contacted me extremely concerned about the content of a presentation about the prime minister’s proposals and Brexit that had been broadcast on what transpires to be 3,000 digital noticeboards of primary schools around this country without the prior consent of the schools.”

She called on Mr Johnson to reassure Walthamstow residents that “it wasn’t his doing” and to give his personal pledge that primary schools will remain “Brexit propaganda-free zones.”

But Mr Johnson just said Ms Creasy was “bringing me news” on the issue before outlining his general spending pledge for primary schools.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said the videos were not part of the government’s ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ public information campaign, while Councillor Grace Williams, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “Waltham Forest Council has been in contact with the school to find out more and provide appropriate support and guidance.”

Anomaly Group has been approached for comment by The Independent.

A councillor Grace Williams, cabinet Member for children, young people and families, said: “Waltham Forest Council has been in contact with the school to find out more and provide appropriate support and guidance.”

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