Headteacher contacts police after anti-Covid vaccine campaigner walks into school

Officials have urged campaigners to stop targeting schools amid reports of protesters leafleting students

Sam Hancock
Friday 24 September 2021 17:30
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<p>A 13-year-old from Newcastle speaks with a nurse on Wednesday before he receives the Pfizer Covid vaccine </p>

A 13-year-old from Newcastle speaks with a nurse on Wednesday before he receives the Pfizer Covid vaccine

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A school targeted by anti-vaxxers has been in touch with the police after staff received “abusive” threats and an “unwelcome visitor” onsite, as part of an ongoing campaign against 12- to 15-year-olds receiving Covid-19 jabs.

David Phillips, head of Chilwell School in Beeston, Nottingham, said he was forced to contact the authorities after he and members of his staff received threatening phone calls, emails and a “poster attack” in just 48 hours.

He also said an “unwelcome” campaigner walked onto the school’s premises and entered the reception area before handing him a mocked up “cease and desist” letter – while filming on their phone.

It comes after a Tory frontbencher insisted teachers should not face “unacceptable” pressure from anti-vax protesters amid the rollout of Covid-19 jabs to children.

On Thursday, Alex Burghart, the Department for Education (DfE)’s parliamentary under-secretary, condemned “dreadful anti-vaccination protests” taking place outside schools, where vaccines are predominantly being offered to 12- to 15-year-olds.

The Association of School and College Leaders has also urged campaigners to stop targeting schools amid reports of protesters leafleting students.

“In the last 48 hours I can now count up one poster attack, two voice messages, either left on the answering machine or directly to reception, I've had about five or six email contacts from people, and also an unwelcome visitor onto the school site and into our reception,” Mr Phillips told the PA news agency, before branding the campaigners “reprehensible”.

He said: “I have been in fairly frequent communication with the police through this week with the rise of the incidents mainly in order so they have a full picture of the kind of activities that take place.”

Speaking about some of the instances in greater detail, the headteacher said one of the voicemails – left at the receptionist’s phone – “was threatening violence”, used “obscene language” and mentioned him by name.

“I don’t feel that actually they have rocked my boat at all, but their behaviour remains reprehensible,” he added.

Mr Philips is now making preparations for possible protests outside the school.

Chilwell School pupils were previously handed campaign leaflets near the site in the summer term and posters were put up in the car park accusing the school of “treating children like experimental animals”.

When the school began seeking consent from parents for the Covid vaccination in the last week, Mr Phillips said incidents involving anti-vax campaigners quickly became “more frequent”.

But he stressed he had “every confidence” that the harassment was not from parents or students.

Recent guidance from the UK Health Security Agency advises headteachers to contact police if they believe protests could be held outside their buildings.

“We are very conscious about needing to make sure that we keep our students safe when they are arriving and leaving school,” Mr Phillips said.

“It’s important that we have something in place that would mean there would be minimal impact for any of our students who attend school and I’m reassured that our dialogue with the police means there would be immediate action.”

Anti-vaxxers’ push to stop the government from jabbing the youngest eligible age group comes following record absences in schools last week, after more than 100,000 children were absent with confirmed or suspected infections – the highest number for England during the pandemic.

The figures from the DfE showed that fewer than 92 per cent of pupils were present in classrooms on 16 September, with 59,000 absent with confirmed cases of Covid and a further 45,000 with suspected cases.

Meanwhile, a handful of schools in districts with high rates of the virus have asked students to wear face masks once again in communal areas.

At least four sites in Corby and two in Kettering, both in Northamptonshire, made the move after it was confirmed Kettering currently has the second-highest case rate in England and Corby the third, the BBC reports.

The county’s director of public health, Lucy Wightman, said Covid-19 in school pupils was a “challenge” and gave her support to the schools who she added were “doing the best they can”.

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