Schools warned over invitation to Katie Hopkins

Teaching union officials and the Scottish Government have issued a warning to schools after it emerged that controversial TV personality Katie Hopkins has been booked to address pupils at Scottish state schools as part of a nationwide public speaking tour.
Katie Hopkins. PIC: Ross ParryKatie Hopkins. PIC: Ross Parry
Katie Hopkins. PIC: Ross Parry

The former LBC host and right-wing newspaper columnist, who left her job at the radio station after making comments in the wake of the Manchester bombing, has apparently secured bookings for her talks at schools in Scotland, as well as in Wales, where she will discuss the “political and media landscape” with high school students. Writing on Twitter, Ms Hopkins said she waited with “baited breath” for education secretary John Swinney’s view on whether she was “too unkind” for Scotland.

Mr Swinney corrected her: “It’s ‘bated’ breath, as anyone hoping to educate our youngsters should know.”

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The Scottish Government said that Ms Hopkins was “not someone” it would “choose to invite” to speak to Scottish schoolchildren and urged schools to consider values of “tolerance, diversity and inclusion” when booking speakers.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s biggest teaching union urged schools to be “cautious” if considering inviting Ms Hopkins to speak and said the columnist’s views were “incompatible” with the “welcoming environment” championed by Scotland’s education system.

The event, called “Stand Strong”, is billed as a one-hour talk with a questions and answer session which Ms Hopkins has said she wants to give to children aged 14 to 16 who are attending state schools.

A leaflet advertising her tour says: “We need to make better choices. Opinions are not right or wrong. Life is not an exam. And no-one made you invigilator. If your friends want to change your opinions, change your friends. Know why you believe in your views, welcome the thoughts of others. Own your opinions and stand strong.“

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An email believed to be sent from Ms Hopkins’s agent, Mark Cross, to a school which expressed an interest in hosting Ms Hopkins and which was circulated on social media, stated: “The Stand Strong tour is open to all state run schools interested in open debate and current political/media landscape. We already have venues confirmed in both Wales and Scotland.”

Ms Hopkins tweeted about the so-called Stand Strong Tour, saying: “Young people. Persuade your school and I will be there.” She will tackle a list of controversial topics including Brexit, Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement, how to reject social media shaming and “fake news”.

Hopkins has previously written columns claiming liberal teachers are “brainwashing” children.

A spokesman for the EIS, Scotland’s biggest teaching union, said: “We were unaware of this proposed tour, and have not heard of any state school in Scotland taking up this offer.

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“Any school or teacher that might consider taking up the option to invite this particular speaker should be cautious and consider the message that this might send to young people within the school and to the wider school community. “Many of the views espoused by this individual in the past are incompatible with the type of inclusive and welcoming environment that Scotland’s schools work very hard to provide.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Government is committed to fostering tolerance, diversity and inclusion, and we would hope that in deciding who to invite schools would hold firmly to these values.”

The Welsh education secretary Kirsty Williams described Ms Hopkins as “unpleasant” and said there are “much better speakers available”.

Hopkins is famed for her controversial views, and was ridiculed in the wake of the recent attack in London after declaring the city was ‘cowed’.

She has also come under fire for calling First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ‘the ginger dwarf from the North’.

Ms Hopkins’s agent Mr Cross was not available for comment