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St Stephen’s headteacher accuses the Sunday Times of “twisting” her words

St Stephen’s headteacher accuses the Sunday Times of “twisting” her words

Categories: Latest News

Monday February 12 2018

The Middle East Eye reports that the headteacher of St Stephen’s school in Newham – the school at the centre of recent controversy after it announced the banning of the hijab for girls younger than eight – has accused the Sunday Times of misleading the public by “twisting” her words in order to stir up uproar.

Ms Neena Lall’s comments were made in regards to a video report by the Sunday Times that was released on 14th January 2018.

According to the Sunday Times report, Ms Lall said that the school had revised the uniform policy of the school in response to concerns that children did not identify as British.

However, Ms Lall has since said: “the article which came out in the Sunday Times was completely misleading. Some of the things that happened in that article were not things that have happened at this school and it just inflamed the situation”.

The Deputy Head of the school, Mr Adam Bennett, also lambasted the Sunday Times’ story, accusing the paper of manipulating footage to suit their own agenda.

“They took a lot of footage, they chopped it up, they used it how they wanted, they had their agenda and they put stuff forward to create this big debate and unfortunately our school was left in the middle of this debate”.

Ms Lall supported Mr Bennett’s statement: “[the video report] was taken from hours of footage of us speaking which was condensed to three minutes surrounding the hijab”.

She added that the Sunday Times reporter was primarily focused on the hijab despite Ms Lall telling her that she did not wish to discuss it.

“She picked on that topic in terms of the hijab and the covering, and she picked on it and she picked on it and she picked on it, and I said to her I am not willing to talk about this today”.

It is believed that the Sunday Times used the footage to connect unrelated scenes to support their agenda of igniting controversy against the presence of the hijab in a classroom setting.

Within the video report, Ms Lall says “A couple of years ago I asked the children to put their hands up if they thought they were British”, “Very few children put their hands up”.

Immediately following this statement, the video shows Ms Lall talking about the wearing of the hijab by young children and how she had spoken to the governors about the problem it may lead to.

The recording states “We were finding that some of our children were coming into nursery and reception wearing a headscarf. We then had a bit of a discussion, we spoke to the leadership team and I spoke to the governors as well and we felt that it was not an appropriate place for the children to have the headscarf in key stage one.”

This led many to the assumption that the two statements were directly related i.e. the video makes it appear that Ms Lall felt that the hijab was the reason for the children not feeling “British”.

However, Ms Lall has strongly denied linking the hijab ban to the problem of children not feeling “British”, saying that this was the result of editing carried out by the Sunday Times.

“I have never connected the two and if you watch the video again there is no connection between the two. People have linked it to stir things up but I never linked the two”, “They are not my words, it was twisted by the press and it was misinterpreted”.

She has also apologised for the hijab ban, acknowledging that it was a mistake and that the school should have communicated with the parents of the children and the local community more.

“I can see that here at St Stephen’s we made a huge error in judgment and that is why we then decided to reverse the ban. I can see how important this issue is to you and I am sorry that we didn’t recognise that and I am sorry that we didn’t communicate with you more”.

While it would appear that the Sunday Times continues to stand by the story, Ms Lall’s comments raise significant questions about the integrity of both the video report itself, and the practices of the paper more generally.

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