Polish schools in UK warned over far-right connections – The Guardian


An association for Polish community schools in the UK has warned its members to be vigilant amid concerns that some have connections with groups and individuals associated with the far right.

The Guardian reported on Sunday that photos posted on Facebook show events run by several Polish Saturday schools in England with banners and signs for groups that featured in a report by the anti-fascist watchdog Hope Not Hate this year.

Three schools were named as having possible far-right links. They were the Polish school of the Mother Tongue in Southampton, the Julian Tuwim Polish school of Poland-related subjects in Essex and the Adam Mickiewicz Polish Saturday school in Blackburn.

The Polish Educational Society, a charity that works with 130 Polish language Saturday schools in the UK, said it had requested explanations from the schools, with the exception of the Polish school of the Mother Tongue, which is not among its members. It has also reminded other members of their responsibilities.

The society’s chair, Krystyna Olliffe, said:We have distributed a technical guidance asking all headteachers to review their procedures regarding external engagement and tighten them up, if necessary, to rule out any future cooperation with organisations representing radical and extremist views of any kind.

“We are committed to ensuring that all Polish Saturday schools are free of harassment, hate speech or radicalism of any sort.”

Olliffe said the society has reminded schools to work closely with local authorities and the police and to report any activity in the broader Polish community that could jeopardise good community relations.

The society said it had also contacted Hope Not Hate and Faith Matters, which work to reduce extremism, with a view to jointly addressing the issue.

In a letter to the Guardian published on Friday, the Polish ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, said he would do everything he could “to prevent the spread of this narrative”. But he suggested that the problem had been overblown, warning against “sweeping generalisations”.

He said: “I am not aware of any confirmed cases where such a school has developed a serious connection with this kind of group or individual.”

The Polish school of the Mother Tongue has advertised events on its Facebook page for Ogniwo (the Link), a cultural group some of whose members have expressed racist sentiments online and which has expressed support for the far-right Polish priest Jacek Międlar, who was barred from entry to the UK by the Home Office.

The website for the the Julian Tuwim Polish school in Essex features a picture of Marian Kowalski, vice-chair of the Polish far-right political party National Movement. The school said it did not teach politics or organise political events.

The Adam Mickiewicz Polish Saturday school has photos on its Facebook page showing children performing above a banner for Polska Niepodległa, a group that has its own “patriotic magazine” and says on its website that its aim is to encourage people to fight for an independent and sovereign state. The school denied any link to the group.



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