A group whose supporters were exposed giving Nazi salutes and chanting “white power” in an ITV documentary claim to have taught history lessons to children in at least 10 different schools.
The Steadfast Trust, whose goal, according to its website, is to “support projects that promote a positive sense of English identity, culture and heritage”, says it has organised and funded Anglo-Saxon storytelling sessions for pupils as young as seven.
Formerly a charity, the trust had its licence revoked in the wake of the documentary. The Charity Commission stated that it should never have been granted such a status in the first place, and was registered in error in 2004.
The trust’s Facebook page says that the group funded an Anglo Saxon storyteller for 80 Year 7 pupils at a secondary school in December and for 22 pupils at a primary school in January. Both were in Herefordshire and pupils were apparently also given Anglo-Saxon books and posters.
The page also says that the group funded talks at an independent school for 12- and 13-year-olds last June and a community primary school in May, both in West Sussex.
Steadfast trustee Tim Hawke, who has since been suspended, was seen in ITV’s documentary attending the event where the Nazi salutes took place. He was not shown taking part in chants or salutes, but did describe attendees, including former National Front Members, as a “nice enough bunch”.
The trust has sought to distance itself from the behaviour seen in the film, saying in a statement that: “We cannot be held responsible for the views or actions of the general public or supporters as they are not charity representatives. The abhorrent views of some of the people filmed at the ‘Battle of Maldon Commemoration’ are certainly not shared or endorsed by The Steadfast Trust.”
A post on the group’s Facebook page describes what appears to be its view on England’s Anglo-Saxon History. It reads: “At no point were we merely immigrants taking what was already there. We were a creative, settler people for which we can feel pride.”
It adds: “The Anglo Saxons were the early English who gave their name to England ‘Lands of the Angles’ we therefore didn’t arrive to live in a country; we actually created it which is why we recognise our ownership towards our land as the indigenous people.”
The group does not publicly name schools it visits, alleging in a newsletter that opponents have “harassed” those it attended in the past. It claims to have visited schools from as far back as 2009, including four sessions in Sheffield and two in Lancaster that year.
Opponents of the group allege that the trust has far right links and a Facebook page called “Stop the Steadfast Trust” has been set up. However, the Steadfast Trust contends that its educational work is warmly welcomed by schools across the nation.
Robin Tilbrook, who runs Essex-based Tilbrook’s Solicitors acting for the group, said: “We are trying to rebalance and correct the national curriculum that barely deals with English history.”
He said the group is contesting the Charity Commission’s decision to revoke its licence and will complain about the ITV show to Ofcom.
When presented with our disclosures, the Department for Education said: “Racism has no place in any school whatsoever. All schools are required to promote British values, including tolerance and respect for other cultures.
“If any evidence is presented to us that a school is not keeping children safe from the risks posed by extremism or intolerant views, it will be investigated.”
The spokesperson added it is for schools to decide who they invite on their premises.