Mohammed Emwazi’s former school Quintin Kynaston to face radicalisation probe

QK Headteacher Alex Atherton at the current QK school

QK Headteacher Alex Atherton at the current QK school - Credit: Archant

The Department for Education has launched an inquiry into Mohammed Emwazi’s former secondary school, to see if lessons can be learned to prevent radicalisation.

Emwazi attended St Mary Magdalene primary school, in Maida Vale, before moving on to Quintin Kynaston in St John’s Wood for his secondary education.

Quintin Kynaston is among at least five schools being probed after current or former pupils have joined terror organisations.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The Secretary of State has asked to review those schools where we have evidence of links with people who have travelled to Syria. The allegations about Quintin Kynaston may be historic and it is clearly a completely different school today, but I’m sure we will look back at the evidence from the time as part of this review to see if there are any lessons we can learn for the future.”

Speaking to the Wood&Vale, Quintin Kynaston headteacher Alex Atherton said: “Obviously there’s been an awful lot of shock.

“People have been very upset who worked here during that period of time.

“It’s a very, very serious thing, of course people are going to respond to that, but in terms of day-to-day functioning in school, you wouldn’t know of the level of press interest.”

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Mr Atherton said he was unaware of any suggestions that Emwazi had been radicalised during his time at the school.

He said: “It’s a long time ago, I haven’t been made aware by anybody that that is a concern.

“The DfE is looking at if there are lessons that can be learned, but there’s no suggestion that radicalisation took place here.

“If there are lessons to be learned for the future then of course that is a sensible thing.”

He said letters had been sent out to all parents, including prospective year sevens who were offered places earlier this week, offering the chance to raise any concerns.

He said: “I can give every confidence and reassurance that the school is fine.

“If people have concerns, they’re going to have every opportunity to talk about them.

“We were doing a great deal of things a long time before this news broke to ensure our students are equipped for the lives ahead of them.”

He said the school was already implementing the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent strategy, with staff training, specialist assemblies, and lessons giving students the opportunity to discuss issues in a safe environment.

Atherton’s work as headteacher has been applauded by Westminster Council officials.

Andrew Christie, Director of Children’s Services said: “The work at QK is a brilliant example of how by using strategies such as Prevent pupils are armed with support in order to deal with the pressure that they face.

“I have no-doubt that all the work that QK is involved in has put in-place safeguards to deal as best we can with the changing world.”

Cllr Nickie Aiken, Cabinet Member for Public Protection added: “He is leading a school which has had its issues in the past decade, and I’ve no doubt that it has changed enormously in the past nine years.”

Jo Shuter, the former headteacher of Quintin Kynaston, said Emwazi was a hard-working boy, but was tormented by bullies at school. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I can’t even begin to say the shock and the horror that I feel. Even now when I’m listening to the news and I hear his name I feel the skin on the back of my neck stand up because it is just so far from what I knew of him, and it is so shocking and so horrendous the things that he has done.”

Emwazi also studied at the University of Westminster. A spokeswoman said: “We have students from 150 countries and their safety is of paramount concern. With other universities in London, we are working to implement the government’s Prevent strategy to tackle extremism. We are setting up a dedicated pastoral team to provide advice and support.”