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Ark stands by chair Marshall over social media activity

Ark Schools has backed its chair Sir Paul Marshall, the Conservative party donor and media mogul, after he was accused of liking and sharing far-right extremist posts and conspiracy theories on social media.

The News Agents podcast and Hope Not Hate, a charity opposing far-right extremism, reported last week Marshall had retweeted and liked content “which is on the most extreme end of political opinion about Islam” from a private account on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Marshall liked posts including one that stated the “native European population is losing patience with fake refugee invaders”, the investigation found.

They said he also liked another post that stated: “There has never been a country that has remained peaceful with a sizeable Islamic presence. Why do our leaders believe Britain would be an exception to that rule? Once the Muslims get to 15 to 20 per cent of the population the current cold civil war will turn hot.”

Ark should ‘sever ties’

Labour MP Sam Tarry, who has an Ark school in his constituency, called on the trust to “sever their ties straight away”, saying it was an “utter disgrace” he is “still in place”.

The MP for Ilford South added: “My constituency is the most diverse in the whole of Britain, with 80 per cent of my constituents coming from ethnic minority backgrounds. This vile racism endorsed by Marshall is a throwback to the 1970s and totally unacceptable.”

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for Ark, which has 39 schools, said it is a “diverse organization which exists to serve communities of all faiths and cultures”.

The statement, sent on behalf of the trust’s board, added Marshall had “made clear” in a statement “that he shares those values, as is evidenced by his decades of charitable work, including with Ark”.

A spokesperson for hedge fund owner Marshall, who also co-founded GB News, said the sample of posts “does not represent his views”.

“As most X/Twitter users know, it can be a fountain of ideas, but some of it is of uncertain quality and all his posts have now been deleted to avoid any further misunderstanding. “

The podcast also accused him of re-posting a meme shared by a far-right youtuber, which stated: “God may or may not be real, but the other side is so passionate, so committed to worshipping Satan, evil, homosexuality and corrupting children that even if God wasn’t real, believing in him to fend these demons off is preferable.”

The posts were deleted when Marshall was approached by the News Agents.

Trustees expected to ‘uphold reputation’

Marshall co-founded Ark Schools and serves on its board and that of its parent charity, Absolute Return For Kids.

He also helped set up the Education Policy Institute, departing as its chair only last year, and served as a non-executive director of the Department for Education.

There are no national standards for how school governors and trustees should behave, and trusts create their own codes of conduct, which they do not have to publish online.

Schools Week could not find a copy of Ark’s code on the internet.

Emma Knights, co-chief executive of the National Governance Association, said their own model code of conduct for academy trusts “expects trustees to uphold the trust’s reputation in private communications, including on social media”.

“Therefore our view is the position of a trustee who brings a trust into disrepute through social media posts should absolutely be questioned and when serious terminated.

“It is up to trust boards what their own code contains, but I would very much hope that this situation is covered.”

In the case of academy trusts, it is the responsibility of controlling members of the trust to hire and fire trustees.

In Ark’s case, its sole member is the charity Absolute Return For Kids, of which Marshall is also a trustee.

Marshall was once a prominent Liberal Democrat supporter and close ally of former schools minister David Laws.

He split with the party to back Brexit and went on to donate £500,000 to the Conservative Party and is now reported to be interested in buying the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

He was knighted for services to education and philanthropy in 2016.

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