The disappearing school — and the principal who fell for Andrew Tate
‘I’m going to go right ahead and say that these charges seem bogus’
Good morning, readers — and welcome to this week’s Thursday Tribune.
At the start of this year, a spectre was haunting the UK’s schools, a spectre by the name of Andrew Tate. Teachers up and down the country were reportedly tormented by the problem of how to shield their students from his pernicious influence and infectious misogyny.
A school in Darnall, however, seems to have had a very different problem on their hands. It wasn’t the school’s teenage boys that became transfixed by the notorious online influencer. Instead, it was the school’s founder.
As well as that, a shocking cost-cutting move from Sheffield Hallam and violence in Page Hall.
Your Tribune briefing
‼️ We broke the news yesterday but, in case you didn’t see, 1,700 academic staff at Sheffield Hallam have been offered voluntary severance. A spokesperson for the university told The Tribune that, like many universities, they are “experiencing financial challenges due to a combination of increasing costs associated with inflation, rising pension costs, and a flat undergraduate fee” and must cut spending to “to remain financially stable in the future”. If you know more about this — even if you wish to be anonymous — please email email@example.com.
🚨 A 19-year-old suffered life-threatening injuries after he was shot in Page Hall in the early hours of Tuesday morning. South Yorkshire Police have yet to make any arrests and are appealing for more information. Earlier this year, we published this piece on Page Hall, speaking to residents about their experience living in the area and the challenges it faces.
🍲 Sheffield is this year’s “UK foodie capital,” according to some slightly unscientific data-crunching by a hospitality company. Our credentials include nine restaurants in and around the city appearing in the coveted Michelin Guide — although none have yet been deemed worthy of a Michelin star — and regular food events like the Sheffield Food Festival. You can read our piece from last year on the rise of Sheffield’s dining scene here.
Things to do
🎺 From noon to 8.30pm on Saturday, the Oughtibridge Brass Band are going on tour — a Christmas carol tour, to be specific. They’ll be performing in six boozers in Kelham Island and the city centre, to help them raise the funds they need to compete in the National Finals in 2024. Find out when and where to catch them here.
🎄 On Saturday night, singer-songwriter John Reilly and friends return to Sheffield for their Christmas Festival of Music, an annual tradition for the last 11 years. This year’s concert is taking place at the Octagon at the University of Sheffield and will help raise funds for Cavendish Cancer Care. Find out more details and grab your ticket here.
If you loved Holly Williams’ recent piece on the new way of making club music, algorave, then consider this your reminder to head down to Pattern Club at Theatre Deli on Sunday. The line-up includes Epiploke, the joint project of Lucy Cheesman and Alex McLean, who are quoted heavily in the piece. You can grab your ticket here.
The disappearing school – and the principal who fell for Andrew Tate
By Victoria Munro
With the benefit of hindsight, Sulaiman Ahmed’s first tweets about notorious misogynist and online influencer Andrew Tate — posted in October of last year — resemble a classic scene from a zombie film. A character is bitten but, for a short time, shows no symptoms of the virus. They look and act how they always have, only they’re doomed.
Ahmed, who co-founded and spent many years as the headteacher for a private primary and secondary school in Darnall, was responding to the news that Tate had converted to Islam. That wasn’t the only news everyone knew about Tate — a former kickboxer in his late 30s, who has built up a vast following of (mostly) young men by promoting what he calls an "ultra-masculine, ultra-luxurious lifestyle". Tate had also recently been accused of rape and human trafficking, leading to his arrest by the Romanian authorities a couple of months later, though he denies all allegations. For this reason, many Muslims disavowed Tate, with some suggesting his conversion was insincere, though others insisted everyone should be offered grace.
Ahmed fell into the latter camp. It was unfortunate, he wrote, to see members of his community “attack [Tate] for his past actions,” when “some of these very same people” were willing to excuse the misdeeds of influential Muslim preachers. At the same time, he expressed concern that Tate might be getting his information about the faith from dubious sources, who could be “conveying a stringent, ultra-conservative version of Islam,” rather than one that is “spiritually enlightening”.
Like most people, it appears he was not familiar with Tate before he rocketed to viral infamy over the course of last year. Around a week after his first tweets on the subject, Ahmed wrote that he had watched a number of the influencer’s videos “in order to understand why he is so polarising,” but was “unsure what he has said that has caused his cancellation”. By late December, he had clearly seen enough to make up his mind. Following Tate’s high-profile arrest in December, he wrote: “I’m going to go right ahead and say that these charges seem bogus.”
From a quick skim, Ahmed’s online presence prior to this point looks fairly typical — he comments on sport and politics, celebrates his professional achievements and gets into the odd debate. Go back far enough and you can even find tweets about exam results or Ofsted inspections at his school. But then it seems all other considerations fell to the wayside. In December last year, Ahmed posted just six tweets containing the word “Tate”. In January, he posted 133.
On June 20th, Ahmed announced to his followers that he had just concluded an exhaustive investigation into the allegations against Andrew Tate. “Many of you are already aware that I have devoted over six months to meticulously investigating this case,” he wrote, adding that he had spent this time “scrutinising the evidence and examining the data”. It’s easy to wonder, given all this apparent effort, where he would have found the extra time needed to run his school in Darnall.