A teacher who was sacked by Eton over an anti-feminist video has been cleared of professional misconduct.
Will Knowland, 35, was removed from his role at the prestigious Berkshire school and referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) after refusing to take down a lecture challenging the theory of ‘toxic masculinity’ from YouTube.
The lecture, in which the English teacher quoted a Marie Claire article which quoted a woman as saying she to be overwhelmed by the ‘sheer power of her husband’s masculinity in the bedroom but wasn’t because she felt like the man in the relationship,’ was prepared for older pupils at the £42,500-a-year school.
Mr Knowland was sacked after he repeatedly refused requests from the college’s headmaster Simon Henderson to take the video down.
The TRA, part of the Department for Education, has the power to impose lifetime classroom bans on teachers, and ruled that Knowland’s case ‘should be closed with no further action’.
The watchdog’s judgement dismissed all charges laid by Eton over the 30-minute video entitled The Patriarchy Paradox, according to The Sunday Times.
Will Knowland, 35, was removed from his role at the prestigious Berkshire school and referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) after posting a lecture on Youtube challenging the theory of ‘toxic masculinity’
Eton, where Mr Knowland had taught for eight years, alleged that he had committed serious misconduct over his lecture entitled The Patriarchy Paradox
The TRA said it had ‘considered the comments made by Mr Knowland throughout the 30-minute video. The decision-maker did not consider that, at its highest, the comments… could amount to unacceptable professional conduct; conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute and/or a conviction of a relevant offence, which could result in a prohibition order being appropriate.’
Eton, where Mr Knowland had taught for eight years, alleged that he had committed serious misconduct.
The video was claimed to be offensive to women and the LGBTQ+ community, and in breach of fundamental values of tolerance and respect.
Mr Knowland, who now works as a private tutor, told The Sunday Times this weekend that he was ‘naturally delighted’ to have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the TSA.
‘This has upheld my view that both Eton’s ethos and fundamental British values are best served by pursuing a robust approach to debate within the curriculum.’
‘The decision marks a victory for freedom of speech in schools,’ Mr Knowland’s lawyer Simon Henthorn told the paper.
The TRA did not comment on the ruling but Eton told The Sunday Times: ‘Mr Knowland’s dismissal met the criteria which required Eton to refer the matter to the TRA. The TRA has agreed with the school’s submission that barring him from teaching would not be appropriate’.
Mr Knowland is now taking Eton to an employment tribunal.
Speaking to Times Radio earlier this year, he claimed the lecture was a ‘counter argument’ to lessons about ‘toxic masculinity’ at the college.
‘To help you understand what that orthodox narrative is, the boys are given half-day training sessions by an external organisation called the Good Lad Initiative and that has been described by one of its former members as “encouraging boys to see themselves through a prism of toxic masculinity and dysfunction”.
‘Now I don’t think it is fair and responsible to encourage boys to see themselves in this way exclusively.
‘I think it’s fair for them to consider the arguments regarding toxic masculinity but they should also be given counter arguments.
‘The aim (of my video) was to provide a counter weight to what they are normally taught on this topic.’
Mr Knowland, a father-of-five, was asked if the lecture was worth losing his job over, prompting him to reply: ‘Controversy is essential to any form of education, it is the clash of ideas that education really depends upon. It’s something that, if you take away, fundamentally leaves education lacking in the most important respect.’
But he was also forced to defend himself over claims in his video that male-on-male rape in prisons outnumbered male-to-female rape outside of jails.
The claims were criticised as incorrect by charities and led some people who initially backed Mr Knowland to pull back their support.
‘I don’t think those figures belittle female rape, it doesn’t belittle rape at all, if anything it draws greater attention to the problem that rape is, whether male on male or male on female rape, is a real issue.’
He had earlier said his sacking put the exclusive school’s ‘soul at risk’.