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Eton defends sacking teacher in free speech row as pupils back him
30 November 2020, 08:24
Eton has defended sacking one its teachers amid a free speech row as hundreds of pupils demand his reinstatement.
A controversial lecture landed Will Knowland in hot water and eventually led to the elite school removing him from post.
The English teacher was found guilty of gross misconduct after posting lecture online which allegedly broke the Equalities Act - something which he denies.
He refused to remove the video, which had over 28,000 views, after being asked several times.
Over 1,000 pupils have since signed a petition calling for him to get his job back, accusing the £42,500-a-year institution of stifling freedom of speech.
A petition set up to protest his sacking said: "There is a sense that by dismissing Mr Knowland the school is seeking to protect its new image as politically progressive at the expense of one of its own."
Eton provost Lord Waldegrave said the situation had been distorted by critics and insisted: "Eton will never cancel debate."
Writing in the Mail, he said: "Eton now, as in the past, is a school which prides itself on encouraging open-minded, independent and critical thinking.
"Boys are encouraged to think about and discuss challenging topics. Eton will never cancel debate. Everyone accepts, including the teacher concerned, that such freedom cannot be absolute."
Some in the school have expressed concern about its new headteacher sending the institution into a "world of woke".
Lord Waldegrave said there had been a "false narrative" about this, highlight guests ranging from the secretary of the Communist Party to Conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton.
"I am proud of that," he wrote, "as are we all at Eton, and we do not intend to put that tradition at risk."