Press Release : Eton teacher - no case to answer. Not guilty of professional misconduct.


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Posted on 16 Aug 2021

Press Release : Eton teacher - no case to answer. Not guilty of professional misconduct.

Eton teacher - no case to answer. Not guilty of professional misconduct. 

Will Knowland, a teacher formerly of Eton College, was reported to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) by the school for alleged professional misconduct. He has been informed by the TRA that he does not have a case to answer - “The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) has completed its investigation. The determination meeting has concluded that your case should be closed with no further action…”.

Mr Knowland taught at Eton for eight years until the Autumn of 2020. As part of Eton’s PSHE Perspectives course for 16 and 17 year olds Mr Knowland recorded a lecture titled “the Patriarchy Paradox”. The specific aim of the video was to stimulate debate. The video’s content was approved by the College and uploaded to Mr Knowland’s personal education-based YouTube channel. The lecture was due to be delivered to Eton pupils but was not released after one teacher raised concerns about its content.

Subsequently, the Headmaster asked Mr Knowland to remove the film from public view. Mr Knowland agreed to this on the basis he was given an adequate explanation of its alleged inappropriateness. Despite numerous requests this was not provided. Eton went on to report Mr Knowland to the TRA. 

The allegations faced before the TRA included that Mr Knowland’s conduct had “undermined the fundamental British values of mutual respect and/or tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs” and had “failed to safeguard student wellbeing”. If found guilty of the allegations and professional misconduct this may have ended Mr Knowland’s teaching career.

In coming to its decision, the regulator stated it is understood that the majority of comments made by Mr Knowland were references to studies or views of third parties. The Decision Maker considered the comments made by Mr Knowland throughout the 30-minute video. The Decision Maker did not consider that, at its highest, the comments (when considered against the context of the curriculum and video as a whole) 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.

Simon Henthorn (Head of Education at Doyle Clayton) who represented Will Knowland in the TRA process said “I am delighted with this result for Will. It is important to highlight that the TRA has made its decision at the first stage of its procedure, avoiding the need to go through a professional misconduct hearing which would have been a time-consuming and stressful process for Will.”

Simon adds “The decision also marks a victory for freedom of speech in schools. In producing the video, William Knowland was aiming to promote freedom of thought and stimulating debate on what was an emotive and topical subject. The robust open discussion clearly upholds Eton’s ethos and practices, hence the overwhelming support of the Eton community. It would have been particularly controversial for the education sector as a whole if the allegations had been proven. Thankfully the TRA reached a sensible decision.”

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Simon Henthorn

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