Parents fight war of words over Eton headmaster's culture change

Parents fight war of words over Eton headmaster’s culture change as critics are labelled ‘old, white men’

  • English teacher Will Knowland sacked over controversial lecture, sparking a row
  • Head Master Simon Henderson has denied that he wanted to ‘shut down debate’ 
  • Students are ‘almost unanimously supportive of Simon’ says a student’s mother

A war of words has broken out among Eton parents about headmaster Simon Henderson and his moves to change the culture of the £42,500-a-year school.

When he sacked popular English teacher Will Knowland over an online lecture questioning ‘current radical feminist orthodoxy’, Henderson was accused of implementing a progressive ‘woke’ agenda and suppressing free speech.

But one mother got in touch with The Mail on Sunday to insist that Henderson was supported by most boys, arguing that the recent public criticism was driven by Old Etonians rather than current pupils.

‘Those complaining are mostly old, white men,’ she said. ‘The students who are actually there are almost unanimously supportive of Simon.

Eton headmaster Simon Henderson (pictured) was accused of implementing a progressive ‘woke’ agenda and suppressing free speech after sacking English teacher Will Knowland

‘I don’t think he is trying to screw with tradition for the sake of it, but it will be a problem for Eton if it doesn’t get more progressive than it’s been in the past.

‘The episode with Will Knowland is complicated but this row seems to have grown from that into some kind of referendum on Simon’s headship.

‘If I phoned up my old school and said “it’s time for the head to go”, absolutely nobody would care. Why are Old Etonians any different?’ 

But another mother attacked reports the head is supported by a silent majority of parents, describing them as wide of the mark.

Pupils who signed a 2,600-name petition demanding Knowland’s reinstatement had done so of their own free will,’ she added.

The lecture was never actually delivered at Eton, but a video of the Patriarchy Paradox was uploaded to Mr Knowland’s own YouTube page. Mr Knowland (pictured) was sacked after refusing to take it down

‘I am sick of the boys being used as pawns in this PR game being run by the school,’ she said. ‘The headmaster knows how to divide to conquer and this appears to be his strategy.

‘The boys were not manipulated into signing the petition. The signatories stand united in their condemnation at the sacking of one of the most . . . respected beaks [teachers].’

And she is anxious about the impact of Mr Henderson’s progressive views on her sons.

She said: ‘I am concerned that boys at Eton are no longer being affirmed for just being boys. 

‘They are exposed as early as their first year to a programme on “Identity” which involves attending half-day workshops given by an organisation whose mission values are “Gender Transformative” and “rooted in women’s experiences, voices and scholarship”.

‘To my knowledge only one member of staff has attended the workshops. They are held in private. As a mother I am extremely worried.’

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