An Eton College master sacked over a controversial lecture on gender has been cleared by a teaching watchdog in a decision hailed as a victory for “British values”.
Will Knowland’s dismissal sparked a free speech row after his online video titled The Patriarchy Paradox, tackling “radical feminist orthodoxy” and defending masculinity as a “biological reality”, was censured by the school.
He was accused of gross misconduct and sacked after declining to take down the video, but has now been cleared of professional misconduct by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).
His case had been referred to the body by Eton after Mr Rowland’s YouTube lecture emerged with its discussion how “a world without men would be awful for women” due men being stronger and more capable of physical labour
The TRA, citing the right to the expression, said “Mr Knowland does not have a case to answer in relation to the allegations, this case will be closed and no further action will be taken.”
Mr Knowland, who is preparing to take Eton to an employment tribunal, said he was “delighted that the Teaching Regulation Agency have cleared me of wrongdoing”.
He told the Sunday Times: “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.”
Mr Knowland prepared his video for the college’s Perspectives course, which is intended to expose pupils to a wide range of views, hoping to provide balance on the teaching of “toxic masculinity” and gender theory.
The video consists largely of third party views on current gender debates, touching on subjects including the vital position of men in the world economy due to biologically fixed sex differences.
One argument in the video states that the eradication of men would mean “90 per cent of the world’s present day population would die of starvation. The women that survived such a calamity would likely revert to a primitive life based on horticulture”.
Mr Knowland told the Telegraph last year that this video was shown to colleagues and met with a complaint before it was taken down from the school’s intranet.
But Mr Kowland did not remove the video from his personal Youtube account and was sacked from his position at the £42,500-a-year boarding school in 2020.
In a decision letter from the TRA it was found that he did not bring his profession into disrepute, and ruled that the decision not to take down the video was not worthy of consideration by the body.
It was argued on behalf of Mr Knowand that “what he did was supporting mutual respect and tolerance and stimulating debate on what was an emotive and topical subject”.
Statements on his behalf continued: “Promoting freedom of thought and robust, open discussion clearly upholds Eton’s ethos and practices, hence the overwhelming support from the Eton community.
“If William Knowland’s approach was wrong (and it was not) then it is difficult to know what the correct approach would have been as it would have fettered freedom of speech and Thought
“It is clear from the public reaction that cancelling the talk and dismissing William Knowland from his employment undermined fundamental British values. This brought Eton into disrepute, not the creation of the video (which was approved by Eton) or posting it on Youtube.”
The TRA concluded in his favour, stating in a document outlining its decision: “When considering this case as a whole, the Decision Maker understood that this seems to have been an isolated incident relating to one lesson.
“There is no indication that this is a pattern of behaviour or repeated conduct on Mr Knowland’s part. Given the above determination, including that Mr Knowland does not have a case to answer in relation to the allegations, this case will be closed and no further action will be taken.”
A spokesman for Eton College said: “The Teaching Regulation Agency considers only whether Mr Knowland should be barred from teaching, not whether he was properly dismissed. That 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.”