During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was the only serving U.K. headteacher or school principal (out of over 20,000) to have publicly questioned lockdowns, masking kids and the Covid vaccine rollout to children. Many other headteachers privately agreed with my stance but told me they were too scared to speak out. A culture of censorship and self-censorship appears to have stifled open debate.
I used to feel like I was the golden boy of primary school education after creating an unorthodox curriculum at West Rise Junior School in Eastbourne, East Sussex. Alongside the usual lessons, I provided an engaging rural curriculum that you would never expect in a state school. I leased 120 acres of marshland opposite my school, the site of a former Bronze Age settlement. The children learned how to build fires and how to whittle wood with knives to make arrows. They learned to safely shoot 4:10 shotguns and how to skin rabbits and pluck pigeons. They tended beehives, sheep and even looked after our own herd of water buffalo.
I won the admiration of my peers, and in 2015, the Times Educational Supplement Primary School of the Year award. Dame Judith Hackitt, Chairman of the Health and Safety Executive, said more school headteachers should be following my example. This was because I was giving my pupils real, hands-on educational experiences.
I enjoyed very positive relationships with my staff and my employer but everything changed after I began to question the Government’s pandemic response and its impact on children.
Concerned about the impact of lockdowns, masking kids and the Covid vaccine rollout to children, I used my social media channels to express my lawful opinions. This was to inspire discussion and debate.
Regarding the Covid vaccines for children, my opinion has always been that we shouldn’t give kids a medical intervention unless there is a clear benefit and a proven safety record. Indeed, before 2020, it would have been considered extreme to have argued the opposite view.
For context, I have always focused on the same key points when publicly expressing my opinion about the Covid vaccines for children:
- Children are at extremely low risk of serious illness from Covid.
- The Covid vaccines pose known risks and have no long-term safety data.
- A child can still catch and spread Covid when vaccinated against the virus.
- In my personal opinion, the risks from the Covid vaccines outweigh any possible benefit.
Despite the above amounting to lawful free speech, as well as being factually accurate, it triggered some individuals enough to attack me for expressing this view.
My employer (East Sussex County Council) commissioned three investigations into me for publicly sharing my opinion about the rollout to children. This is despite me expressing my lawful views in a moderate and calm manner and within my own time.
The last investigation into me followed a whistleblowing complaint under Prevent. Prevent is part of the U.K. Government’s overall counter-terrorism strategy. I was also reported to the Department for Education’s Counter Extremism Division. This is because questioning Government policy on Covid was regarded as a form of extremism by the complainants.
I was cleared of all allegations of wrongdoing in relation to my right to lawful free speech following each of the independent investigations. I was also cleared by the Counter Extremism Division. This is because I have a right to lawful free speech within the U.K. Nonetheless, my employer said that I could be repeatedly investigated in the future if the same complaint was raised. This was clearly a deliberate attempt to silence ‘disapproved of views’ using the complaints procedure.
I previously enjoyed a highly successful, 20 year career as a headteacher. I was consistently praised by Ofsted and had extensive, very positive national media coverage for my educational ethos. Even though my education initiatives were potentially controversial, I never received a single complaint. Yet questioning the Government’s pandemic response cast me as an extremist in the eyes of some individuals, ultimately ending my much-loved career.
A freedom of information request which I made to the U.K. Government’s Department for Culture Media and Sports (DCMS) revealed that my social media posts had been monitored by the Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU). This played a significant role in the attacks on my lawful free speech.
Instead of monitoring actual terrorists, the U.K.’s shadowy disinformation units, in liaison with the intelligence agencies and Big Tech, monitored people like me. My ‘offence’ on one occasion was saying that “Children have wonderful immune systems” and “As a headteacher, I have a legal duty to safeguard children against harm”.
At the same time, psychological nudge units were employed by the U.K. Government to encourage the public to view anyone who questioned the Government as an extremist.
Members of the public, who had been evangelised by the now debunked ‘safe and effective’ mantra set about hunting down those who questioned Government pandemic policy – often reporting them to their employers and unleashing what I have described as Britain’s unofficial social credit system. In other words, seeking to punish them via the complaints process and cancel culture.
This Chinese Communist-style censorship and self-censorship by vast numbers of the population allowed ever more extreme policies to go unchallenged and unchecked. For example, the Government announcing that a child would not require parental consent to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Or the Government ignoring the advice of the JCVI and pushing ahead with the rollout for children.
Didn’t the 77th Brigade and the like have any real terrorists and extremists to go after?
My experience has compelled me to take my employer to the employment tribunal. My claims include discrimination, harassment, preventing me from making a protected disclosure and constructive dismissal. Five days have now been allocated by a court for a hearing in November 2024.
Lawful free speech is the foundation of a healthy democracy. We should encourage debate and lawful free speech on all matters. Particularly when it comes to safeguarding children against harm. The Covid pandemic appears to have hindered open debate and people now self-censor out of fear of reprisals.
My court case is therefore one which I am fighting for everyone within the workplace, regardless of their background, belief or views. Employers should not be emboldened to silence the lawful opinions of those they disagree with.
I have brought my claim in the employment tribunal with the support of the Free Speech Union and leading civil liberties barrister Paul Diamond. Paul was the barrister in the famous ‘British Airways Cross’ case and other high profile cases.
I have also enjoyed the support of the Telegraph on their Planet Normal podcast (from 29 minutes), with Allison Pearson and Liam Hannigan recently getting behind me.
This legal battle raises substantive issues of freedom of speech and of the state suppressing opposing views – something which we should all be concerned about and actively resisting.
If you would like to support my case, please go to the Democracy 3.0 website, navigate to ‘campaigns’ and click on ‘A Legal Battle for Free Speech‘.