Eton College has temporarily closed due to a coronavirus outbreak among students and teachers.
The £42,500-a-year school’s headmaster Simon Henderson wrote a letter to parents saying ‘a large number of symptomatic boys and staff tested positive’ for the virus.
Mr Henderson said there is a ‘real danger’ the number could spiral out of control this weekend if action isn’t taken in a letter seen by MailOnline.
He did not specify how many pupils tested positive at the boarding school – which houses boys between the ages of 13 and 18.
Students will continue to learn remotely until the end of term.
The shock closure of the school comes in the midst of a row over free speech which saw teacher Will Knowland sacked for challenging so-called modern feminist views about ‘toxic masculinity’ in an online lecture.
Sources within the school have pointed out that fewer boys will now be on site when the verdict of Mr Knowland’s appeal is announced next week – amid murmurings of student protests.
Eton College has temporarily closed due to a coronavirus outbreak among students and teachers (file image)
The £42,500-a-year school’s headmaster Simon Henderson wrote a letter (pictured) to parents saying ‘a large number of symptomatic boys and staff tested positive’ for the virus
Mr Henderson said there is a ‘real danger’ the number could spiral out of control this weekend if action isn’t taken in a letter seen by MailOnline. Pictured: A file image of Eton students and staff, taken before the pandemic
The letter sent today read: ‘Having been largely Covid free since Long Leave, a number of symptomatic boys and staff have tested positive in the past few days. We are awaiting results on several others, with more scheduled to be tested.
Mr Henderson (pictured) did not specify how many pupils tested positive at the boarding school – which houses boys between the ages of 13 and 18
‘We also now have a significant number of boys and staff self-isolating as close contacts.’
He said it was clear there is ‘Covid within the school’.
He added: ‘Having taken medical advice, we believe there is a real danger that the number of cases could increase significantly over the weekend and into next week unless we take action.
‘The health and well being of the school community is my top priority.’
Students will be encouraged to head home before the weekend.
Pupils who are unable to get home at such short notice will be able to stay in the school this weekend and into next week ‘if necessary’, the letter read.
The decision to close the school comes in the middle of students’ end-of-term exams called ‘trials’.
Several students will now have to sit the tests at home.
Eton has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks after teacher Mr Knowland lost his job after challenging so-called modern feminist views about ‘toxic masculinity’ in an online lecture.
His dismissal for reportedly refusing to take down his lecture from his personal YouTube channel has put the school at the centre of a storm of protest over its supposedly ‘woke’ values under current headmaster Mr Henderson.
Some figures who initially backed Mr Knowland have since distanced themselves after learning more about the lecture, which included incorrect statistics about rape.
The shock closure of the school comes in the midst of a row over free speech which saw teacher Will Knowland (pictured) sacked for challenging so-called modern feminist views about ‘toxic masculinity’ in an online lecture
The English teacher also quoted an article saying women wanted to be ‘overwhelmed by the sheer power of masculinity’.
This week, Mr Knowland attended an appeal hearing chaired by Princes William and Harry’s ex-housemaster, with a verdict expected within seven days.
If the original decision is upheld, he will look to a little-known piece of legislation to try and continue the fight, it has now emerged.
In a note to supporters, seen by the Telegraph, he said: ‘Another way in which I might hope to secure the support of members of both Houses of Parliament is by lodging a petition for a Personal Bill.
‘My petition would be to try to secure a Personal Act of Parliament reinstating me as a Master at Eton College. Like any Bill that goes through Parliament, there would be scrutiny by a select committee of my case, and any petition opposing the Bill by the College. Parliament would hear evidence and submissions from counsel.’
Parliament describes Personal Bills as a type of private bill relating to the ‘estate, property, status or style, or otherwise to the personal affairs of an individual’.
Rather than public legislation, which affects everyone in the country equally, private bills are far smaller in scale and only have an impact on specific groups of people.
They have rarely been used in modern times, having last been seen more than 30 years ago in 1987, when they allowed specific couples to marry.
During the first Covid-lockdown, Eton offered its empty boarding houses to key workers who were isolating from their families. It also created free online courses for teenagers.
How ‘Trendy Hendy’ is overseeing a woke revolution at Eton
Headmaster Simon Henderson transformed Britain’s most famous school into a place which reflects right-on preoccupations befitting his nickname ‘Trendy Hendy’
Simon Henderson took over his role as Eton College headmaster five years ago and was nicknamed ‘Trendy Hendy’ by pupils.
He is said to have a habit of wearing chino trousers and open-necked shirts, overseeing what has been viewed as a cultural change at the famous school.
Mr Henderson once suggested he might get rid of Eton’s traditional tailcoats and is known to be interested by modern management techniques.
In 2016, he announced plans to split Eton’s deputy head-master role into two, creating one deputy head for ‘academic’ affairs and another for ‘pastoral’ matters.
He has also created a new role of ‘director of inclusion education’ to oversee diversity at Eton, and made a woman the Lower Master, or deputy head, for the first time.
A source has told the Telegraph that Mr Henderson ‘feels strongly’ about changing perceptions of Eton as an ‘old fashioned pillar of social and male elitism’.
The school has pointed out that the decision to sack Mr Knowland was taken by a disciplinary panel that the headmaster doesn’t sit on.