Criticised by Piers Morgan and making headlines across the country – but who really is “woke” Howden headteacher Lee Hill?
This week, Mr Hill attracted national news coverage after announcing that the houses at Howden Junior School would be renamed to recognise modern icons like Marcus Rashford and Greta Thunberg, as opposed to “problematic” historical figures like Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake.
Announcing the plans on Twitter, Mr Hill said the changes were made on the back of a letter he had received from a former pupil, who shared her concerns about her school houses being named in honour of people with links to the slave trade and other parts of Britain’s colonial past.
The story has divided opinion and caught the interest of Piers Morgan, who on Tuesday morning’s episode of Good Morning Britain ranted that the deicison was a “shocker”, labelling Mr Hill “ultra woke” and accusing him of “cancelling” the likes of Raleigh and Drake.
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“Next it’ll be Winston Churchill with this guy, old tattoo boy, he’ll be cancelling Churchill. He’ll be cancelling everybody for being despicable, rather than teaching children about our history,” he added.
But current parents at the school, as well as many other members of the Howden community, have stood up for Mr Hill in the face of such criticism. They want Piers Morgan to know the truth about the man, they call a “super head”.
One mum at the school commented on Facebook: “He’s a fantastic teacher and has done nothing but great things for my kids’ school.
“All he did was change the names to more current times – not rewrite history.”
Watch: Piers Morgan accuses Lee Hill of ‘cancelling’ historical figures
Another person said: “I look back at when I was at school and teachers were so old, I’m glad to see new fresh young teachers coming through.
“I don’t think people realise how much patience you actually need to be a teacher. I couldn’t do it. This lockdown has taught me that and probably 80 per cent of parents who have had to teach at home.
“I’m thankful that people still want to teach as it’s hard work. Be grateful we have teachers. I think he sounds great.”
Another parent at the school said: “I can only go on my own personal experience of my son in his school and quite honestly I can stand for the vast majority of parents and the community that, as a headteacher, he is outstanding.
“He turned around my son’s whole attitude and school life, he has climbed over all the Covid hurdles and still put the children’s best interests at heart in every way he possibly could.”
One woman, who said her sister went to the school, said: “I don’t think it is as dramatic as everyone is making out – so what if they are different?
“I think the headteacher at Howden Junior School is doing a brilliant job, my sister loves going to school and learns all about British history – and history from other cultures – as well as current events.”
Referencing Piers labelling Mr Hill “old tattoo boy”, she added: “It’s bang out of order to judge someone on their tattoos, does that affect his teaching ability? I don’t think it does.”
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Another school mum said: “This is a headteacher who’s gone above and beyond for the pupils of Howden Junior School before, during and I’m sure after Covid.
“My son attends this school and from my child’s time there I have nothing but praise for Lee as a headteacher and for what he’s done and will continue to do for this school.”
Last year, Mr Hill received support on Twitter from activist footballer Marcus Rashford – now honoured in the school’s house names alongside climate activist Great Thunberg, Joe Biden inauguration poet Amanda Gorman and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai – for playing his part in the free school meals campaign.
The school worked with Co-op and Howden Helpers to ensure those eligible for the meals had enough food for the half-term break after MPs voted not to extend the scheme through the holidays.
Mr Hill asked anyone who did not meet the criteria for free school meals, but was struggling, to contact him directly.
He said in a letter to parents and carers at the time: “As we will be aware, many families are going through increased financial hardship due to the knock-on effects of job losses, furlough and reduced hours caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Schools up and down the country are seeing more and more children arriving to school hungry and going without.
“Our responsibility as a school system goes beyond providing for the academic needs of our children, and – as was the case during lockdown – it falls on us to support our most in need within our school community.”
In recognition of his amazing work for his school and the community, Mr Hill has been nominated for ‘key worker of the year’ in the Hull Live Heart of East Yorkshire Awards 2021.
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One parent said: “Mr Hill has been an incredible headteacher through this pandemic. He has hosted lots of events at the school to give the children something to look forward to. He made Christmas magical with an inflatable Santa and snowball fighting.
“He has ensured no child goes hungry and has loaned out laptops so all children can access home learning.
“He has prioritised the welfare and happiness of the children and they have enjoyed being at school despite the horrors going on in the world at the moment.”
The “super head” has, since the start of the January lockdown, helped to raise £20,000 in donations for ventures related to his school and wider community.
There is still time to nominate other community heroes, simply by visiting www.hull-liveheartawards.co.uk. Nominations close on Sunday, March 21.