UK Disinformation Unit Monitored Headmaster Who Questioned COVID-19 Vaccines For Children

UK Disinformation Unit Monitored Headmaster Who Questioned COVID-19 Vaccines For Children
Mike Fairclough, headmaster of West Rise Junior School in Eastbourne, England, in an undated file photo. (Russell Sachs)
Owen Evans

A headmaster who questioned the effects of lockdown and masking on children, as well as the mRNA vaccine rollout, was reported to the UK’s terror watchdog and had his social media posts monitored by government disinformation units.

In January, Westminster confirmed that it had monitored lockdown critics including Conservative MPs and journalists on social media platforms via its disinformation units, after documents were obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch.
Headmaster Mike Fairclough, who has 20 years’ experience in running the state-funded West Rise Junior School for 7- to 11-year-olds in Eastbourne on the south coast, told The Epoch Times that he also had been monitored.
Fairclough was one of the very few voices in education, and the only serving headmaster, to express concerns over the effects of the response to the pandemic on children and the resultant mental health problems.

“My personal belief is that the risks from these vaccines outweigh any possible benefits for a child,” Fairclough told The Epoch Times.

“I have conveyed my opinion using my social media channels, generally by reposting and quoting mainstream media articles which have supported my stance,” he added.

Fairclough said that colleagues within the education sector have remained “publicly silent” on the subject of the vaccines for children and that “there is still an air of fear and caution around even mildly sceptical conversations about it.”

A person using a computer in an undated file photo. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Media)
A person using a computer in an undated file photo. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Media)

Counter Disinformation Unit

Fairclough submitted requests for copies of his data held by government disinformation units, which The Epoch Times has seen.

The Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU), part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), leads the UK government’s operational response to “domestic disinformation threats online.”

During the pandemic, the government used different units including the CDU, the Rapid Response Unit, and the Government Information Cell. Each had roles in “tackling harmful narratives online,” and monitoring and flagging “disinformation” content to social media companies.

A government spokesman previously told the Epoch Times that these units used publicly available data, including material shared on social media platforms, to assess UK “disinformation trends and narratives.”

A government spokesperson told Epoch Times by email: “Online disinformation is a serious threat to the UK and public health, which is why during the pandemic we brought together expertise from across government to monitor disinformation about COVID.

“These units monitor publicly available data, including material shared on social media platforms, to assess UK disinformation trends and narratives.”

He added that “they did not target individuals or take any action that could impact anyone’s ability to discuss and debate issues freely.”

One Twitter post was flagged by the CDU in February 2022. Fairclough wrote: “Natural immunity is more powerful than vaccines. Antibodies in un-jabbed Covid survivors are ’stronger' over time than in people who’ve had two shots but no infection.”

“Hence no need to vaccinate naturally immune children against Covid-19,” he wrote, adding an article from the Daily Mail that reported on a study that found that people who’ve had COVID-19 but no jabs may have longer-lasting immunity than those who’ve been double-jabbed.


Fairclough also said that because of his views, he was reported to the Home Office’s flagship counter-extremism policy Prevent, which aims to identify people at risk of committing terrorist acts.

“Thankfully, I’ve been cleared of all wrong-doing each and every time and therefore continued to campaign,” he said.

The email came from a whistleblower who had raised concerns about Fairclough’s opinions relating to “the anti-government and anti-vaccine messaging” he posted on Facebook and other platforms. It was also sent to Ofsted, the Children’s Commissioner, and the Department of Education’s Counter Terrorism team.

An investigation found “no evidence of Mr Fairclough breaking Headteacher Standards and principles afforded those who hold positions of trust and high standing members of the community.”

There are 362 pupils at West Rise who come mainly from the local council estate, places which are often part of England’s poorest neighbourhoods. The school has a very close connection to nature, with a farm, a forest school, beekeeping sites, and children are taught to use knives and guns and to forage for food.

‘Galloping Authoritarianism’

The Free Speech Union (FSU) told The Epoch Times by email that Fairclough had approached them to discuss legal options.

“The way he’s been treated is a disgrace,” said FSU founder Toby Young.

“Prevent was set up to counter extremism, not to monitor critics of government policy. This episode is typical of the way the state apparatus of counter-extremism, which was originally set up to protect people from terrorists, has been repurposed to suppress domestic dissent,” he said.

“This fundamental shift, with the so-called counter-terrorism experts training their spyglasses away from ISIS training camps and towards domestic citizens like Mike was happening before the pandemic, but has accelerated significantly over the past three years,” he added.

Young said that we “need to urgently address this galloping authoritarianism before Britain descends into an Orwellian dystopia.”

“The real extremists are the officials in shadowy parts of the British state who’ve been so captured by woke ideology they’ve convinced themselves that a schoolteacher who has concerns about forcing children to wear masks in lessons is a threat to national security,” added Young.

Fairclough was suspended from Twitter last year, though he has now been reinstated.

“If you are in fear, and you can’t actually speak out when there are clear harms going on, then they’ve got you,” he said.

“Moving forward, we need to be able to have a culture which celebrates different opinions and which embraces questions about things,” he added.

Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.
Related Topics