Teachers threatened with sackings in gay author dispute

The bitter row with Catholic church over governor sackings and freedom of speech has seen John Fisher School closed for three days this week. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Taking to book: teachers outside John Fisher School today, supporting the sacked governors

Teachers taking industrial action at John Fisher School have been threatened with the sack over the increasingly acrimonious dispute between staff and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.

The dispute has attracted national headlines after church leaders banned a talk at the school on World Book Day, March 3, by Simon James Green.

The Archdiocese has in the meantime imposed an emergency board of governors on the school.

Members of the National Education Union are today on the sixth strike day in the third week of an industrial dispute over the banning of the author and in support of the original board of governors.

Because of lack of staff, the school, on Peaks Hill, Sutton, has had to close on each strike day.

Solidarity: the teachers’ picket outside John Fisher

Uncertainty over the teachers’ jobs, and even the school’s future, has been stoked up by conduct of the Archdiocese and remarks made at a meeting of the board of governors.

According to one staff member, who asked not to be named, “It was at a meeting last month when a senior figure on the board of governors said that they wanted a list of all those teachers who would be taking strike action.

“They then added that anyone going on strike over the ban on Simon James Green should be sacked.”

The NEU this week send a letter to parents at the Catholic boys’ school. “THe NEU’s position is that the postponing of a visit to the John Fisher School by author Simon James Green to celebrate World Book Day, and the subsequent decision to remove members of the school’s governing body is a matter of grave concern.

‘Terrible precedent’: the union’s letter to parents this week

“It sets a terrible precedent for LGBT+ rights and representation at the school and additionally has created a worryingly unstable governance.”

The NEU letter refers to one of Green’s books, Noah Can’t Even, to which they say the Archdiocese has taken particular exception. The NEU says that it was told by church leaders “that the promotion of a lifestyle and grooming were reason to cancel the visit”.

They write, “This rationale is deeply concerning, and conflicts with the employer’s duty under the Equality Act.

“We have not found, nor been provided with, any material that promotes grooming.”

Down with this sort of thing: this morning’s parents’ picket at John Fisher School

Referring to a statement issued by the Archdiocese which references the book, the NEU says this “does not explain the safeguarding rationale previously offered to us”.

The union is offering to meet with parents later today.

A local television crew was expected outside the school gates this morning (“I hope they managed to find us okay,” one teacher said, “only the last time that BBC London covered the story, they seemed to think we are in Croydon”), the broadcasters apparently drawn to the dispute again by a picket arranged by some parents who support the church’s position.

Holding placards that said “No porn in school”, and “Safeguard our children”, eyewitnesses say that there was no more than 20 parents and pupils in attendance.

It cannot be confirmed that one of the placards had scrawled on it: “Down with this sort of thing.”

Read more: John Fisher governors get Ofsted backing in gay author row

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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20 Responses to Teachers threatened with sackings in gay author dispute

  1. James Seabrook says:

    I simply can’t understand why people who feel the need to inflate their egos about “equality” and find their sense of identity would choose to do it at the children’s expense. It’s appalling and achieves nothing. This country needs to get a grip on itself to avoid unnecessary suffering in the next generation.

    • If we don’t stand up for what is right, we continue to do wrong. That’s a good lesson for the children to learn. There is now too much of this ‘cancelling’ culture that really just amounts to the naked exercise of power.

  2. Dr Brian Matthews says:

    Good to see that the Catholic Church is as liberal as ever!

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    I have not read Mr Greens works so am not any expert on that. But talking about experiences positively in itself can have value to those teenagers and young adults beginning to understand themselves. It will in any boys school also have the commentary that can be demeaning and offensive and that can also be managed.

    Should this be done in schools? That really is down to those schools and the values they hold. Parents sending their children to the school do so knowing it does what it says on the tin. Governors of Church Schools are there to uphold those values.Teachers are employed under those same values.
    John Fisher is founded on the principles of Faith in the Catholic Religion the same as all other faith schools. John Fisher does promote tolerance. It does not promote radical intolerance. A quick review of both Ofsted and its own website make this very clear.

    So how did such a knee jerk reaction to an Authors visit excite such angst from a senior Governor and then how has the Archbishops administration got involved? How does a strike assist with both the pupils education and understanding moving forward?

    I understand the view that was previously stated that many past and present may find this offensive and not in keeping with their faith. But surely there is a pulpit and a service from which to improve their understanding and tolerance.
    But is there not a better way to deal with this by the Diocese than disruption to continuity and pupils education?

    • You make a sound point Ian. The dioscese couldn’t have made more of a mess of this if they tried (perhaps they did?) I have read some of this author’s stuff, as a result of all this fuss, and his.PR makes much of his homosexuality and his aim to provide a positive and intelligent view of growing up gay. All laudable but you can see how some people could get all wound up if if all they do is listen to the social media fuss, some confected and some no doubt promoted. What is wrong with us all?

      • Ian Kierans says:

        I do begin to wonder what is wrong – perhaps too many are seeing the examples set by those in Croydons Public offices. Having been a Governor I can really empathise with those removed. Having also led negotiations and represented both Companies and Trades unions in quite trying circumstances I am surprised a resolve was not found before Strike ballots are held. There is usually therefore a lot more to this than has come out so far.

        There are golden opportunities for both sides to work together and move matters forward for everyone’s benefit, I do hope they take those opportunities.

  4. Anthony Miller says:

    And they told us the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was abolished in 1966…

    • Ooh a Latin scholar! On Inside Croydon no less! Quam callidus ex vobis

      • Anthony Miller says:

        Non realiter. Omnia Catholica in Latinum usque ad annum 1966 fuit when the church that never changes anything suddenly decided to speak in the vernacular because no one understood what it was saying any more.

        At around the same point the church which never changes also gave up on the banned books list because the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith complained that too many books were now being published every year and they couldn’t keep up with having to read them all. Well, that and publishers realised that being on the list was excellent free publicity.

        Anyway if the Vatican hasn’t bothered for 50 years I don’t know why this news hasn’t trickled down to Purley. I suspect this book must contain other heresies like heliocentricity…

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Not quite – A June 1966 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notification announced that, while the Index maintained its moral force, in that it taught Christians to beware, as required by the natural law itself, of those writings that could endanger faith and morality, it no longer had the force of ecclesiastical positive law with the associated penalties. However Pope Francis while not supporting gay marriage, indicated openness and tolerance to same-sex partnerships. Shortly after his election, in 2013, he famously said, of gay priests believed to be in high positions in the Vatican, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and he has good will, who am I to judge?” In 2019, he spoke in support of legal protection for same-sex couples, a remark that came to light through the Vatican-approved film “Francesco,” which tells of him encouraging a gay couple he knows to raise their three children as Catholics in a Rome parish, even as he reminded them that “not all people will share your choice of having a family like that.”

      • Anthony Miller says:

        It didn’t “teach Christians to beware” it banned books. They only stopped producing the list because no one listened or implemented it anymore. It also made them look silly because they attempted and failed to ban some of the most successful novelists in history like Victor Hugo which hasn’t seem to have stopped productions of Les Miserables… This resulted in so many U turns it was embarrassing. Children aren’t going to learn about English literature if schools start taking out novels they don’t like for political reasons. They should be studying what exists not what the Governors would like to exist… We often hear from the government about “cancel culture” as a left wing phenomenon but this really goes to show as ever that censorship is an issue of tolerance that cuts across the spectrum. Indeed it is as old as the hills…. I find it hard to believe that whatever this man was going to say in 1 hour would have corrupted the morals of the children and even if it would have done the school has those children for all of the rest of the weeks and years to reinstall its values in. Bit of a control issue? As to sacking striking workers – that’ll be expensive down the Employment Tribunal. Didn’t Prince Charles says something in the Queen’s speech about changing the law around no platforming? You’d better get with it… Before Boris’s new laws catch up…

  5. Ted says:

    “Down with this sort of thing.”

    I had a little heathen chuckle at that.

  6. peterwilliams891 says:

    It’s not hard to understand why the visit was cancelled. The author mocked the Lord’s prayer in one of his books. In this country he is free to do so, but don’t expect to be invited to a Christian school. It seems to me, that the person who booked him, did not read his books and was not aware of the content relating to the prayer. No one should be surprised. (For reference : In the book Noah Can’t Even, chapter 13, on pages 124-125)

    • Just imagine if the author had mocked the prophet. Would he be invited to a madrassa? I don’t think so

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Most Clergy I know in both Anglican and Catholic faiths are more open to debate and would not take offense unless the context was designed to denigrate. Even then they would behave towards the person as somewhat misguided and in need of some assistance or at least forgiveness. No I suspect there are a few reasons on the table with perhaps more after the fact.

      • peterwilliams891 says:

        I Agree, but this version is more 50 shades of grey vs a critique of it
        Personally I would not want my children to read the book with this foul language. If parents are happy with it, then they can buy the book themselves.

        • Once again, those siding with the Archdiocese’s decision choose to focus on one part of one work by an author, and completely ignore that the visit was to give a talk about becoming a writer. Under these kind of proscriptions, schools would ban talks by (or maybe about) Oscar Wilde, WH Auden, EM Forster, Stephen Fry… It’s the kind of proscription even the Pope thinks is outdated.

  7. peterwilliams891 says:

    I have just realised that you are filtering posts, to drive your own agenda. Good luck to you.

    • It’s called “moderating” Peter, and it’s what all responsible publishers do.

      You need to check out our rules on comments, which exclude obvious falsehoods and repeat postings.

      It probably also needs a line added about rank hypocrisy from those who support the banning of free speech when they wail about having their misleading comments binned.

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