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
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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