Catholic school closes after strike over LGBTQ+ book controversy

School staff at John Fisher School in Croydon have gone on strike after the Catholic Church cancelled the appearance of an author of young adult books featuring LGBTQ+ characters.

Photograph of 5 of the school staff on strike outside the John Fisher School in Croydon. They are all holding placards reading
Image: @ewa_jay via Twitter

The John Fisher School in the South London town of Croydon has been forced to close as staff go on strike over the controversial cancellation of a visit by LGBTQ+ author Simon James Green. Green has authored several books aimed at young adults that often feature LGBTQ+ characters including his forthcoming novel being titled Welcome to Gay Club.

He was scheduled to visit the Roman Catholic boys’ school in March to mark World Book Day, however, the visit was cancelled when the Archdiocese of Southwark banned the event after overruling the Board of Governors who had voted not to cancel the invitation.

In making their ruling, the church said Green’s visit would “fall outside the scope of what is permissible in a Catholic school”. They also stated it would be “potentially offensive to parents, past pupils and wider members of the Catholic community.”

Since then the row has escalated. According to reports, two of the governors resigned and the Archdiocese attempted to remove the remaining governors, prompting teachers to request an investigation by Ofsted – the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, who are responsible for inspecting state schools in England.

In their report, Ofsted praised the school’s principal Philip McCullagh and his team stating: “You and your team are steering the school well through this difficult time.”

It continued, “Staff ensure that pupils feel confident in raising and talking about potentially sensitive topics, for instance those related to pornography, sexting and harmful sexual behaviour.”

It also recognised the school’s support of LGBTQ+ students. “Relationships and sex education is comprehensive and meets the expectations set out in government guidance. Pupils are taught the importance of respect for all, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender”.

Critical of the disruption caused by the cancellation it said “It is essential that all parties take swift and suitable steps to finalise suitable governance arrangements and in turn ensure that the governing body can function fully and effectively.”

It went on to call for a swift resolution in order to support students’ development. “Immediate steps must be taken to restore stability to governance, and in turn ensure that leadership is provided with the support and challenge needed to build further on the school’s strong provision for pupils’ personal development.”

Despite the Ofsted report, no resolution has been achieved forcing school staff to take strike action. The strike which began yesterday is scheduled to run for up to six days.

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