Ofsted in snap inspection of Catholic school after diocese cancels visit of gay author 

Pic: John Fisher School

Government education inspectors have carried out a snap inspection at a Catholic state school, after the Southwark Archdiocese cancelled a visit from a gay author.  

John Fisher School, located in Purely, Croydon, had arranged for the author, Simon James Green, who writes fiction books for young adults to visit and speak about his latest LGBTQ+ novel, Noah Can’t Even, which features a gay character.  

Ofsted carried out a snap inspection of the school last week. It is not known when or if its report will be published.

Mr Green is a well-known author who specialises in LGBTQ+ books for young adults, in which many of the books feature openly gay characters. The visit was to celebrate World Book Day on March 3,so he could both speak to the younger students  and run a book signing.  

Simon James Green, author, tweeted: “I’ve had a really upsetting few days. This week, I’ve been BANNED from talking about my YA books at a Catholic school. Full story here, but I urge you to read this thread too. I need your help, and more importantly, some LGBT kids do too…” 

The visit was cancelled at the last minute when the diocese stepped and issued a statement recommending cancelling the visit as it “outside the scope of what is permissible in a Catholic school”.  

The school’s senior leadership team voted for visit along with several of the schools’ governors and appeared to reject an initial appeal to cancel the event.  

The diocese said in a statement: “The headteacher and some Governors have decided to disobey the clear instruction from the diocese, and this will have serious consequences in the weeks ahead,”.  

The diocese then made the decision to fire several of the schools’ governors who sided with the leadership team disagreeing with the cancellation.  

This caused parents to create a petition in an effort to get the governors reinstated which has been signed over 2,000 times.   

The petition read: “This disruption to the school’s governance is majorly impacting upon the day-to-day running of the school, causing distress and anxiety to the parents, staff and children and undermines the values and ethos of our school community.”

The Ofsted inspection was carried out by two inspectors. A spokesperson said in a statement the watchdog is “unable to provide any further comment right now”.  

The inspectors have also requested that parents complete an online survey about the school; students have been asked on their views of John Fisher in regard to equality.  

Simon James Green Pic: Simon James Green

The two main London boroughs which are home to the majority of students are  Sutton and Croydon. Members of both councils have made statements criticising the school  

Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning at Croydon, said in a statement: “We deplore the decision to cancel a visit from Simon James Green to John Fisher School…. and attended by young people from our borough. Croydon is committed to an inclusive, fair and equal society, there is no place for discrimination of any kind in our communities, nor in schools with Croydon pupils.  

“We are also deeply concerned to learn that some members of the school governing board have been dismissed. We will be working with our counterparts in the London Borough of Sutton to understand from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark what has happened and to seek assurances about the wellbeing of our pupils within the school.” 

The leader of Sutton Council, Ruth Dombey, sent an open letter to Mr Green which said: “The values of inclusion, tolerance and diversity are the core principles of Sutton Council. They run through everything we do and every part of the council. I am deeply concerned about the actions of the Archdiocese and the manner in which it has conducted itself; both in relation to your visit and to the governing body.” 

“Last week, senior council officials were in contact with the Archdiocese to ensure our position is known. They have also made clear the legal position in relation to school governors and are providing support to those seeking to ensure that the school can move forward positively from now onwards.” 

John Fisher School declined to comment.  

A spokesperson for the school said in a statement: “Our students are preparing for forthcoming mock examinations, and we would kindly request that you now give us an opportunity to concentrate on our key role, which is educating the children we serve.” 

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Southwark said in a statement: “at this time, the diocese does not have any further information to add to the statement”. 

Leave a Reply