Attempts to oust school governors who supported a visit by a gay perpetrator have left staff and pupils “feeling angry, confused and frustrated”, Ofsted said.
Ofsted said its rapid inspection of John Fisher School in Purley was prompted by concerns over the school’s governance, after Catholic leaders in the archdiocese intervened to cancel a visit by author Simon James Green to celebrate World Book Day in March.
Green was expected to speak and sign books at Boys’ Secondary School, which is overseen by the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark. But the diocese banned the event after canceling school leaders, saying it would ‘fall outside the scope of what is permitted in a Catholic school’ and was ‘potentially offensive to parents, former students and wider members of the Catholic community”.
The Ofsted inspector detailed the Archdiocese’s attempts to remove school governors who voted for Green’s visit, saying the Archdiocese acted unilaterally and without heed to legal guidelines.
“It is essential that all parties take prompt and appropriate action to finalize the appropriate governance arrangements and in turn ensure that the governing body can function fully and effectively,” the report said.
Ofsted said that as a priority, “immediate action must be taken to restore stability to governance and, in turn, ensure that leadership receives the support and challenge necessary to build on the strong provisions of the school for the personal development of the pupils”.
The report says the events “have baffled and upset many members of the school community. Some leaders, staff and students felt angry, confused and frustrated. Others worry about the impression these events might have on the school’s ethos.
National Education Union members at John Fisher School are due to strike from Thursday in protest at the actions of the Archdiocese of Southwark, with a six-day strike scheduled.
Ofsted’s inspection report reserves its praise for the school’s leaders and teachers, saying headmaster, Philip McCullagh: “You and your team are running the school well during this difficult time.”
The report also commends the school’s efforts to allow students to discuss sensitive topics such as racist or intolerant attitudes.
“Relationships and sex education are comprehensive and meet expectations set out in government guidelines. Students learn the importance of respecting everyone, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” the report states.
“Staff ensure that students feel confident in bringing up and talking about potentially sensitive topics, for example those related to pornography, sexting and harmful sexual behavior.”