28 April 2022, The Tablet

Ofsted criticises Southwark archdiocese for sacking school governors

Inspectors said that the decision “was made unilaterally and without due regard to statutory guidance”.

Ofsted criticises Southwark archdiocese for sacking school governors

St George's Cathedral, Southwark. The archdiocese has been criticised for the handling of the governance of one of its schools.
Lawrence OP/flickr | Creative Commons

Ofsted has criticised the Archdiocese of Southwark for its handling of the governance of John Fisher School, where it intervened to ban a visit by a gay author in March.

In a letter to the school’s headmaster, Philip McCullagh, Ofsted’s inspector said that the decision to sack the governors who approved the visit and replace them with an interim executive board “was made unilaterally and without due regard to the published statutory guidance”.

The archdiocese sacked the governors of the secondary school in Purley after they voted against its recommendation to cancel a visit by the author Simon James Green. He had been scheduled to speak to pupils about his career and the publishing process, and to sign his books. Archbishop John Wilson has defended the decision as consistent with protecting the school's Catholic character.

Ofsted said that these events “unnerved and upset many in the school community” and left some “angry, confused and frustrated”. “Others are worried about the impression these events might give of the school’s ethos,” the inspector continued.

The regulator made a “no formal designation” inspection on 16 March, following concerns about the leadership of John Fisher. It demanded immediate measures “to restore stability to governance” of the school.

“It is essential that all parties take swift and suitable steps to finalise suitable governance arrangements,” wrote the inspector, Sarah Murphy.

Her letter praised the school and its staff for “identifying those pupils who may be personally affected and putting in place further layers of support tailored to individual need or circumstance”.

“You and your team are steering the school well through this difficult time.”

The inspector describes “a caring community” with strong pastoral care and comprehensive teaching on sex and relationships. They found that pupils “are clear that everyone should be valued equally, and that difference and similarities represent the richness of human experience”.

Members of the National Education Union at the school were expected to begin six days of strike action from today, 28 April in protest at the archdiocese’s decisions, after 92 per cent voted in favour on an 87 per cent turnout.

A spokesperson for the union told The Tablet that the archdiocese had refused to enter talks to resolve the dispute.

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