Teachers at the John Fisher Catholic School in Purley, south London, have agreed to pause strike action after the National Education Union reached an agreement with the school’s governing body.
The strike began on 28 April, with six days of action in protest at the Archdiocese of Southwark’s ban on a visit to the school by the gay author Simon James Green, and its sacking of governors who had approved the visit.
Striking teachers demanded the reinstatement of the sacked governors and of Mr Green’s invitation to speak. The school was obliged to close on strike days due to staff shortages.
In a statement the archdiocese welcomed the agreement, and said that all parties in the dispute “recognised that the John Fisher School is ‘an inclusive and diverse environment’, which at its core is a ‘Catholic school that operates within the RSHE statutory guidance’ and ‘the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church’”.
A spokesperson for the school’s governing body said it was “highly regrettable that events have unfolded as they have done” and that returning pupils to the classroom “has been our overriding objective” throughout the dispute.
“We are grateful to all those involved in negotiations for approaching discussions with a spirit of openness and collaboration which has allowed us to move forward and draw a line under this incident.”
A spokesperson for the union said that it was “pleased to come to agreement with the school around the visit of an author whose writing includes LGBT+ relationships”. This alternative visit would take place “in the upcoming academic year within a series of events about the celebration of diversity within literature”. A range of other measures have been agreed with the school, “including training and a re-affirming of commitment to diversity”.
The spokesperson added, “Talks continue on the issue of the removal of members of the original governing body.”
The diocesan education service also issued a statement, in which it supported the current governors “in working collaboratively with the leadership and staff”. The statement continued: “We are committed to collaborating with the school in upholding its Catholic ethos, faithful to the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church.
“We will ensure that every activity in the school, including future invitations to outside speakers, are compliant with statutory guidance concerning the protected characteristics of faith schools, the age- and faith-appropriate use of resources, and the care and support of everyone in a diverse teaching and learning environment.”