New Camborne Catholic School hits back after anti-gay press storm
3:08pm Monday 3rd September 2012 in Camborne/Redruth
The country's first Catholic 'free school', St Michael's in Camborne, has got off to an 'awful start' this week, after they were forced to distance themselves from anti-homosexual statements.
The school found itself at the heart of a media storm after Wallace Simmons, the grandfather of a former student, said the faith school would not teach gay 'nonsense'.
Mr Wallace made the statement at a meeting with school governor Joyce Sanderson, Father Chris Findlay, priest at the church associated with the school at Camborne, and local press, set up to address what he called "orchestrated attack to undermine the school".
This followed the school being dubbed an 'ideological gimmick' by the National Union of Teachers, alongside criticism of the £4.5 million being spent on it, despite as many as 600 available places at secondary schools in the Camborne, Pool and Redruth.
At the meeting Mr Wallace was reported to have said: “The whole population is taught that homosexuality is fine and children should accept they can have two mums or dads but they should not be taught that nonsense. It is not right.
"Schools are not teaching basic family values and that mum and dad are the heads of the family and that's how it should be.
"There are so many problems in schools today where basic family values are not taught and it is OK for Jack to marry Jack and not Jill. The morals of this country should not be dragged down."
The statement from the principal Neil Anderson, the chairman of governors, Simon Southern, and the vice-chairman, Robbie Low of St. Michael's Catholic Secondary School, said they wanted to 'urgently respond' to recent press coverage, adding that Wallace Simmons does not represent the school in any way.
It states: “He is not a parent. He is not a governor. He is not a member of staff. He has nothing to do with the setting up of St Michaels Catholic Secondary School. He cannot and does not speak for this school.
“School policy is clear. Everyone, regardless of gender, race or orientation will be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Any sign of discrimination, including homophobia, will be dealt with robustly.
“We stand by the dignity of the human person and, because of our beliefs, seek the very best for every child placed in our care whatever their family circumstance."
The statement adds that the school disassociated itself from the “injudicious remarks”.
School governor, Joyce Sanderson, who said 'Gays would be welcome to this school, but we would not encourage it”, when she responded to Mr Simmons' statement has also apologised.
She said: “I am afraid that in my attempt to distance the school from Mr Simmons’ comments I may have further confused the situation.
“School policy is very clear that ALL children, irrespective of orientation, gender, race or ability will be welcomed into the school.
“My reference to ‘not encouraging’ homosexuality was meant in the context of ‘not encouraging ANY sexual behaviour at school’.
“This is not how it came across finally in the article, and I am deeply sorry for any offence that this has caused.
“There are so many things that we are proud of at St Michaels and I can assure you that any discriminatory behaviour, for whatever reason, including homophobia, will be dealt with robustly by the school’s principal, Neil Anderson.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) said it believed her statement had been unlawful, and has expressed concern for the welfare of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pupils starting at the school.
The BHA added: “We would like to welcome the positive development of a state funded Catholic school not fully religiously discriminating in admissions, but unfortunately St Michael's is off to an awful start.
"Mrs Sanderson's statement likely breaks the Equality Act, which prevents discrimination in school admissions on the basis of sexual orientation and has a general requirement for schools to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between LGBT people and others.
'We would be seriously concerned about the welfare of LGBT pupils at this school, or LGBT parents whose children go there, and will be contacting the Government to raise our concerns.'