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Catholic school seeks to clarify "homophobic" furore on eve of opening day at Camborne

By WBNews  |  Posted: September 03, 2012

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CORNWALL'S first free school has distanced itself from comments criticised as homophobic and made at a meeting attended by a governor.

In a statement, St Michael's Catholic Secondary School principal Neil Anderson, chairman of governors Simon Southern, vice-chairman Robbie Low and chairman of communications, sought to calm a furore since Wallace Simmons spoke out.

Mr Simmons, who identified himself as the grandfather of a former pupil of the school, which had been run as the private St Michael's Catholic Small School in Truro but opens as the UK's first faith free secondary at Camborne on Thursday, had called a meeting following criticism of plans for a £4.5 million government-funded expansion.

The West Briton reported Redruth School's head teacher, councillors and National Union of Teachers representative questioned the funding to expand St Michael's to cater for 300 pupils – it opens tomorrow with about 60 and capacity for 100 - while there are 600 empty places in three local secondaries, some of which have seen funding for much-needed work rejected.

Free schools are funded directly by the Government, outside the local education authority, in this case Cornwall Council. At the meeting, attended, on invitation, by the West Briton and St Michael's governor Joyce Sanderson, as well as the priest from the associated church, Father Chris Findlay, it was claimed this was an "orchestrated attack to undermine" the school.

But dozens of readers have discussed on this website comments seen as homophobic by Mr Simmons and Mrs Sanderson relating to potential pupils with gay parents. The furore has even sparked the threat of a protest outside the school on Wednesday.

The statement published on the school's website – and by Mr Anderson here on www.thisiscornwall.co.uk - says: "The recent article in the West Briton (Thursday, 30 August 2012) 'New Faith School will not teach gay nonsense.' has been brought to our attention and we would like to respond urgently.

"1) Mr Wallace Simmons, the source of the material that provides the headline, does not represent this school. 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.

"2) 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.

"3) 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.

"We disassociate ourselves from the injudicious remarks attributed in this article."

In his comment on last week's story (see link below) he adds: "Our school policy and practice will be clear and in line with Catholic teaching that everyone, regardless of gender, race or orientation will be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Any sign of unjust discrimination will be dealt with robustly."

Neither makes reference to Mrs Sanderson or her comments, also criticised heavily.

See the full story in this week's West Briton.

See last week's story at: http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/New-Truro-faith-school-teach-gay-nonsense/story-16787807-detail/story.html

Read more from West Briton

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  • Phil_lip  |  September 05 2012, 12:58AM

    Nicely said TheodoreV, the teaching of religion should be left to learning and not indoctrination in a state school for sure.

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  • TheodoreV  |  September 04 2012, 11:52PM

    The same principle should apply to state schools as it does to state teachers. There is no reason why the latter should not be Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Humanist or "nothing", as long as they do not endeavour to convert their pupils to their beliefs. Of course this often proves a difficult objective. If overtly religious schools (and they often do very well academically) expect financial support from the state, it should be conditional on first undertaking not to be selective on grounds of belief, and second should be required to leave proselytising at the school (or church) gates. Children need to know about different faiths and how they developed. They need to learn respect and ethical conduct. But conversion to a particular religion is not the role of a state funded liberal education. It appears this new school is indicating, contrary to previous ones, that it agrees. Well I suppose time will tell.

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  • Phil_lip  |  September 04 2012, 5:27PM

    After my comments got removed from last weeks, am going to word this very carefully. This is a disgrace when the local schools need the money for a larger population of students. If parents wish to send their children to a school which is run by a religion then they should pay for it as they have in the past to help keep the school running, it should also receive funding from its religious doctrine and not from us the tax payers. Personally I am offended that an open debate is not allowed by Northcliffe media about this because the censorship is removing a lot of people's opinions and feelings about things that are based on fact.

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