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Statement about The John Fisher School 28 April 2022

Please click here for a downloadable format (pdf), of this further statement on the situation at The John Fisher School, Purley.

 Through concerns raised, the Archdiocese of Southwark was made aware of Mr Green’s book Noah Cannot Even (2017) which was the focus for the World Book Day presentation and signing at the John Fisher School. The event was for pupils in years 8 and 9, the vast majority of whom would be aged 12 to 13 years old. The book has a sequel, Noah Could Never (2018). 

For Christians, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) is something very precious. We believe it was taught by Jesus Christ to his first disciples as the pattern for all prayer. We would not expect someone who is not a Christian to accept what we believe about this prayer. We would, however, hope that it would be respected as a treasured and intrinsic part of a major world faith, prayed daily by millions of people. The Lord’s Prayer forms part an intrinsic part of Catholic worship and devotion. It is taught to children by their family as well as by school staff, being part of the spiritual life of a Catholic school. 

In the book Noah Can’t Even, chapter 13, on pages 124-125, begins: 

“Let us pray.” 

“Our Father, who art the gay boy? Noah be his name…” […]
“He makes Harry come. He gives him one. On earth as it is in Heaven. …” […] 

“And lead him straight into temptation. Right into a gay bar. For Noah is a gay boy. Who likes to suck c**k. For ever and ever. He’s gay.” 

“OK, sit yourselves down!” said Mr. Baxter, head of year. 

The year elevens all shuffled back into their seats. Noah despondently plopped back down, straight on to a banana that the hilarious occupants of the row behind had placed on his seat during the prayer. 

“Awww – right up his a**e!” said one of the lads. (It wasn’t.) 

“He loves it!” said another. (He didn’t.) 

“Oh, Harry! Do it to me!” sighed a girl. (Not a phrase he would ever use. He wasn’t a porn star with no class.) 

Please see appendix I (below) for The Lord’s Prayer, as used by the Roman Catholic Church. 

Asterisks have been placed in the text above, for the sake of modesty, but are not present in the original. 

Mr Green has commented that his book simply has a gay character and some ‘kissing.’ Looking at the text above, the narrative employs sexual imagery which we believe is not appropriate for school age pupils in a Catholic context. The use of this prayer in this way, and for this to be promoted in a Catholic school, is a source of deep disquiet. 

In the book Noah Could Never, early in chapter 4, there is the following narrative. 

Rumour had it, Connor was seeing a boy in year thirteen – two years his senior! How very edgy. That meant Connor was also probably sexually experienced now, taken under the wing of this sugar daddy in the sixth form, who would have doubtless shown him exactly what to do and when to do it. … 

The context is Noah’s continuing personal journey. The concern is whether the themes raised are appropriate for school age pupils. If the narrative were about a female pupil in Year 11 and a male pupil in Year 13, who was her ‘sugar daddy’ and had ‘doubtless shown [her] exactly what to do and when to do it,’ the concern would remain the same. It is important to record again that sexual orientation is not, and never was, the reason for concern. It is the content of the material. If a passage such as that above had been written from a heterosexual perspective, it would have been equally unacceptable. 

Additional concerns arose regarding inappropriate language towards women, specifically the mother figure in the book, who is described as ‘A total bitch from Hell’ (p.196) and ‘Cantankerous Hag’ (p.202), whilst a scene in which Noah and Josh give marks out of ten to girls based on sex is disrespectful towards women and promotes this attitude as acceptable (P.223-224). 

We hope this information about the content of the material involved helps to explain the genuine matters of concern. Our priority throughout has been, and remains, the flourishing of pupils at the John Fisher School (see Appendix II). We are continuing to work with the entire school community and the local authority, and we are committed to the students’ academic, pastoral, and spiritual care. 

Appendix I 

The Lord’s Prayer 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; 

thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses 

as we forgive those who trespass against us; 

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 


Appendix II 

Letter to parents and pupils of The John Fisher School, Purley, 18 March 2022 click here

Please click here for a downloadable format (pdf), of this further statement on the situation at The John Fisher School, Purley.

As with all Catholic schools, The John Fisher School is a welcoming and inclusive place for all pupils, and we were extremely pleased that this was recognised by Ofsted. The Archdiocese of Southwark was concerned however, that there were inaccuracies in the report surrounding the cancelled visit of Mr Green, with evidence appearing to be drawn solely from media reports. The Diocesan Education Commission has today written to Ofsted asking them to review the report again.

Respect for the God-given dignity of each human life sits at the heart of Catholic education and respect is a two-way street. Literature that insults the faith, which in the case of Mr Green’s book was a highly sexualised re-writing of the Lord’s Prayer, understandably causes offence to many Christians, and as such has no place in a Catholic school.

It is important that the school can now move on from this, and the Diocesan Education Commission will continue to work with the Local Authority, Governing Body, unions, and senior leaders at The John Fisher, in the best interest of parents, pupils and all members of staff.

For earlier statements on this matter follow the links below

For a downloadable version of the Letter to parents and pupils of The John Fisher School, Purley (18th March 2022) click here

For a downloadable version of the intermediate statement (10th March 2022) click here

For a downloadable version of the Diocese’s original statement (3rd March 2022) click here

Emerging Strategy

To download the latest version of the education strategy click here
To download the latest version of the headline strategy click here
To download the intended flow chart for appointing governors click here
To download a paper setting out a vision for Remarkable Catholic schools click here
To download a paper setting out the Archdiocese’s approach to academisation from 2019 onwards, click here