Now, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but this might be the most important personal message I’ve ever needed to make which is why I wanted to video it as well as just send an email. So I hope you’ll give me a few minutes of your time to let me explain why.
If I’ve sent you this message directly then you’re bound to know that I’ve been a children and families worker for a long time. But since some of you will haven’t known me as long as others it might be useful to share some of my background… [skip the next couple of paragraphs if you want to get to the point!!]
So my decision to work with children and young people was, I believe, my “divine calling”. And in the 20 plus years I have pursued this calling I have worked in schools in inner city Manchester & Bradford; in suburban Cambridgeshire & Middlesex and most recently in rural Oxfordshire. I’ve worked in primary, secondary & infant schools, Pupil Referral Units, EBD Schools, Church of England schools, Roman Catholic schools, community schools, independent schools, majority muslim intake schools, all boys schools & all girls schools. The majority of this work was undertaken in the most deprived communities of our country, and briefly in some of the most affluent. I have worked on behalf of the Bradford Interfaith Centre. I have served on numerous children’s residential camps. I have been a parent governor in a 3x outstanding school. And the thing I am proudest of – I have made in the region of 12,000+ personal home visits to the children in just about all the locations I have served in.
In all of those situations I’ve tried to be an asset to the schools and the children they serve. I’ve got lots of testimonials that speak to that effect. And over all those years I have maintained an unblemished professional record.
Again, depending on how long and how well you know me, you’re possibly aware that I also have a long-standing passion for social & political activism. I actively campaigned in both of our recent national referendums – The EU referendum & the AV referendum (… I suspect only political wonks like myself remember the latter one!). I also stood as an Independent Parliamentary Candidate in the 2010 general election, where I ran my own campaign on a rather radical platform!
It’s my faith in Jesus that motivates both of these aspects of my life, and I try to bring the same integrity, and passion, and conviction to them both. But there has never been any question that my activism has in any way negatively affected my calling to children’s ministry.
Now to the point!
Just over a year ago I discovered that 2 local head teachers had referred me to the Local Authority Designated Officer (or the LADO) – the person responsible for safeguarding referrals. There was also a complaint to my employer. In turn the situation was referred to the diocese and even the police. This had nothing to do with my conduct with children – which they have conceded was above reproach – but because of my social & political views. Apparently they believed my views constituted a safeguarding risk to children. So much so that …
• They considered referring me to the Prevent program (for terrorist/extremists threats!)
• They wanted me banned from school premises – including for the summer holiday club program I was responsible for.
• They wanted my line manager (the Vicar) removed from his post on the school governors
• They wanted my employer to take “significant action” against me
• Basically, they wanted – in effect – to terminate my life’s work & calling.
Now, the very good news is that after what seemed like a lifetime, the complaints against me were all officially determined to be “False, requiring no further action“. The police said there was nothing criminal about my views. No Prevent referral was made. The holiday club went ahead (and was another great community event for 110 children). My line-manager kept his post on governors.
I’m extremely grateful that the people making the judgements were all rational and level-headed enough to realise that, although some of my views might be considered fringe or radical or contentious, they are also reasoned and reasonable parts of social, theological and political commentary. There is ZERO safeguarding risk to children.
The whole affair was distressing – I can only imagine how those who are falsely accused of more serious misconduct must feel. But my distress was compounded by the fact that no matter how many times I asked (which was LOTS), no-one has ever told me which specific views of mine were considered a “safeguarding risk”. Add to that the incidents of negligence and/or incompetence by some of the professionals; the little or non-existent record keeping; the acts of hypocrisy and incidents of professional misconduct by one of the head teachers (like these), and the seemingly deeply unethical collusion between some of the key people… it has been an “interesting” 12 months.
Which brings me, at long last, to the final point! I need your help. If I am ever to discover what the truth behind these allegations was, and if I am to hold my accusers to account then I need people who will stand with me.
Please do not think I am asking you to agree with my socio-political views. I’m not (even though they’re very sound & sensible!). But I hope you might agree that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, to justice and to redress for false and/or malicious allegations.
Having tried all other means to get these things I am now pursuing a legal remedy. Since legal representation does not come cheap, please can would you consider lending me your practical, financial support? You can donate here (and also read more about why I am doing this).
From sharing this story with a few people already, I know that there are some questions that keep cropping up. I’ve tried to answer them here. But if you have any others I am more than happy to answer them, in person or by email.
I apologise for the length of this message. But hope you can appreciate why. Thanks for making it to the end! Please consider helping me if you can.