Sidmouth school defends headmaster after 50 Shades of Grey joke makes national headlines

PUBLISHED: 12:39 24 March 2017 | UPDATED: 21:23 26 March 2017

Mike Burgess the headteacher of St John's School, Sidmouth

Mike Burgess the headteacher of St John's School, Sidmouth

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St John’s School bosses have defended its headmaster after a joke he made about dressing up as a character from erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey on World Book Day made national headlines.

St John's School headteacher Mike Burgess.  Ref shs 7908-49-15SH. Picture: Simon HornSt John's School headteacher Mike Burgess. Ref shs 7908-49-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

St John’s School bosses have defended its headmaster after a joke he made about dressing up as a character from erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey on World Book Day made national headlines.

Mike Burgess light-heartedly wrote in a recent newsletter that he was disappointed no-one guessed which of his ‘literary heroes’ he chose for the fancy-dress festivities. He then signed off as Christian Grey, one of the main characters in the saucy best-seller.

In a statement issued this week, bosses at the private school in Convent Road expressed regret for any offence caused by Mr Burgess’s comments and said they were intended to be ‘humorous’.

The sharp-suited character Christian Grey is the brilliant self-made billionaire protagonist - with a penchant for bondage - in the erotic romance Fifty Shades trilogy penned by British author EL James.

Mr Burgess, a former banker who took the top role at the school in 2015, wrote in a newsletter, published on its website and shared to Facebook and Twitter followers: “Some wonderful costumes to stimulate interest and initiate conversations about our favourite books and characters.

“Disappointingly, no-one has managed to guess which literary hero of mine I chose to portray, despite the sharp suit and contemptuous attitude – perhaps no one noticed any difference.”

“Happy weekend everyone, Christian Grey.”

The headmaster even joked that a colleague had ‘warned against’ the supposed costume.

One concerned person, who had taken the comments at face value, wrote to the Herald this week and said: “I do wonder if the world has gone mad.”

The national press was also contacted on the matter and duly reported on the comments.

St John’s School is part of International Education Systems. Its chairman, Andrew McEwen, said: “St John’s School has been made aware that an alleged complaint has been made to the media regarding an article recently published by the school.

“We would like to stress that no complaint, from any parents or otherwise, has been received by either the school itself or by any of its directors, and that is still the case at the time of releasing this statement.

“It is our understanding that the alleged complaint concerns an article from headmaster Mr Burgess.

“This featured a comment, which was intended to be humorous; we regret any offence that may have been taken which was clearly not the aim. Contrary to some reports, Mr Burgess did not dress as a character on World Book Day as he had a number of meetings with parents in school on that day.”


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