Adrian Swain has for the last 35 years worn a track suit and trainers. As George Galloway has noted “Of all the difficulties facing children in Tower Hamlets – poverty, overcrowding, lack of resources, and an education system geared to testing not teaching – it is truly astonishing that a well liked and experienced teacher has been sacked for what he was wearing on his feet.”
And what makes it amazing is that “he is, amongst other things, a PE teacher”.
Staff at St Paul’s Way School in Tower Hamlets, East London, will demonstrate outside the town hall at 3.30pm on Friday 16 January to protest against the sacking of Adrian Swain – the socialist, Permanent Revolution member and NUT activist sacked for failing to comply with a new dress code by wearing trainers and tracksuit bottoms.
Adrian was sacked on the last day of term in December. Since then, the story has received huge media attention, getting picked up in turn by the East London Advertiser, the Evening Standard, Associated Press, the Metro, the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. It was one of the BBC News website’s top 10 stories over the Christmas, and Adrian has been interviewed on ITV, BBC regional news, Radio Five Live, Radio 4 and BBC Radio London’s Vanessa Feltz programme.
In all the coverage, Adrian stresses the same point again and again: that his “offence” was wearing trainers and tracksuit bottoms, as he has done for 35 years! These items of clothing are now proscribed under the code, which is operated under the catch all command to “dress professionally”, a fashion sense entirely at the discretion of the head.
Management’s treatment of Adrian was, of course, motivated not by his fashion sense, but by their desire to attack a longstanding union and socialist militant in a school group that has stood up to them for years.
The failure of the East London Teachers’ Association to support the campaign, due to the SWP and others in the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance including national executive member and Association secretary Alex Kenny, is one the reasons why Adrian has not already been reinstated. On the second day back after Christmas, the St Paul’s Way NUT school group passed a resolution stating:
“SPW NUT group reaffirms its urgent request for a ballot for discontinuous strike action. The objective of this strike action is to secure Adrian’s unconditional reinstatement. By unconditional we mean that his reinstatement is not dependent on his adherence to the imposed dress code. We would expect this strike action to be sustained, as is almost always the case with disputes involving individual school groups. After an initial day of strike action, we would expect the action to escalate rapidly (i.e. by the next week) if Adrian is not reinstated. We are committed to taking as much action as is necessary to achieve our objective. We ask the ELTA Secretary to inform us of the Action Committee meeting that will discuss our request and to arrange for a delegation from the SPW NUT group to attend the meeting.”
The NUT Action Committee has now agreed to the request to a ballot. More soon, it seems.
Demonstrate 3.30pm, Friday 16 January, @ Tower Hamlets Town Hall, Mulberry Place, Clove Crescent, London E14 2BG (East India or Blackwall DLR)
For the Facebook group “Friends of Adrian Swain”, see here.