Trackies and trainers were 'suitable attire'

13th August 2010 at 01:00
GTC rules no case to answer over teacher's refusal to comply with school dress code

A teacher sacked for wearing trainers and tracksuit bottoms by a headteacher he accused of "bullying" has been cleared of unacceptable professional conduct.

Adrian Swain, whose dismissal sparked a ballot for industrial action at his school, said he felt "vindicated" after the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) said he had "no case to answer" and that punishing him was not in the public interest.

Mr Swain has also received an apology from his local authority after it reported his case to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) five months after he left St Paul's Way Community School in Tower Hamlets, east London.

Mr Swain had worn similar clothing throughout his career, and at the time of his dismissal last year when he was running regular PE lessons. He said he lost his job because of heavy-handed management and the "arbitrary decision" of the then head, Lorraine Page, to impose new rules. Colleagues concerned by his treatment were balloted for potential strike action.

A GTC investigating committee said there was no "realistic prospect" of Mr Swain being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct although it said it was concerned by his "disobedience of a management instruction".

"Taking into account your role in the school, i.e. you undertook physical activity with pupils and the fact that PE teachers within the school were able to wear suitable attire for this purpose, the committee did not feel your actions amounted to unacceptable professional conduct," the GTC said.

Mr Swain taught at St Paul's for 17 years of his 35-year teaching career. He said the dress code, which required him to wear more "professional" clothes, had been used as a "bully's charter".

At the time he was working in the school's deaf unit, but has now taken early retirement.

"I feel vindicated by the GTC decision and still feel the new rules were something the school decided to do on a whim," he told The TES. "I believe I was targeted because I was a union representative."

At the time of the incident, Mr Swain complained that there had been no consultation before the dress code was changed and that he had been accused of not being a good role model for pupils.

After leaving the school he received a letter from the ISA, saying he had been reported to them.

"I thought this situation was over and it was a shock to get the letter," he said. "I still can't understand why this happened."

Tower Hamlets Council has now written to Mr Swain to reassure him that his referral to the ISA was not a "malicious or vindictive act".

"Unfortunately, the information and advice and guidance coming out to local authorities about the ISA has been sometimes unclear and seemingly contradictory," a letter from the council to Mr Swain said.

"I do apologise for any inconvenience that this may have caused you . but want to assure you that this referral was made in good faith."

The council said that it does not believe that Mr Swain's dismissal was related "in any way" to the safety of children and that its procedures have now been updated.

TEACHER BROWSED WHILE PUPILS BRAWLED

A teacher surfed the internet instead of working with children during lessons, leaving them to fight and overturn desks, a General Teaching Council for England panel has found.

Alison Harrison looked at websites that were not related to her work while employed at Selby High School in North Yorkshire between September 2007 and May 2008. This created an "unsafe environment" for pupils, according to the GTC.

A teaching assistant who worked with Ms Harrison said the lack of discipline gave "rise to unacceptable and sometimes dangerous behaviour".

The GTC ruling said: "Her conduct during the lessons in question meant that little or no learning was occurring."

Ms Harrison, who admitted the charge against her and apologised for her actions, received a reprimand that will remain on her file for two years.

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