Friday, January 02, 2009

Strike threat after British PE teacher is sacked for wearing trainers to class

A PE teacher who has worn a tracksuit and trainers to school for 30 years has been sacked after the acting headteacher decided he was flouting the dress code. Adrian Swain, 56, was dismissed a week before Christmas because he refused to follow a ban on trainers. The school's local education authority has backed the sacking - claiming teachers 'should not wear clothing children are not allowed to wear themselves'. Now fellow teachers at the comprehensive where Mr Swain has taught for 17 years are threatening to strike if he is not reinstated.

Mr Swain said of his dismissal for wearing the clothes he teaches in: 'I am stunned that in this day and age you can be sacked for wearing the wrong type of shoes. 'I haven't a blot on my character and have suddenly been sacked for something I have always worn.' Mr Swain of Stratford, east London, who has 30 years teaching experience added: 'Children would much rather have a good teacher who wore trainers than a bad one who was dressed like a businessman.

The school dress code was imposed by an acting head teacher, Lorraine Page, at the state comprehensive who has since left.

Mr Swain added: 'Pupils learn best in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable and not in a corporate, office-like setting, so I really don't like the way that education is going.' Mr Swain worked with special needs children, at St Paul's Way Community School in Bow, east London. His colleagues are pressing for a ballot on industrial action in protest at his dismissal. Mr Swain said he had worn tracksuit bottoms and trainers to school throughout his 30-year teaching career without any complaints. Mr Swain, believes he has been victimised as he is a union representative for the National Union of Teachers. He said: 'I was singled out and fired while other staff have regularly worn banned items. 'It is clear that this is not about what I wear or what kind of teacher I am. This is victimisation because I have consistently worked to protect union members against bullying and intimidation. Mr Swain said he has a final appeal against his dismissal next term.

The school's website boasts of its 'excellent' PE facilities which include two gymnasia, a swimming pool, a weight training room and a table tennis hall inside, and two floodlit hard court areas for football, netball and cricket outdoors.

Professor Margaret Talbot OBE of the Association for Physical Education said that she thought the teacher should not have been sacked. She said: 'While teaching, PE teachers obviously need to wear appropriate dress. My personal view is that all teachers should be dressed in a professional manner to go to school. On the other hand I don't think it's a sackable offence.'

A 2006 Ofsted report ranked the 900 pupil comprehensive as 'satisfactory'. Around 80 per cent of the school's pupils are from Bangladeshi families. In one unusual feature of the school's uniform policy, female pupils at the school are allowed to wear the jilbab - an all in one black garment covering the head and body, but not the face.

A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets Council confirmed that a teacher at St Paul's Way School was dismissed last week for 'continually failing to comply with a reasonable management instruction'. She said: 'Staff in Tower Hamlets schools are expected to set a good example to the students they teach. It's vital that standards are set in terms of appearance and behaviour, and staff are asked not to wear items of clothing that students are not permitted to wear themselves, eg trainers.'

'The decision followed consultation between the school, Tower Hamlets Council and trade unions and the member of staff still has the right of appeal.'Colleagues of a PE teacher sacked for wearing trainers and a tracksuit to school have threatened strike action if he is not reinstated.


Nazi E-boat saved by military enthusiast

The last Nazi E-boat, which took part in an infamous raid during the Second World War, has been saved by a British military enthusiast.

Schnellboot-130, once the fastest vessel in the world, helped attack an Allied convoy off Slapton Sands, in Devon, in a battle in which nearly 1,000 Allied soldiers were killed.

On the night of April 27, 1944, the boat was one of nine German vessels patrolling the English Channel when they stumbled upon Operation Tiger, which was the rehearsal for the D-Day landings.

The convoy launched a raid and killed 946 Allied soldiers. Allied chiefs initially covered up the loss, keen to avoid the enemy becoming aware of what it had achieved or getting wind of any planned invasion of Europe.

After the war the Schnellboot was seized by the British and used to land spies behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War but was then left in a dockyard and eventually began to disintegrate.

Enthusiast Kevin Wheatcroft has now come to the rescue of the vessel.

Mr Wheatcroft, whose family owns the Donington Grand Prix museum, in Leicestershire, paid just £1 for the hulk but will now spend around £3 million restoring it.

He recently acquired the salvage rights on three sunken Schnellboots off the Danish coast and plans to bring up original parts to help the restoration.

The project will take up to five years after which it is hoped the vessel will become a floating museum and visitor attraction.

Mr Wheatcroft said: "I've always been fascinated with Schnellboots and she is one of the most famous.

"The intention is to return her to her original state and into a moving museum."

He added: "Over the years I have collected a lot of parts including engines, gun platforms, a complete radio and bridge equipment.

"I have acquired salvage rights on three Schnellboot wrecks off the Danish coast. They were sunk after the war in 1948 and 1949, so are not war graves.

"I hope to be able to get an armoured bridge, torpedo tubes and mine racks from the sunken ships.

S-130 was recently lifted from the water and a building will now be put up around her while the work is carried out a few miles along the coast from Slapton Sands.

The Schnellboots were small, fast and effective – and had been devised as a result of the Versailles restrictions set at the close of the First World War.

With the Germans banned from building large warships they embarked on an ingenious naval development programme, resulting in the Schnellboots.

The allies called them E-boats – the "E" standing for enemy.

They were propelled by three powerful Mercedes diesel engines and could travel at 55 knots, faster than any other naval vessel.

The boats had a wedge on the stern that prevented the bow from rising as it accelerated so the guns fired more accurately. That technology is today used on US destroyers.

Wyn Davies, a naval architect and maritime historian, said: "She is the last survivor of a hugely important class of warship that gave our coastal forces quite a headache.

"They introduced several new features, the most useful of which was the use of diesel engines to power them.

"This ended the need for stocking inflammable petrol on board.

"These craft formed the basis for post war development of similar vessels for most Nato navies."


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