The Stepney School Strike Painting
(L-R, Dan Jones – artist, Chris Searle – English teacher sacked leading to the Stepney School Strike, Paul Woods – Headteacher of Stepney All Saints School, Angela Hancock – Chair of Governors at Stepney All Saints School)

Some of you may know the story of the Stepney School strike just over 50 years ago, in May 1971.

Chris Searle, a young English teacher was dismissed from Sir John Cass Foundation for publishing a poetry anthology called ‘Stepney Words’, a collection of poems written by students at the time, as it was believed to have depicted the area of Stepney negatively.

This decision was met with resistance by the students of the school and other local schools, resulting in 800 students going on strike. Chris Searle was later reinstated.

To commemorate 50 years of the Stepney School Strike, Chris Searle, along with BBC journalist Alan Dein and Professor Nadia Valman from Queen Mary University London worked with students from Stepney All Saints School (formerly Sir John Cass and Redcoat School) for a series of workshops for the ‘Stepney Words Fifty Year On.’ There are currently plans in place to publish the poetry written by students at Stepney All Saints to form Stepney Words, Volume 3.

You can watch the full video here –

As part of ‘Stepney Words Fifty Years On’, East End artist Dan Jones produced a painting to depict the strike, and donated this painting to Stepney All Saints School. The school have proudly displayed this painting in the school reception with a plaque to explain this historical moment.

The painting uses the name ‘Sir John Cass’ to accurately capture the event. However, the school name has since changed to Stepney All Saints School as a sign of active commitment to oppose racism in all of its forms, after acknowledging John Cass’s association with slavery and human exploitation.

You can discover more about this school here.