Across the country senior leaders are spending hours writing staff dress codes, deciding how best to tell a member of staff we can all see their thong and why sandals breach health and safety rules.
Having started a conversation on Twitter about it, it is an issue with teachers as well.
What should/shouldn’t teachers and school staff be wearing to school? Does it matter?
I’m going to present some of the arguments given about clothing so far…
- Teachers should look professional
Let’s not confuse looking professional with being professional. All teachers should act in a professional manner but do you need to be dressed professionally for that to happen?
What does ‘looking professional’ mean? Always a suit?
A surgeon is a professional. Whilst completing surgery they wear what is appropriate for that situation. Would you insist a 9 hour surgery be done in a suit because it’s ‘professional’? Can we be professional but also appropriate for context?
Do teachers have a ‘hang up’ about trying to be on par with other professionals and voice this through ‘professional’ dress codes?
2. Teachers should wear business clothes
Why? We’re not a business are we? Most school staff do not carry out the same duties as a business person or work in the same sort of environment. An office/meeting environment is not the same as a classroom/hall/playground.
Why refer to business when contexts are different?
Teachers in different contexts have said how inappropriate it would be to wear a suit.
3. We need to be role models for the children
How I behave, speak and teach is the role model. Not what I wear.
Do I stop being a role model on non-uniform days? When students see me out of school? On trips?
4. We should trust teachers to be smart.
It’s not an issue of trust. We all have different clothing tastes and definitions of what smart means. Without any sort of guidance or policy it becomes a personal issue where one member of staff thinks another isn’t smart. Without a clear policy to back it up, isn’t it just a difference of opinion? I once heard a leader say they don’t ‘like’ 3/4 length trousers. It was almost their mission to challenge everyone who wore them. There was no policy to say this.
5. We’re all adults. We know what we should wear.
Going by the number of incidences recalled by colleagues. Clearly not. I’ve also experienced long term ‘disagreements’ between staff and SLT on piercings and tattoos.
6. We waste hours of time on policies and enforcing/arguing about them
An NQT told me that she spent time discussing this with other NQTs. SLTs and Governors sit in meetings discussing. Another member of staff says they spent a whole meeting discussion and voting on a dress code. Leaders spend time thinking how best to raise the issue of exposed cleavage or visible thong.
Isn’t this a huge waste of time? Shouldnt we be focussing on teaching, learning and children?
7. Leggings should be banned
They’re all wearing leggings, which some schools ban. Are their outfits acceptable or not? Why?
8. A primary teacher spends time on the floor, with messy play, etc a suit isn’t practical
Primary colleagues (male and female) have said that suits for full time teachers are impractical. They spend more time on their knees and elbows than their secondary colleagues. Does it really matter if a male wears a tie or not, if it’s impractical? Colleagues tell me that tights aren’t suitable as they get torn and uncomfortable.
Is there a primary/secondary divide?
9. Teachers should be smart for parents’ sake
Again what is the definition of smart? Do parents really care as long as you know their child and how they’re getting on?
One colleague suggested not having a policy, trusting teachers and only addressing clothing if parents make comments. This is a dangerous non-policy. Allowing parents to initiate issues with teacher clothing gives them a power that is inappropriate. If the clothing is inappropriate it should be dealt with well before the member of staff sees a parent.
Realistically, how often do we see parents, especially in secondary? PE depts. change from their everyday teaching clothes into suits at parents evenings. By definition are we accepting that suits are not always appropriate but clothing should be flexible? We could say “staff should wear a suit, within reason, when meeting a parent” but that would mean it would be easier for some to always wear a suit.
10. If we expect students to wear X, then so should we
This is a straw man when referring to uniform. If you suggest we should not wear tight trousers because the students can’t we then would need to follow exactly the same rules for clothing as with students. You can’t cherry pick the one aspect of student uniform you do want to copy and not the rest. Teachers would be wearing ties, blazers, black shoes etc
11. No Bums, Boobs, Belly
Some schools use this as a baseline. Clear enough, isn’t it?
I’ve been trying to play devils advocate on this. I have my own experience and bias which influences my thoughts, as we all do.
I’m beginning to think a staff uniform would resolve many issues. PE departments often have their own uniform but also others on Twitter have mentioned they have a uniform. It would save me loads of money on buying work clothes, I could claim back on tax for cleaning and would get dressed much quicker in the morning. Could you imagine launching this with staff in a staff meeting?