Teacher Dress Codes… 1919 & 2014

There’s been plenty of chatter this week regarding teacher’s dress.  On Tuesday, The Telegraph reported on the topic, which I first saw shared on Schools Improvement:

Education inspectors are to launch a clampdown on scruffy teachers amid fears adults may be setting a bad example to pupils by wearing casual clothes in lessons. Ofsted said inspections of teacher training would be overhauled to place a greater focus on “professional dress and conduct” in the classroom. – Graeme Paton, The Telegraph

In the past, Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has previously stressed the importance of teachers adopting ‘business-like’ attire. The changes, which suggest a focus on suits, ties and shirts for men and smart skirts or dresses for women, are reported as coming from a shake-up of the way Ofsted inspects teacher training courses.  Last month’s published figures, which showed four out of ten teachers fail to last longer than five years on the job, suggest teachers are poorly prepared for the demands of the classroom.  There is also the concern that too many new teachers struggle to control ‘unruly pupils’ and ‘conduct themselves properly in front of lessons’ (The Telegraph).

Having taught in several struggling schools in London, I always dressed professionally…  I also had my fair share of classroom management challenges that no number of wool pencil skirts could singlehandedly resolve.  We’ll leave this debate for another day – and this is in no way advocating a teacher dress code of jeans and t-shirts – but a focus on increased support for new teachers during the first years on the job is apt to do more for teacher success and retention rates than a dress code inspection ever will.

In the meantime, I want to share my very favourite advertisement from a 1919 issue of the National Union of Women Teachers’ journal publication, The Woman Teacher


Somehow, muffs and feathered hats didn’t make it on to the suggested teacher dress code for 2014.  Document Ref: UWT/H/1… The Woman Teacher, Vol. 1, Iss. 7, 1919.


2 thoughts on “Teacher Dress Codes… 1919 & 2014

  1. My mum got told off for wearing tartan wool slacks on teaching practice in 1970 (she should have been in a skirt, apparently). She’ll go on to tell you that at the time she was working on a theatre production that involved crawing around on the stage quite a lot of the time. Because a skirt would be really appropriate for that!
    As you say, more emphasis on supporting teachers, rather than criticising their clothing, would be a positive thing. I also think the act of associating a school, with corporate language – “business-like” – is quite worrying…

  2. First of all, I hope your mum still has the tartan wool slacks for a good vintage find!

    Secondly, when teachers are regularly crawling around on stages for a theatre production, or on the carpet during a shared maths investigation, it does make you wonder whether or not the people coming up with these rules have actually taught in a classroom.

    Excellent point on the fact that schools are not (or should not) be seen as a business. Teachers are there to educate young people… they’re not there as marketing execs presenting a sales pitch.

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