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.


Dating photographs

… or not dating them as the case may be! Recently I’ve been trying to identify the individual members of the NUWT in the photographs in the Collection.

Identifying the women has been a lot tougher than I’d originally thought it would be so I’m hoping some of my you might be able to help!  Many of the group photographs contain large numbers of women, often wearing hats which partially obscure their face, and some of these photographs are a bit faded with age. Ah the age – there’s another problem, many of these photos are not dated!  As these are often more casual shots the women are not always looking directly at the camera, making it more difficult to identify.  For some women, generally members of the Central Council, we have official portraits.  However even these are problematic as they do not always give the name of the individual or the date.

So here’s two photographs/one individual I’ve been puzzling over – let’s see what you think.

UWT_G_1_13 Miss Cutten web

Photo 1 ©Institute of Education Archive

UWT_G_2_33 miss Cutten and unidentified woman

Photo 2 ©Institute of Education Archive

  • Is the women in photo 1 the same as the women on the left in photo 2?
  • What date would you give these photos?

Unlike most of the collection the photograph section was already on the catalogue system when I started this project.  Some are catalogued individually, others in groups.  Photo 1 is dated 1918/1919 on the catalogue but has no date on the photo and photo 2 is dated 1920s on the catalogue entry, again with no date on the photo itself.  On the back of photo 1 it says Miss [Cutten] – I’m pretty sure it’s Cutten but the writing is quite hard to make out.  I’m sure the women on the left in photo 2 is the same as photo 1 but the problem here is that if photo 1 is Miss Lizzie Cutten she died in 1920.  So either the name is wrong, one or both of the dates are wrong, or I have two different women. [Are you confused yet? I’m confusing myself here with trying to work this out so please bear with me!] Lizzie Cutten was born in 1888 so it could be that photo 1 was taken  much earlier than 1918 but I don’t know enough about historic fashion and hairstyles to even take an educated guess. Can anyone help me out here with dating these based on the fashion and hair styles?

And I’ve not even started trying to figure out who the women on the right is in photo 2!