Clothes maketh the teacher?

Well I can’t say much in favour of Sir Michael Wilshaw, but at least he’s stopping me having to think too hard deciding what to blog about! Thought I’d focus on another one of his classic comments – that inspections should comment on teachers’ standards of dress.

Can just imagine it, can’t you – “well, I admit all the children made excellent progress and enjoyed the lesson, Ms Scruff, but unfortunately you bought that top in Primark – unsatisfactory”.

I can just imagine all those art teachers with their once smart, paint-spattered suits, primary school teachers dressed in their finest dealing with a ribena-covered infant and, of course, PE teachers running round a pitch in their heels.

OK, it isn’t impossible to teach Maths in a suit. And I admit I am biased, since although I do try to dress reasonably respectably for work, I am not one of those people who can wander round in a suit all day and keep it looking immaculate – everything goes skew-whiff within an hour or so alas. I also absolutely do not do heels – they are uncomfortable, bad for your feet and I can’t walk in them – but it’s hard to be considered “smart” as a woman without them.

But I think there is a genuine issue here. Sure, one should not wear “inappropriate” dress (eg anything revealing, or more suited to a beach or a club). And yes, I’d feel uncomfortable too dressed down. But does this numbskull really want us all to be corporate clones? Will that really help make kids feel they trust us and want to learn from us, if we are all in business uniform? Will I feel relaxed enough in my classroom to help kids cutting and gluing, or making posters, or running around (and yes they do all happen in my Maths classes) if I am worried about presenting a totally immaculate appearance at all times, or stressing about ink stains getting on that posh jacket? A school is not a business -it is a place for working with children.

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