Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 27 Sep 2007

What should primary teachers wear? I think my young staff are too casual. Am I out of touch?

Hillary's Advice

At first glance this query seems banal. Surely a head should know how he wants his teachers to present themselves? But the truly wise person always knows that there are things they donít know, and this older, male primary head recognises that he is not as up to speed with womenís fashions as he needs to be.

And heís right. Clothes have changed. Things that, once upon a time, only a porn star would have been seen in, have now become normal High Street wear, and there are fewer workplace dress rules than ever.

Even so, children donít change and neither do classrooms. Primary teachers need easy, washable clothes that they can sit, kneel, bend and stretch in. They need layers, as classrooms often can be overheated or freezing cold, and they need to look smart and groomed enough to present a professional face to children, colleagues and parents.

My hunch is that this head is worried either that his teachers are showing too much flesh, or that they are turning up in casual tee-shirts and slouchy trousers when heíd prefer to see them in something smarter.

While he has the absolute right to ask his staff to dress for the job and cover up distracting cleavages and muffin-top tummies, he also needs to tread very carefully. We live in casual times and his staff would almost certainly object violently to any patriarchal decrees about what they should or should not wear. He should make his general views known, trust their professionalism, and speak tactfully with any individual who is causing problems.