Teachers are supposed to be the beacon of knowledge for children in class. Many people focus on the methods that teachers use, the way they speak, what they eat, what kind of a car they drive but people rarely focus on how teachers dress. About 62% of the information is transmitted through non-verbal communication meaning that the impression you make highly depends on how you look. Of course this is subconscious and many people simply don’t realize that straight away. Teachers need to be respected and even though they deserve a lot of credit just because of the job that they have, they still need to earn respect through how they carry themselves. After all this is school – an institution where the future of society is nurtured. We interviewed 12 teachers from different London schools on the topic of dress code and teacher uniforms in the UK.
That being said, it’s unacceptable for a teacher to dress inappropriately. Before we continue the topic we need to address what “inappropriately” means. We are not talking about putting on suggestive clothes that radiate promiscuity. No, no, it’s about not looking serious enough. It’s about not living up to the expectations towards your look that your profession presents. A male teachers should always look sharp in order be perceived as a fine member of the society. A suit and a tie aren’t needed – that might be taking it too far. Simply a nice dress shirt tucked in pants with a beautiful belt and matching shoes would be sufficient enough. When it comes to female teachers the possibilities to look astonishing are endless. Again you don’t have to overdo it. Ladies can utilize dresses, skirts, shirts, suits even jeans if they are properly matched with the rest of the outfit. They can rely on jewelry, scarves, glasses, hairdo and what not to look professional. All it takes is just a little desire to do so. And I assure you students will start to take you more seriously instantly. So a dress code might be a good idea.
When considering primary school teachers, there’s a belief that their attire should reflect the innocent and imaginative atmosphere of younger students. They often engage in activities that might require them to sit on the floor, paint, or participate in sports. Hence, casual clothing like wearing trainers could be more appropriate for their setting.
On the other hand, secondary schools usually have students in their teenage years who are forming perceptions about professionalism and are more observant about attire. Here, it’s crucial for a teacher to reflect the image of a professional person. This doesn’t necessarily translate to suits and formal wear, but perhaps a balance that leans away from casual clothing like t-shirts and overly relaxed attire.
It’s imperative to note that any staff dress code policy must be crafted with sensitivity, ensuring no discrimination occurs. The Equality Act mandates that workplace policies, including teacher dress code UK policies, should not be discriminatory in terms of gender, religion, or other aspects of one’s identity. This means that the attire expected from female staff should not be too different or restrictive compared to that of male staff. For instance, if a school staff dress code policy prohibits visible tattoos, it should apply to all genders equally.
This uniformity of dress codes can help address some of the biases that might creep into professional environments. If a teacher dress code in the UK is overly strict for female educators, restricting them from wearing certain fabrics or lengths, it might be seen as discriminatory. Similarly, if male staff are prohibited from wearing earrings or other accessories while the female staff is permitted, it again poses questions of equity.
Now there are plenty of schools especially in the UK and London more specifically that would require even teachers to wear uniforms. This may be taking a step too far. Sure we want to look respectful and show that the education system honors traditions and history but this way you are depriving people of being themselves. Sure even removal companies have their own uniforms and their movers wear them every day. But when we talk about other businesses such as these cleaning and delivery companies their uniforms are usually needed out of practicality not so much because of fashion. When you load and unload sofas on and off vans you better be dressed properly and safely. But mandatory uniforms for teachers are just too much of a conservative policy.
The next quick issue in schools nowadays are self-phones and not children’s phones but teachers’. We all know the rules – kids aren’t allowed to use their phones during class but how often have we seen a teacher doing it, even for a second. Well we’ve seen it plenty of times. And it doesn’t look professional, it looks sloppy. Also this way teachers lose respect because kids feel like they are victims of double standards and in a way they are.
The teacher is basically a speaker and no speaker wants to lose his audience’s attention. When your phone rings during class even if you hang up immediately, damage has already been done. Children get annoyed and distracted by the sound and by the fact you had cut your lecture in order to tap your screen. There’s a reason why most businesses require employees to shut down their phones during working hours.
New challenges arise when a new school is established, and the administration logically has to decide on its school policies. Here, professional judgement is pivotal. The ambiance of the school, its location, borough, area and its student demographic can all drastically influence the decisions on the dress code.
However, there’s more to a dress code than just setting an impression. Health and safety are also paramount. For instance, if a school has a workshop or a laboratory, loose clothing might pose a hazard. Similarly, in sports or physical education classes, wearing trainers would be more suitable than formal shoes.
It’s also essential to recognize the influence teachers have on young people and respectively their dress codes as well. Adolescents, especially, are at a stage where they are forming their identities and perceptions about the world. Having clear boundaries about what constitutes appropriate attire can give them a frame of reference for their future professional lives.