TROUSER BLOG – Should Teachers Wear a Uniform ?

 We are living in an increasingly ‘uniformed’ society. It seems that everywhere I look people are wearing a uniform to identify where they work or what group they belong to. It is not just the casual clothes of fashion that certain groups use to distinguish themselves from others but actual ‘uniforms’. Sometimes, but not always, paid for by the employer. Of course we know that a lot of schools are very keen on pupils wearing uniform and police it assiduously for minor infringements. And we at TFA are not against school uniforms per se, but we think that they should be practical and not reinforce gender stereotypes. However, it occurs to me that if schools are so conscious of their ‘brands‘ and the way that their pupils look, then why don’t the teachers wear a uniform and have the same dress restrictions to which their pupils are subjected? Parents may judge a school by the appearance of the teachers just as much as the appearance of the pupils.

One of the arguments for schools having a uniform is that it prepares the pupils for the world of work – therefore it is not unreasonable that the ‘workers’ the pupils see most frequently (the teachers) should be dressed similarly to the pupils. When I was a clinical teacher for nursing students and went to teach them on the hospital wards, I wore the same uniform as them, albeit a different colour, and I didn’t wear earrings or nail varnish.

If teachers are subject to the same uniform requirements as the pupils then it would make enforcing dress codes much easier. I always think that it must be very embarrassing for a female teacher to be reprimanding a female pupil for wearing trousers, or colouring her hair or wearing nail varnish, when she herself is wearing trousers and has coloured hair and painted nails. Other uniformed organisations have dress codes that apply to everyone and some even differentiate different jobs or seniority in some way. I once asked a civil engineer friend of mine why he had two hard hats in his car; a white one and a yellow one. He said that it was because sometimes he went on to a site and he would be the senior person (the boss – one colour) and that other time he was just one of the engineers (the other colour). Very helpful to those who worked there, particularly if there was some kind of emergency.

Some of you may remember that some years ago David Cameron got into trouble from a hospital surgeon for entering a hospital ward with his tie hanging loose and his sleeves rolled down – this was against hospital cross infection rules and since then when politicians are pictured visiting hospital wards, ties are tucked in and sleeves are rolled up – even politicians are not exempt from the rules.

The idea that uniforms can be used to differentiate between different grades of people would be extremely helpful in secondary schools where there are large numbers of teaching staff. Staff always know who the pupils are because the pupils wear a uniform, but pity the poor children, particularly those in years 7 and 8 who may not know who is a teacher and who is just a visitor to the school. This could be very important if there were some kind of emergency. It would also help to identify intruders – name badges only go so far.

I once asked a head teacher why, if he was so keen on girls wearing skirts as part of their uniform, he did not insist that the female teachers wore skirts as well. Grudgingly he said that he would if he could, but he was not able to. He did not expand on why he couldn’t but I expect it was something to do with laws about sex discrimination and unions. It made me wonder why he did not extend that principle to the female pupils. Sadly the pupils don’t have a union to back them up.


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