‘Teachers shouldn’t worry about how parents dress’


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Everyone had a uniform of sorts, and not all that long ago.

Walk through the centre of Norwich at lunchtime and there were hordes of men in dark suits, white shirts and sensible ties. They were the Norwich Union workers.

Around The Close you saw old men with thick tweed jackets complete with leather patches on elbows and sleeves. They were teachers.

Everyone conformed; to stand out was to be a rebel, to dress as everyone else made you reliable, solid. Even journalists, those bastions of radical views and free speech, had a uniform of sorts – sports jackets, ties. And the female of the species would have been sent home, indeed was, were she to report for work wearing trousers. After the 70s, convention gradually went out of the window, so that now there are few dress codes.

So it seems odd the parents can take their children to school wearing onesies or shell suits, but not pyjamas.

One headmistress in Darlington has asked parents to refrain from doing the school run as if dressed for bed. 'If we're to raise standards, it's not too much to ask parents to have a wash and get dressed,' she said.

OK miss. And it's not too much to ask teachers to dress smartly also.

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Ten years or so ago, trendy teachers adopted the jeans and sandals look which might have been fine in the staff room but did little to encourage the confidence of parents.

What would you prefer, a right-on teacher in charge of your kids - or one with dress sense?

Now, parents are being lectured about what they should wear outside school while bringing their offspring to class.

How parents dress is nothing to do with schools. Teachers might set uniform standards for the pupils, that is school policy, but it starts and ends at the school gate.

And presumably it's OK for parents to plead with teachers to smarten themselves up a bit. I dare you to try it. Those old men in their well-worn tweeds had a certain archaic style, but teachers in jeans and sandals?

And if a note goes home to parents asking them not to do the school run while in pyjamas, presumably it's in order for parents to write a letter back asking teachers to smarten up a bit.

Even today, how you dress still mimics your profession. Those mega-brained individuals running internet companies can wear what they like as the public rarely sees them.

Salesmen and women usually have the corporate look. Advertising and marketing people covet what pretentious invitations call 'smart casual,' a look the French find easy but the British – well men, well me – find mysterious.

A man once gave the sure way to judge people. Smartly-combed hair, plenty of polish on their shoes. You'll know they'll be reliable and honest. Which spivs and conmen realised and dressed accordingly.

Teachers will do well to concentrate on teaching and leave parents' dress, lunchboxes and all the politically-correct nonsense well alone.

•The views above are those of Richard Watts. Read more from our columnists each day in the EDP.