Dance industry hits back at ‘scruffy teachers’ claim

UK dance industry groups have waded into a debate surrounding teachers’ professional attire, following an Ofsted inspector’s claim that teachers at a London school appeared ‘too casual’.

In a letter to the headteacher of Acland Burghley School in Camden, the inspector wrote: ‘Some staff take your lead and dress in a business-like fashion. However, in other cases, teachers’ attire is too casual and does not promote high professional standards or expectations.’

The letter did not specifically target teachers of arts subjects at the school, but the news has prompted Dance UK and the National Dance Teachers Association to point out that teaching dance and physical education requires clothing which allows for adequate movement.

Dance UK member Fergus Early, artistic director of Green Candle Dance Company, said: ‘I was outraged to see a news item on TV reporting that Ofsted inspectors had criticised teachers at Acland Burghley School for dressing in a “scruffy” way. One person interviewed was wearing standard and appropriate clothes for teaching contemporary dance – basically a tracksuit and t-shirt.

‘As she rightly pointed out, she teaches dance and she thinks it is proper to dress like a dancer. It is both petty and ignorant to criticise people for the way they dress and more so if the clothes are the standard professional wear for their subject. I see this criticism from Ofsted inspectors as a part of the insidious creeping towards ever greater conformity and stifling of the creativity that, more than anything else, is the quality this country can take most pride in.’

NDTA board member Ginny Brown said: ‘It is inaccurate to equate informal clothing with low professional standards as dance is a highly disciplined art form that takes dedication and years of hard work to master. On the contrary, dancers are well known for their dedication, focus and commitment.’

As well as writing a letter to Ofsted stating their concerns, the two groups are also encouraging dance teachers to share photos of what they wear to work via social media, using the hashtag #danceteachersarentscruffy.

Photo: Choreographer Hofesh Shechter teaching at the NDTA conference in 2012 © Brian Slater