What to wear on placement

We know that placements are an important part of your experience during your course. What do you wear on placement? And how do you get there? If you're wondering about these things then you're not alone - they're some of the questions we’re asked most often!

Trainee teacher working with pupils

For the first post in this series we’re focusing on what to wear. We've spoken to some of our tutors and students to give you an overview and tips on everything from hair to shoes.

It will be no surprise to learn that if you’re training to be a teacher or you have a placement in a school, you will be expected to wear smart dress when it comes to placements. So that’s trousers, shirt and tie for men and smart dress, trousers or skirt and a blouse or appropriately smart top for women. Of course there may be exceptions for men with regards to your tie should you be teaching science or design and technology for example as you will need to comply with health and safety rules; no-one wants to get a loose article of clothing caught in a Bunsen burner! Rules may also be a bit more relaxed for Drama, Art and PE of course but your placement provider will advise of their requirements.

Why is it important to be well-presented?

You’re setting an example to the pupils and you want them to have confidence in you as their teacher – you can’t expect them to comply with school uniform regulations and then turn up to work in jeans and a t-shirt yourself! The same goes for trainers…

Of course there may be exceptions to this. If you’re placed in an early years setting, which may apply to Early Childhood Studies and Working with Children, Young People and Families students, you may be allowed to wear more smart casual clothing given the need to be able to move quite freely, getting up and down to the level of the children. However, you will be advised of this when you’re allocated your placement or by your placement provider.

Other things to consider when working with children and young people, or indeed with much older teenagers and adults in the post-compulsory education and training sector, include how revealing your clothes are and anything that might get caught by a baby or small child or in equipment. So that means no visible body piercings, no long nails and no dangling earrings or necklaces. Also, no high heels as you need to be fully stable when dealing with small children and babies or with machinery and appliances.

Education Studies or Working with Children, Young People and Families Students

You may have a placement in a setting like a charity or office environment where smart-casual is accepted. As you can imagine, if you were working with a charity, clothes that are too formal might create a barrier between you and the people you’re trying to assist but your placement provider will be able to give you information before you start.

This is also the case for social work students who need to appear professional without being intimidating, so while trousers and a shirt would be fine for a man, you probably wouldn’t need to wear a tie in most circumstances. Similarly plain trousers or a skirt and a top would be perfect but formal suit jackets can usually be left out of your outfit!

student social workers talking to service user

We have a whole policy that advises you on what is expected in terms of other aspects of appearance from hair to shoes.

Here are our top five pointers:

  1. Visible tattoos are okay with us as long as they’re not profane or offensive, in which case you’ll have to use a tattoo cover product. Some placement providers might have their own rules though so you’ll have to abide by those.
  2. Make-up is also fine as long as it’s modest rather than the kind you might use on a night out!
  3. Your hair shouldn’t generally be a problem but if you’re working with children or with equipment you might want to think about having it tied back out of the way in case it gets grabbed or caught.
  4. It’s probably best to keep your nails to a length where there’s no chance of scratching anyone by accident and so it doesn’t impair your ability to write or type!
  5. Shoes. You could be on your feet quite a lot, particularly if you’re in a school setting or working with children in general. So consider how comfortable and safe your shoes are. They should be made of a material that’s not fabric so that you can clean them if you get anything on them (for example, glue, paint…).

These tips should give you a head start on what to expect but the placement provider will be able to give you guidelines on what is expected in their workplace – and this may vary from one placement to another. So the main thing to remember is to stick to what they advise!  

So now you have some idea about what you should wear on placement and your appearance, you have to figure out how to get there! Placements for School of Education and Social Work can be in Birmingham and the Black Country but also in the wider West Midlands area, so our next blog instalment on placements will include tips on how to get around to placement and what we consider when allocating placements.

Students on placement with children's charity

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