Colourful debate on point of body art

18th August 2006 at 01:00
Piercings and tattoos may be a personal statement but is it acceptable to reveal them in a classroom?

Debate is raging in the TES staffroom over what forms of body art should be permitted in schools.

A survey shows that teachers are more likely to have a tattoo than sailors or soldiers, so some people are questioning conservative school dress codes.

Simon Gibbons, 36, who teaches a postgraduate teaching course at Bedfordshire university and was previously head of a London secondary's English department has worn an earring since he was 14.

He said: "I've never had to remove it and I employed a teacher with an eyebrow piercing and didn't see it as a problem.

"If you have too much metal hanging on your face you don't look too sensible and if it distracts pupils from learning, something should be done. I wouldn't want a hard and fast rule though."

Dylan Wiliam, the new deputy director of London university's Institute of Education, also has an earring. Not everyone is so confident, though. One TES staffroom user covers her tattoos at school but said: "Just because you have tattoos and piercings doesn't mean you are a degenerate."

A survey of 1,300 adults earlier this year showed that 14 per cent of teachers had a tattoo compared with fewer than 10 per cent of those in the services. But Peter Price, chairman of the National Primary Headteachers'

Association, and head of St Christopher's primary, in Speke, Liverpool, does not think they should be revealed.

"Showing a tattoo or piercing suggests it's OK," he said. "A teacher's job is to be neutral."

Join the debate at

profile 13 leader 18

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today