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A bad reference that states a teacher has been 'inappropriate'...

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by proofofposting, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. I am so worried!
    My fiance was recently forced to leave his teaching position as they were going to drop him to a part-time contract after Christmas. He could not secure another teaching job for Januaryso has ended up working in Education Recruitment for the time being.
    He didn't want to leave but would not have made enough money being on a part-time contract so he handed in his notice (but felt like the school had forced his hand).

    He was a form tutor at the school, which was his first teaching job, and was a very popular teacher. He felt so guilty about leaving his form group just as they were about to choose their GCSE Options that he set up a new email address and told them they could contact him if they needed any guidance.
    He recently received a letter from the school saying this action was 'inappropriate' and that as he was no longer a teacher at the school he must cease contact with all pupils immediately.

    He has recently had an interview for a new teaching position but was worried about the reference the school would provide, as he didn't leave on the best terms. He contacted the Head and asked about the reference. She then told him that she had included information about his 'inappropriate' behaviour since he left the school on the reference! He is now waiting to hear whether he got the job or not, but he is not very hopeful...

    What should he do? In my opinion, he has not acted 'inappropriately' at all! Even if he has in the school's eyes, this is not something that happened whilst he worked there- are they even allowed to include this information if this didn't happen whilst he was employed there?

    I feel like the school is trying its best to ruin his chances of getting another teaching job.

    What should our next steps be? Is there anything he can do? He has only been working at this new job for 2 months and the school he was at was his first job, so he would not be able to to get any other references.
    He is a really good teacher and it is such a shame that something so minor could completely scupper his chances of getting another position. In an over-saturated teaching market, this negative point on his most significant teaching reference could mean he misses out. I am so worried that this will ruin his career and his prospects for the future.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated...

  2. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    I'm afraid he was foolish to do this. Safeguarding guidance takes a rather dim view of teachers instigating or initiating such contact with pupils.
    He needs to contact his union for advice and support on this.
  3. I think that giving personal contact details (no matter what the reasoning behind it) is inappropriate. I know that it isn't a nice thought, but what would you think if your child came home with his/ her teachers home email and said "Mr. X gave me his email address and told me to email him." It doesn't sound good. I think that you will need to contact his union. I am sure that they will be able to tell you where you stand legally. IMO the reference is accurate, but not knowing all the details it is impossible to give further opinion.
  4. Just want to point out this isn't his personal email address- he set up a new email specifically. I know he has acted foolishly, but he had no idea that this was inappropriate behaviour.

    He is also no longer a member of a Union, as he left the NUT following their completely unhelpful attitude to giving advice on his rights when the school wanted to change his contract.
    Should he contact the school again and try to reason with the Headteacher? Or do you think this will damage his reputation further?
  5. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    I would advise him to take the criticism on the chin - His, all be they 'good' intentions were professionally inappropriate and misguided. It does not matter that he set up a new email address or otherwise - the fact remains he was inciting personal contact with pupils without professional directive. Aside from which the school had the right to ask him to refrain as they would have no way of knowing if his emailed advice contravened that of the person taking over his previous responsibilities.
    Safeguarding advice for teachers resoundedly advises against such contact with minors and once out of post he had no duty of care to them whatsoever.
  6. I wouldn't contact the school directly unless he has a plan of action. It may also see him referred to safeguarding/ child protection, which you don't want. Without Union support I am sure he will find this difficult. You can gain legal advice from a solicitor, however, as the school (IMO) has acted correctly there may be little they can do. Perhaps a positive first step would be to contact CAB and see what they say.

    The positive here is that although he has been accused of acting inappropriately, the school had done nothing about it. I am sure that somewhere, somehow this would be an argument in favour of your partner.

    If it wasn't an email address provided and overseen by your LA it will be classified as a personal email address.
  7. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    But that's not true. They wrote to him and told him to stop doing it. As he no longer worked there, there's not a deal else the school could do - apart from (as the head is duty-bound to do, under safeguarding guidance) refer to the inappropriate behaviour in the reference.
  8. Thanks you for your comments.

    He now realises what he has done is inappropriate and he of course has ceased contact with the pupils now that he has received the letter from the school. I just think that as the school has warned him not to keep in touch with pupils and he has stopped doing this they shouldn't be including it on their reference.
    No child protection issues have arisen as a result of his actions and the school is not going to pursue the issue. He acted foolishly, but I don't see why this mistake should appear on his reference.
    He has not been 'accused' of anything. But as soon as anyone reads the word 'inappropriate' on a teaching reference they would not employ that person!
    I don't think we would get anywhere if we went through any 'official' channels, which is why I think that speaking with the school directly could help.

    Do you really think the CAB would be able to give any guidance over this? Or should I try and get advice from a teaching Union? We are very good friends with a Union Rep for a different school- could they perhaps get advice on our behalf? Would getting advice from CAB or a Union be any help anyway? The way I see it he has pretty much ruined his chances of ever teaching again...
  9. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    If I can explain why the head has had to put this in a reference - safeguarding guidance gives all teachers, but especially heads, a responsibility to report any and all concerns they might have about a member of staff's behaviour. This includes a duty for heads to report within any references any concerns they might have had. This is because although I'm sure you're sure that your partner is not a risk to children, the head cannot know this for certain and his behaviour is of the kind that has often been linked with the 'grooming' of pupils by others.
    Not to report it within a reference is potentially gross misconduct by the headteacher.
  10. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    Yes, it is worth getting in contact with the union. They may be able to negotiate with the Head to withdraw the reference to 'inappropriateness' in any future references or modify it in such a way as to demonstrate their confidence that it was an act of naivety.
    Playing devil's advocate here: if a Head were to withdraw such a comment and - God forbid - a teacher went on to another school and used a similar tactic to 'groom' children, there would be Hell to pay, wouldn't there? Perhaps you can understand why the Head is being so cautious?
  11. Well we will try the Union then!

    Although it looks like he may need to start looking for a new career! It's a shame he doesn't like the job he is currently doing.

    I can assure everyone he has not been 'grooming' any children by the way! This is a case of serious naivety, nothing else. He thought he was helping out and now his future prospects are looking grim.

    Personally, I think if I were presented with all the facts and this was put in context for me that I would absolutley not think there were any safeguarding issues here. But from your replies it would seem that you all think there are?

    I can see your points but if I were the headteacher of the school I would not have included something like that on the reference. I understand the need for coutiousness but if a young teacher, new to the profession, had done something like that I would have to think about how well I knew them and seriously assess whether I thought there was anything dangerous being done before I ruined his life.
    If the school really were concerned by his behavior shouldn't they have reported it to official channels?
  12. I wouldn't be awfully surprised if the union do not wish to help as he is no longer a fee paying member. I have to admit that I agree with everyone else. As a member of the teaching profession he should have made himself aware of safeguarding issues and I'm afraid ignorance is no defence.
  13. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    There are absolutely safeguarding issues here. You know your boyfriend well; the Head does not.
    The Head had no choice.
    That's what makes me think that the Head believes it to have been an act on naivety and there may be some mileage in getting the union to negotiate how the Head commented on a reference. I'm sorry to say that, faced with two good candidates at interview a Headteacher is likely to choose the one with no comment about safeguarding, however, no matter how it is mitigated. It's tough, but realistic.
  14. As a young teacher, new to the profession, I can safely say that you need to be even MORE cautious about your relationship with the pupils. You are inexperienced, naive and, unfortunately, too close in age. Blurring the boundaries will only cause problems. I feel for your boyfriend but unfortunately he has been stupidly naive, it is a safeguarding issue and he was in the wrong.

    Professionalism has to come before any element of sentimentality. The head, as a previous poster has recognised, had absolutely no choice. HIS life would have been ruined if it transpired that he had concealed a significant issue on a reference.
  15. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    Unions and their representatives are simply not allowed to advise or support non-members.

    I repeat - He needs to take this on the chin.
  16. I really do thank you all for your help with this. It is just such a shame that such a promising young teacher has stupidly ruined his life.
    I guess it will be tough but we will have to try and work around this. If it transpires he cannot be employed because of this comment on his reference then we will have to look for other options, possibly sacrificing what we have built up already and him starting out on a new career, possibly getting re-trained in some other field.

    I just wish there had been someone who could have flagged this up at the time and warned him against it.

    All we can do is now hope that this has not completely ruined our futures.
  17. In no way has he ruined his life. What he has here is a bad reference - that is all. Get him to register with supply agencies, do a bit of supply work and hopefully he will get some good references. It might be a long tunnel, but it isn't the end of his career.

    If it is a mistake (and it sounds like it has been), there is no reason why he will not recover in time. Like another poster says, he needs to take it on the chin and learn from this.
  18. Thank you so much for helping with this- it is giving me some hope! He is currently working for an Educational recruitment agency, so if he really doesn't want to stay there I am sure he could register with them for supply work!
    But won't they also need to see a reference from this school and may not have him on their books because of it? That would be my worry here.
    Also, do you know how easy it is to find supply work every day of the week and how much it pays around London?
    I have no idea, as I have never considered supply...

  19. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    Aside from the advice with your problem... please do ask HIM to post and have conversations with professionals rather than hiding behind your coat tails. I am sure he is more of a professional than to require the use of a puppet to fight his corner or relay advice offered.
  20. I think this is a little uncalled for! He actually doesn't know that I am seeking advice on here on his behalf.
    He is waiting for feedback from this job he just went for, but I was simply too worried to wait.
    I appreciate your advice, but your comment is a little unecessary. You didn't have to offer up any advice if you felt your professional integrity was somewhat compromised by giving your advice to me, on my partner's behalf.This situation is already extremely upsetting and it will ultimately affect me just as much as it will affect him, so why shouldn't I be permitted to ask for advice on his behalf?

    Apologies if I have offended anyone by asking for advice that, although any actions taken as a result of it will deeply affect me, aren't actually about my teaching career.


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