1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

A truly toxic working environment (originally posted by mistake in 'welcome lounge & forum help'))

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by mcryork, Jan 19, 2016.

  1. mcryork

    mcryork New commenter

    Nine months ago, I resigned from my job at a challenging academy. Earlier in the year, I had been very poorly in hospital and not only was I reprimanded for setting insufficient work during that period but my return to school was then made extremely difficult. When it was insinuated by the Executive Principal that my time off had been ‘convenient’ because of some behavioural issues with my classes, I felt that my position there was no longer tenable and I made my decision to leave.

    Six weeks after I left the academy, my former HoD finally acknowledged my departure in an email, although not with any form of thanks or good wishes. She simply hoped that I was ‘getting on alright at home’ and confirmed that she had responded to a couple of supply agencies with a reference – a reference that was in fact so negative that one of the requesters forwarded a copy to me in sheer disbelief.

    Although I did have two very bad classes at the academy last year, which I did not handle well, I also had eight good ones and I have very positive written observations from four different senior members of staff, observations that clearly contradict each and every rating given by my former HoD. Apart from GCSE marking, however, I have not worked since April and I am still in shock that I continue to face this situation. Employers demand a good reference from my most recent HoD but I clearly cannot approach this woman again and I am devastated that I also cannot complete my final assessment to become a Foster Carer for that very same reason. I have so far managed to keep my house but only with the help of family and by dipping into my pension pot. The cost of pursuing the case legally is therefore, for the moment, prohibitive.

    According to the reference, even my level of honesty and integrity had not reached a good standard during the few months this woman was my HoD and the hypocrisy of this makes me extremely angry. It was apparently OK for my former employers to threaten me with my job unless I allowed my IB students multiple attempts at their Individual Oral and their Written Assignment and when I was told by a senior staff member that I obviously didn’t care enough about securing better grades for my students if I didn’t comply, I doubt that her integrity had ever been questioned.

    I would like to believe that my experience is uncommon, that colleagues in other schools are treated more fairly and that their results are far more genuine but I would certainly be interested to hear from anyone who has gone through a similar situation.
  2. Jolly_Roger1

    Jolly_Roger1 Star commenter

    @mcryork: I am very sad to hear of how despicably you have been treated, both by the Executive Principal, and your former HoD. After a had developed chronic eczema, I too had the allegation of 'trying to work my ticket' laid against me by our EH, one of whose oft-repeated mantras was 'no more feather-bedding'. Some school managers have a mean spirit of vindictiveness, which makes them want not only to get rid of staff in the most damaging way possible, but also to 'drive a stake through their hearts', by tactic such as damning references, to ensure that they never rise again. The reference that I was given was just so anonymous as to 'damn with faint praise', although not factually inaccurate, except for the ludicrous assertion that I had had a contagious disease.
    petenewton and grumpydogwoman like this.

    ROSIEGIRL Lead commenter

    Were you/are you in a union? Is there ayone else at the school that you could use as a referee?

    (Also, I'm a bit concerned that your opening sentence might actually identify you to those in the know. You can email the moderators to delete this thread and maybe post again for advice, taking care to be less specific re location, subject etc. Sorry - don't want to make your situation any worse!)
    notsonorthernlass likes this.
  4. old_dobbin

    old_dobbin Occasional commenter

    I know that a reference -if given- must be fair, balanced and accurate. You need legal advice and to have the evidence to show that your work was not reflected fairly in the reference that was given. If you have a strong case and obtain a copy of the reference you may find a solicitor prepared to take your case for you. I do know someone who got an out of court settlement for an inaccurate and malicious reference - it enabled him to buy a house abroad with the money.
    notsonorthernlass and Mrsmumbles like this.
  5. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

  6. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

  7. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    Thanks @chelsea2 .

    As I understand it (and those in teaching more recently than me may confirm this) the requirement for safe-guarding purposes is that a reference must be sought from the Headteacher of the last school, so there is no break in continuity.

    In this case, you would need to give the last Head as a referee, but you do not have to use the HOD at all. You can bypass her and choose a second referee who is likely to be supportive of your applications.

    In terms of the supplied reference, the rule is that no-one has to give a reference. If they do, however, they have a duty to ensure that it is fair, accurate and truthful. If a reference is being supplied that does not meet this standard of care and you are suffering detriment because of it (financial or otherwise) you should seek advice from your union. There may be a complaint of negligent misstatement.
    joannagb, badger_girl and pepper5 like this.
  8. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    Please do something to remove the easily-identifiable information in the opening post.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Your situation is terrible. Take GLsgost's advice and contact your union for further help.
  10. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

  11. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Go get 'em!
  12. Birdie64

    Birdie64 Occasional commenter

    sadly this situation seems all too common. Contact your union and ask their advice...maybe they can help you to get an agreed reference.

    What I truly don't understand is how this happens, when the whole thing about schools is that we try and prevent bullying;bullying staff seems to be perfectly acceptable though.

    Be careful and take care off yourself, be careful not identify yourself and make things worse by doing so.

    I have been accepted by a tutoring agency with the sole intention of getting a reference/references from them and the parents who employ me. It has been a useful way of rebuilding my self confidence. I have also been lucky enough to get a new part time post which gives me enough money for the time being - and last I am enjoying my job again.

    are there any no win no fee solicitors who would take this case on?
  13. mcryork

    mcryork New commenter

    Thank you for all your comments so far. Could someone let me know how I might alter the thread as suggested by Middlemarch, please?
    notsonorthernlass likes this.
  14. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Just another thought for you....if your union is not able to help, some cities have law centres where you might get some free or reduced cost legal advice which you urgently need. Also, there is something call the Direct Public Access Scheme where you can contact barristers without using a solicitor. A barrister would be able to advise you of the legal merits of any case you have against the HoD/school.
  15. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    I am so sorry mcryork. This is utterly shameful and appalling so called management. And I thought my school was bad...
  16. mcryork

    mcryork New commenter

    Thank you. I no longer have a union as I am not working and I cannot afford a solicitor but I shall certainly look into this.
  17. mcryork

    mcryork New commenter

    Unfortunately, the Head in my case had already been very difficult about my time off and the agency had specifically requested the reference from my HoD, who I was happy to name at the time as I had no idea how this was going to go. I did email my HoD asking her to retract the reference and I copied in the Head but neither bothered to reply and when I approached a different member of staff for the reference, I was told that 'school policy' would not allow this.
  18. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Also check your household insurance since sometimes policies contain legal cover.

    Don't give up. Contact your nearest Law Centre if at all possible. You need to get back to work and on your feet, so you need help. You might also contact the Teacher Support Network for advice.
    GLsghost likes this.
  19. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    Law centres give free advice, but the Direct Public Access Scheme for barristers just means that you can go directly to them and by-pass a solicitor. It's often a more cost - effective option, since they charge by the day or half-day, whereas solicitors tend to charge by the unit, which is usually six minutes.

    Citizens Advice also gives free employment advice and some Bureaux have specialist employment caseworkers in them who can provide everything including representation, if necessary.
    pepper5 likes this.
  20. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter

    You need to slightly change the information you are giving, it needs just enough to be so that you do not detract from your comments but doesn't ID you Here's some practical ideas.

    Change your subject to a similar but different one, eg Spanish to French.

    Change your town to a neighbouring one eg Leeds becomes Manchester

    Change any year groups taught to one aboe or below, eg year 10 becomes year 9

    Change the sex of anyone you mention.

    Change any time period mentioned by a short amount

    Do not include any information not needed.

    Shift any dates slightly forwards or backwards eg April becomes May.

    These slight changes will not effect or invalidate any comments you make but they will stop anyone recognising you. I've been assuming other posters are doing the same and its working for me since no one has realised I'm really Brad Pitt

Share This Page