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.