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Am I entitled to see my reference?

Discussion in 'Pay and conditions' started by golden78, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. Just wondering whether I am entitled to see the reference that my current school have sent to my new school (start job in easter).

    Have been speaking to my new school, and they have said that the reference is fare from complementary and is the complete opposite of my other reference, which was written by my old head of dept who left in the summer.

    I obviously want to know exactly what was written and challenge it to be removed from my personnel record, if allowed. She basically said that I was not capable of doing the job! Never ever made any reference to this either herself or through my line manager so am a little confused
  2. You can request to see it. But you can only place your request with your new school, not your current Head. And they may not be able to show it to you, in accordance with the relevant exemptions to the data protection act.

    Well worth asking under the circumstances, though.
  3. Most LAs have an Open Reference policy. If yours does then you have a right to ask the writer for sight of it.
    Presumably your future employer disregarded much of what was written as you have been appointed.
  4. cbl


    The LA policy will not apply to a specific school unless they have the same policy.
  5. Schools in our LA who use the authority HR service are expected to follow its policies, if they don't then they can forfeit the support of HR.
  6. That sounds like very bizarre arrangement, tom clancy. Exactly what services does your LA offer as part of its HR package that have any bearing on references?

    And where is the evidence to back up your claim that "Most LAs have an Open Reference policy". I don't know of any that do.
  7. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    No LA that I've worked for has had an open reference policy. We buy HR services, but the only proviso they put on it is that if they give us advice on a case and we ignore it, we run the risk of not being represented if it goes to tribunal.

    Governing bodies are offered LA model policies, but it's each governing body's choice whether or not to adopt each, individual one. My governors have always given each policy a good, hard look before deciding whether or not to adopt. Some they do, some they don't - and I really like this about them, in that they refuse to allow the LA in any way to tell them what to do!

    I don't believe in open references and the governing body feels the same way.
  8. I maybe wrong, but thought the freedom of information act entitled anyone anywhere to see paperwork held about themsleves in any establishment?? Or is that old hat from my era pre-teaching???
  9. The Freedom of Information Act is not about personal information, it's about information about and held by public bodies.

    The legislation you're thinking of is the Data Protection Act, and there are many exemptions about references
  10. From my pre-teaching days it is my understanding that a reference has to be fair and accurate. It cannot be misleading and must above all be justifiable.

    If you are offered a job, subject to references, and the offer is withdrawn because of a bad reference you can make a request to see the reference. If the reference is then unreasonable or inaccurate then you could take action against the company providing it for loss of earnings etc.

    Your current employer is under no obligation to provide a reference but if they do they must provide a fair picture of the person in the reference.

    The long and short of it is if you are not happy about it take some legal advice from your union and see what your options are. I would certainly want to see it and if necessary get is expunged from the record.
  11. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    This is a question that comes up all the time. So often, in fact, that just like a Blue peter presenter, I have a reply I made earlier all ready for you:

    References are such a tricky subject - and one that people get mixed-up ideas about!

    References are to enable Heads to appoint someone who will be really good teachers, and who will not represent a danger to children. Don't let's forget that last point. There are quite clear rules about writing references, and about who gets to see them.

    There are 2 common mistaken beliefs about references: that it is "not allowed" to write a poor reference about someone, and that you have the right to see a reference written about you.

    Not so, folks.

    Firstly, it is untrue to say that you cannot give a ?poor? or negative reference. Poster Fanghorn makes some very good points above about the reference having to be fair and accurate and reasonable and not misleading. And that includes not misleadingly being too favourable for an inappropriate candidate by the way!

    References can indeed be negative, and so they should be if necessary. If not, there would be no point in having them, as they are supposed to be an objective statement of the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate. And if there are more weaknesses than strengths, then the reference will be negative.

    However, ANY reference, a positive or a negative one, should always be totally factual and based on evidence, NOT on someone's likes or dislikes. Objective and evidence-based, not subjective and gossip. I would consider a "poor" reference to be one that was inaccurate and full of unsubstantiated subjective views, rather than one that was truthful, balanced and objective.

    Most HoDs and Headteachers are very careful to be totally factual and balanced in their references. Always get the odd exception, I suppose, but generally they are 100% careful - they don't want the other school to get back at them for something that is not quite right.

    But if you suspect, as does the OP, that something inaccurate has been said, you are in a difficult position, because, no, you don't have a right to see your references. Sorry!

    As one poster has said, your referee does not have to show you - they are specifically exempt from the Data Protection legislation. The person receiving it may show you, if you make a formal data protection request, but only if they can show it to you without (a) showing any opinions (as opposed to facts), and (b) the person who wrote it cannot be identified if the recipient has reason to believe that he doesn't wish to be.

    As far as I understand the situation, for any reference you will only get facts "He has been employed here for 6 years as a Physics teacher"; "she is a form tutor"; "in the Inspection his lesson was graded a 4". You will not be told that your referee said "He is a wonderful teacher" or "She is an awful teacher", as this is an opinion.

    If it is headed "Confidential", then it is difficult to give even facts, since the facts themselves ("He has been employed here for 6 years as a Physics teacher") could be said to identify who wrote it, and by saying ?Confidential? the refereee is saying that s/he doesn?t wish to be identified.

    I guess that this is helpful for Child Protection, as it allows a referee to express a view about suitability for employment with children ("I believe that this teacher grinds up little boys and eats them for breakfast"), but it is less helpful for a teacher who may fear that an unjustified and unsubstantiated negative statement is made ("His teaching is rotten").
  12. xg!

    xg! New commenter

    OK. Is this allowed; referee is given as the head teacher, however, head teacher gives reference to HOD to write?
  13. Yes. In effect, all references are on behalf of "the employer".
  14. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    Yes, and it makes more sense as the HoD will have closer knowledge of the teacher.

    HoD drafts it and gives to HT who then finalises it (may amend it) and signs it.

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