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Did my department head lie about having cancer?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by ladywholunch, May 1, 2019.

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  1. ladywholunch

    ladywholunch New commenter

    My English department runs despite the departmental principal teacher - we work under her shadow most of the time and I’d post a list of her antics if they were not too revealing.

    However, a year ago, after a week when we were all close to taking out a grievance against her, she gathered us together and announced she was diagnosed with cancer. We sat in stunned silence and one of us offered “if there’s anything we can do?” to which she responded “Well I don’t feel very supported by any of you so I wouldn’t ask any of you”. Stunned silence again.
    Soon after, she was absent, produced doctors lines for the headteacher which this week we discovered did not mention cancer or her treatment on them - data protection on GO’s part? I don’t know.
    We’ve learned much. The teacher claims she received treatment in Glasgow, at a specialist clinic. Could we pry further? Would teaching institutions investigate? What next? Thoughts, please?
  2. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    Would you like to think your colleagues were prying into your private life and medical records, which you are under no obligation to share with them?

    Don't even think about it. You have no right, it's none of your business and doesn't show you in a very good light at all.

    You're welcome.
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I'd pause for breath for the time being. If she has had cancer, you don't want to be stirring the pot. If she didn't it is for folk higher up the pecking order to worry about. She must have been seriously ill if she was off for a long time. Doesn't actually matter with what.
    Document the causes of grievances,and continue to do so.
    However, her behaviour may change after serious illness, she may decide to do something else. I don't know what she's done or not done. Building bridges is more likely to be successful than grievance actions - but I don't know any of the details
  4. BioEm

    BioEm Occasional commenter

    @sparkleghirl has been far kinder in their response than I think you deserve. In essence I agree with her, but I would have probably been a bit (much more) harsher about the kind of person you are for even beginning to think or act in the way that you're behaving. This is her personal life and you have NO RIGHT to pry or 'investigate' because you think the timing of her illness looks 'off' to you.

    Just horrible
  5. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    It's worth pausing for thought.

    Their medical issues and absence are something for relevant people to concern themselves with and that doesn't include you lot. Digging around would be unprofessional and unkind. The fact anyone has considered that is quite concerning and unpleasant.

    Their conduct is another issue. Unprofessional conduct is unprofessional conduct. Some actiond are worse than others, some actions can be explained away due to unforeseen circumstances, but that's for someone appropriate to rule on. If her actions were genuinely at the point of multiple people feeling a grievance was appropriate (rather than a few of us have been b!tching and want them out), then I would argue that it is probably worth speaking to someone more senior about the situation before taking formal action. Whilst having the informal discussion with appropriate senior leader, you could mention how you were at this point but following the disclosure of cancer you don't want to add any further stress on your head of team and you're seeking SLT advice.Then take it from there.

    Whatever you do, don't get into nasty snooping.
  6. BioEm

    BioEm Occasional commenter

    sparkleghirl likes this.
  7. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I think that whoever told you about these "doctors lines" was breaking confidentiality.

    If it turned out that she had misled you, it would be upsetting, but I doubt if it would be of any concern to "teaching institutions" whatever that means. If she has misled the school, then they could take action, but it would really be none of your business. The idea of people prying to try to get some dirt on a colleague is repugnant to me.

    Regarding the grievance, if the problems have continued enough to justify taking one out, then by all means do so. But any action about the illness is up to the school, not you.
  8. GirlGremlin

    GirlGremlin Occasional commenter

    I completely agree. What right do you have to discuss her health? Why on earth has someone discussed her medical records with you?! Serious issues here, none with the department head.
  9. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    The female principal teacher in an English department who told their team a year ago that they had cancer and did not feel supported by her team. And then went to Glasgow for treatment. I wouldn't worry about being too revealing - if she happens to visit this forum she will know already.
  10. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    Who the hell do you think you are?

    You did ask.
  11. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    I think you are on a dangerous path.

    If she did lie to you about having cancer, then yes, I can see why you feel aggrieved. Especially if it was to block a greviance. If she knew.

    But you are suggesting openly trying to delve into medical records and absence reports. If she has lied to the HT, there are personnel advisors and legal teams which are paid for by the school. They will conduct the investigation if one needs to be. If she has behaved badly towards you, well, you had the choice to put in for a greviance and you didn't. The fact you're on here asking if you should conduct your own investigation indicates you are more looking to find a form of payback, and have no idea of the legal hot water you could find yourself in. And that's very concerning.
  12. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    This from a previous thread. Same HoD? Wind up? Either way wouldn't trust or want to work with the OP.
  13. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    Proper weirdo, init?
  14. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Love to know how the OP got hold of the sick notes. Prying into HR files? Breaking into the office? I'd really like to know.
  15. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    If you are looking at reporting anyone for misconduct you are looking the wrong way. Report whoever it was who told you what was in the medical reports from the HoD's doctor. You have appear to have no idea how serious an offence this data breach is, nor how serious the consequences could be under GDPR/Data Protection Act 2018 for both for school and the person who disclosed the information to you. People have gone to prison for serious data breaches of this sort. Don't even think about making the situation worse by trying to discover sensitive personal information about your HoD for yourselves.

    As the doctors information has already been provided to the school if it suggests that the HoD had provided false information the school already has the evidence it needs to start a disciplinary investigation. It has legal and HR specialists available to advise it. It doesn't need amateur detective work from you.

    ROSIEGIRL Lead commenter

    What's the point?
    Just no!
  17. HolyMahogany

    HolyMahogany Senior commenter

    You can see from the other posts that the issue of your colleagues absence is clearly regarded as being none of your business, and I agree. When someone is signed of as unfit to work it is up to them how much they wish to reveal or withhold from colleagues.
    The main issue you and your department colleagues should concern yourselves with is how do you move on from this situation. I think the biggest difficulty is that relationships have broken down with the principle teacher on one side and everyone else on the other.
    Somehow you and your colleagues need to discuss your concerns with an appropriate member of SLT, not necessarily in the form of a complaint but try to make a genuine effort to move things forward in a positive way. it sounds as if things are in danger of getting personal and that will only make matters worse. After this persons absence, are they still absent? simply firing of complaints is unlikely to help the situation. Yes you have a right to expect them to carry out their responsibilities in an appropriate and professional way, but you are at risk of being accused of 'ganging up' on this person and that doesn't help anyone.
    I think you need someone you trust at the school who can act as a critical friend and give the support you all need, but also be prepared to say when you are out of order.
  18. mothergoose2013

    mothergoose2013 Occasional commenter

    I am so lucky to work with the people I work with.
    Surely this is a wind up, in which case it takes from the value of this forum.
  19. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    I'm not sure it's a wind up. Virtually the same story was posted previously. One detail may have been changed in an attempt to prevent revealing the actual school.
    It really does seem like the HoD in question has zero respect or support from the staff. Whether or not that is true or warranted none of us can tell but the OP is on very dangerous ground talking about prying or investigating - and even in discussing the details of the sick notes.
    jlishman2158, Lara mfl 05 and CWadd like this.
  20. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    If its a wind up, its not funny.

    If its true, its very worrying. Its worrying that there is such a bad atmosphere in this school, and equally worrying that the OP thinks that an illegal vendetta is the way forward.

    I'm sure that everyone who has posted on here during their career has had a toxic boss. Whether its an incompetent one, a bullying one, or just a lazy one. Some have been unlucky to have had more than one. But I'm pretty sure that no one ever suggested "pursue an illegal vendetta to get your own back."

    There are avenues you can take. Ones which won't see you in court. Find someone you can trust - professional friend, union rep - and think about how you can move forward. There's always the possibility it might mean moving, but that can be beneficial too.
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