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Headteacher giving me a bad reference

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by Pickers80, Oct 17, 2018.

  1. Pickers80

    Pickers80 New commenter


    I am a qualified teacher, but when I started a family I went into a Teaching Assistant role, which was less pressure. Then I did some private tuition (11+ entrance). However, when I tried to join an agency I found out that the Headteacher was giving me a bad reference. They would not tell me what was written, but did not accept me onto the agency. Now that I'm planning to get a 'proper' job again, I'm worried that they will contact her (as it was my last job) and she will ruin my chances of working in education again.

    I am being totally honest when I say that I was an excellent worker and there was nothing that I did in my role that would lead her to give me a bad reference. The issue is that I fell out with her over a PERSONAL issue.

    When I was pregnant there was chicken pox at the school and she did not tell me, despite the fact that she knew I had never had chicken pox. When I was eventually told a week later, and advised by my doctor to go home immediately, all she was bothered about was that she would not pay me any money for the period I was at home unable to work. She said that she did not need to tell me about the chicken pox, because there could be children at the school with AIDS that I did not know about. I pointed out that it can be caught by touching surfaces that an infected person has touched, is airborne, and highly contagious (unlike AIDS). I said I was upset that she had not told me about the chicken pox for some time, and could I trust her to tell me about future cases of it? But the discussion was not heated or anything. I did not care about whether I was paid or not. I also had no risk assessment for my pregnancy at the school (a legal requirement at the time).

    As this was a personal, not work-related issue, I was really surprised about the reference. She had a reputation for being a bit of a bully and there were bullying issues at the school.

    It has caused me to lose confidence about applying for jobs. I know that if I apply for another teaching job they will probably get a reference from her or call her for a chat. I have thought about leaving that job off my application completely, but then it would look like I have not been in a school environment for 8 years. How should I approach this? Any ideas? I don't want to see or talk to that Headteacher again.
  2. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    1. No-one is obliged to give you a reference.
    2. If they do give a reference it must be fair and accurate. It might be limited to "X worked here in job title Y ffrom date A to date B."
    3. You will need to provide a continuous employment history so leaving the 8 years off isn't an option.

    Perhaps you need to ask again for a copy of the reference. Perhaps you need help from your agency on this. Sadly there is an exemption from the GDPR under the Data Protection Act 2018 which means that neither the agency nor the school can be required to disclose the reference.

    Perhaps you have to bite the bullet and contact the HT directly.
    Orchid2457 and pepper5 like this.
  3. Orchid2457

    Orchid2457 New commenter

    Good evening,
    Firstly, I want to say sorry this is happening. A former colleague of mine has recently had a similar experience at a school. She was given a bad reference after a disagreement with the head. I’ve also had it happen to me. It’s soul destroying, you feel trapped and scared of applying for jobs.

    Secondly, don’t panic. I know that many supply agencies have strict rules on references and won’t entertain a poor one, again my poor friend is going through this experience and it’s awful to watch. However, schools are on the whole are willing to listen. I’ve been for interviews where I’ve had a poor reference (I left one school before the first term was out). The head really wanted me to stay so made it difficult ( she was a bully and well known to the union). Two teachers walked out in Autumn term and there were only six teachers in the whole school!

    I applied for a new job and explained my situation at an interview and they told me not to worry at all as my other references were fantastic this wasn’t going to hold me back and they were confident what was written wasn’t a true reflection of what they’d seen and read in my other references. Make sure your other references are amazing. Is there anyone else at your previous school willing to provide a glowing reference to counter this one?

    Make sure your reference is fair and accurate. A headteacher at a school I applied for gave me a copy of mine ( I didn’t get this job). There was some misleading information on there to which my union sent a polite reminder to the head of the rules surrounding references. This worked. I’d advise you to get in contact with the union if you’re in one. If not I know it’s really hard but do try to reach out to the headteacher. Explain that you want to get back in the classroom and will require their help as a referee. Perhaps if you make them feel needed, and important they might provide a better reference? All the best.
    agathamorse likes this.

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