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Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by JaneyEm27, Aug 23, 2018.

  1. JaneyEm27

    JaneyEm27 New commenter

    I have had time off in the past year for mental health issues related to some stressful family events including cancer and a death. Did the "right thing": saw GP, signed up for therapy, told school I was struggling to cope, etc. I marked my exam classes and all tests, but I will admit that my homework and class work marking slipped for my KS3, but I figured that since the school knew I was struggling. I barely made it to the end of term alive, and that's not an exaggeration. I was having regular anxiety attacks inside and outside of school, not sleeping, self harming... my GP wanted to sign me off from work but between the stigma and the not wanting to let my exam classes down, I said no. (Not to mention that I couldn't face the marking load of several weeks of cover work!) I was, however, released from the forth faculty observation of the year (because I had a panic attack in school and was sent home). I've had anxiety my whole life, but always been able to manage it around my job before. I'm actually getting a possible new diagnosis, as my current issues sure as sugar aren't my usual anxiety symptoms

    Then there was a book scrutiny in the last week of term. Exam classes gone, along with their books. Half my KS3 didn't have theirs with them, and the HT tore me apart. He called me lazy and said I had let the whole department down, and that if Ofsted came in I would cause us to get RI. That just about killed me off. Again: literally. I pointed out that my GP didn't even want me in, but he said that that was no excuse. Now, I've had a couple of book scrutinies during the year and several obs. No issues raised. He said they were bad all year. Why wasn't that raised at earlier scrutinies? He also said that not observing me counted as enough "support".

    So now it's the night before results night and I've had two mild anxiety attacks already. I am sure that if my results aren't stellar, the scrutiny will be used as an excuse to keep my from moving up the pay scale. And if I'm honest, my results are likely to be a mixed bag.

    I don't want to go back to work. I love the staff and the kids, but the idea of having to interact with this HT again is keeping me up at night. However, I need a reference from him. I'm sure that any reference I get is already likely to be trash, but I know that if I take the sick time my GP offered, it will be awful. Not to mention the black mark on my attendance record further down the line.

    The thing is: the family stuff isn't fixed. My mental health over the summer hasn't improved, I've just not had to battle to keep myself together all day so I've been able to manage it better. I feel physically sick at the thought of results day tomorrow and going into that place and I've never felt that before.

    Do I go back, knowing I probably can't cope to the required standard and apply out, or do I take the GP time, knowing it will leave me on the back foot for the rest of the year when I come back in?.
  2. koopatroopa

    koopatroopa Senior commenter

    Your doctor has told you that you are too ill to work. Listen to their advice!

    I hope you're feeling better this morning.
    Bumptious, lizziescat, ATfan and 8 others like this.
  3. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    The most important criteria at present is your own health. So listen to the GP.

    Yes more absence will potentially trigger an absence warning, but even if thngs turn sour and you end up with a Compromise agreement Union s should be advising them that it has to be an 'agreed' reference and you can insure sickness is related to 'personal difficulties'. Is HR involved? They should be able to help you possibly negotiate a phased return or something else to keep you working but have less pressure.
  4. JaneyEm27

    JaneyEm27 New commenter

    Thanks. I'm just very aware that that step effectively ends my career in the classroom. Having to explain to future employers, getting an even worse reference from the head, etc.

    I wish teaching had occhealth like other jobs and return to work interviews were "are you fit to be in" instead of "explain why you needed to be off and how will you help your classes make up the time". I mean, I know we are meant to put the kids first and everything, but it's exhausting trying to keep up when you are healthy, never mind sick.
    Bumptious, ATfan and agathamorse like this.
  5. JaneyEm27

    JaneyEm27 New commenter

    Our HR is more hands off. Phased return would be on capability, which would add to the pressure, IMO. The idea that one slip up ends everything.

    It's an academy, so unions have no power. All references are sealed.

    I hate my brain.
    ATfan likes this.
  6. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    No, you don't have to accept that. Do contact your Union. You have legal rights here.
    Curae, phlogiston, Bumptious and 6 others like this.
  7. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Occupational Health teams have a very good rep on TES.

    I would trust them to do the right thing by you. But the right thing now is to follow medical advice.
  8. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Union & GP.

    And I'd ask about raising a grievance against your HT (time to take the gloves off): and the HT tore me apart. He called me lazy and said I had let the whole department down, and that if Ofsted came in I would cause us to get RI.

    IMHO any HT who says this is unfit to be in charge of an ice cream van, let alone a school. Tell the Union, take action....
    MissGeorgi, bevdex, yodaami2 and 13 others like this.
  9. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    Hi JaneyEm, sorry you are having such a tough time. Can only second the good advice given so far - you health and well-being must come first. Everything else can be tackled when you feel stronger. I understand that things are different in academies, but there are still rules and guidelines they have to abide by. Make an appointment with your GP asap; be honest about how you are feeling and, if he wants to sign you off - then do it. Contact your union for advice. The Education Support Partnership would also be worth a call if you feel overwhelmed by the decisions to be made.
    d_fahey, Bumptious, pepper5 and 2 others like this.
  10. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    All that matters right now is that you get well.

    Phone your GP today and get an emergency appointment if you feel you need to.

    Phone your union and get them to advise you and help you.

    Forget about the exam results now - you did your best at the time and there is nothing you can do now to change it.

    Your priority is getting your mental and physical health back and NO job on the face of the earth is worth hurting yourself over. There will be thousands of students lining up to take resits and the schools can't fire everyone.
  11. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Afraid this sort of repellant behaviour from today’s education ‘managers’ is becoming the norm. They see anyone with health issues or any need for t8me out as a fiscal threat and drain. Hence the sudden mood change and escalation of aggression. I also nad a similarly schlit job and soldiered on, partly out of what I thought was professionalism, partly out of the fear you describe. It’s never appreciated. Legally, you have to tell them that you’re not coping. I put it off. Yes, by doing so I earned a bit more before I left, but 8 also nearly died. My health is now permanently damaged from not taking t8me off earlier. You must get signed off by your house for work related stress and put the onus back onto them. Otherwise they stamp on staff as normal. The managers responses of it not being an excuse is risible. Get the union regional rep involved as this slip up may help you to negotiate abetter exit. And I am afraid that you do need to think of moving on. Would you’re health ever truly improve, would you ever truly have time to sort the other family stuff out and would you ever really trust that lot again of you stayed on? I know I wouldn’t. Union rep needed. If you’re not in a union, I’d just leave, to be honest. If you give them fair notice you may well find that they suddenly back off.
    agathamorse, pepper5 and d_fahey like this.
  12. ATfan

    ATfan Star commenter

    That’s absolutely right! No school or college is above the law! Your HT owes you a duty of care and I’m sure that your GP would be both angry and horrified at your HT’s behaviour (as I am, as I too suffered from WRS caused by poor management not long ago). Please speak to your GP, OH and to your Union for further advice. As for the OFSTED grade, stuff that! It’s the leaders of your school who are being judged not you! Moreover, your HT and other school leaders are being paid far more than you are to deal with the issues described!

    Please take your GP’s advice. Doing so is a sign of strength not weakness and teaching is a stressful job. There are many teachers out there, including myself, who have taken time off with stress, and no-one thinks any the worst of us for this, except the know-nothing incompetent buffoons (who call themselves leaders) like your HT who triggered our problems in the first place! Remember jobs come and go but health is precious and not easily regained once damaged.

    I hope that this post helps. I’m thinking of you!
  13. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    There are many posters on here who have returned to teaching after similar experiences to yours

    Can't you self refer? Union advice on this

    Academies still have to follow the law. Again union advice on this.

    You need and deserve support and advice from your union now (regional level). Even though at the moment the priority is your health and following Dr's advice, it is worth 'flagging up' with them what has happened so that they are prepared when you are getting better and are in a fit state to make decisions.
  14. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Check your legal rights as this sounds utter rubbish to me. The academy might WANT this to be the case. Doesn’t mean they get it all their own way. I would ask for a fair reference, ideally not an agreed one. Health and capability being muddled up like that is very disturbing. You really need the union rep involved as they are fully versed in employment law. The academy c
    er....it does have these things. Problem is the often abuse occy health reports and twist stuff, then slap employees back onto formal AT the return to work meeting. It goes along the ‘Hi, glad you’re recovered...so now you’re well enough to be forceful, Cheerio then’ lines. It is all legal. Just. Put yourself first now and rest assured that once you’re well you can teach, if masochistic enough to want to. Look at all the other threads in here about happier ex teachers who quickly shifted careers.
  15. Teacherinneed969

    Teacherinneed969 New commenter

    I was in a similar situation. I felt like I had NO control and nothing could be done to help. The school had the power. I came on TES, listened to people with more advice and although I have my worries still, I am a new person! You should have seen me 4 months ago, I was a mess.

    Here are some steps I went through in my journey....
    (The steps below are just a rough guide of what I did and many friends in education have done! Some advice for you to have a think through but always seek the advice from a professional)

    Step one : Get signed off, you’re obviously very unwell and this school is not HEALTHY. Move on. Go to your doctor again, lay everything out on the table and start to think about your health and not the consequences!

    Step two: Contact your union ( I know you think that they may not pull any wait but they will be your go between so you have NO contact with the school on a personal level). Explain the situation, Explain how your health has suffered and what you would like to happen. From your post I feel as if you want to leave but want an decent reference so you can move on. This could be a settlement or as a above a ‘fair’ reference where you put some level of trust in your employers hands but they have not signed a legally binding contract.
    You can tell your union when you get appointed a rep that you do not feel strong enough to communicate with the school and all discussions to go through your rep.
    This helped me! My case was slightly different as it was bullying but my god did I start to feel better not looking at their names in my emails.

    Step three
    Contact the school. Email them, include head and line manager (HR if you like) explain you have been signed off and reasons for this. You could say events on “” have exasperated my illness (head teachers shouting match) that will scare them) I will update on “” to tell you of my progress however my doctor has said that my recovery may be a ....
    I will not be replying to email or telephone calls from work at this time in order to recover, any important messages please wrote to me at. home address You could even mention you had been in contact with a union rep to seek advice but I’d leave that until later on or seek the union advice.

    Step 4:

    Get better! You will survive! Eat good food , spend time with family, binge on TV sets etc. The best treatment I got was exercise (and I used to hate it) it really does make a big difference. Joining a local gym where they do classes or a gym further afield if your scared of bumping into anyone!

    Good luck! You can do this! This will be hard at first but I promise in the end you’ll have a new career with someone who respects you.
  16. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Definitely worth 'logging with Union' should anything develop down the line that you have a historic record for them to refer to should any settlement be needed.
  17. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    Yep, definitely revert back to the Union and GP and also, you could ask to speak to someone from your union's disability forum because if you have a history of anxiety attacks and are currently being re-investigated for it, i.e. it could be something else, you could be covered under the Equality Act and your HT using symptoms of your disability to disadvantage you would be unlawful.

    Also call Mind, the mental health charity for advice on dealing with the situation and strategies for dealing with anxiety day to day. You will be surprised what you can learn from calling a variety of sources and asking the same questions. And of course the Education and Support Partnership as advised above and ask for extended counselling where you have the same counsellor for up to 6 sessions.

    You have to learn that is it all right to leave your students to fed for themselves whilst you recover. They will survive and you will be a better teacher to your students when you are your well again.

    As mentioned above, your health comes first. Once you are well again you can resume your career. But right now, you have a primary duty to take care of yourself and make yourself strong again.
  18. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    several obs???? several book inspections?? Is this normal?
    In colleges we had one observation a year with verbal and written feedback together with areas for improvement. If it was grade 3 or 4 we had to be re-observed. However, we knew this, and had a 'learning intrapreneur' :D:D to help us plan and improve in order to gain a higher grade. (Ticking boxes). My target was always to get students running around the classroom more rather than sitting down learning stuff. Eventually grades were done away with and we just had feedback about what went well and how to improve. Likewise book inspections, once a year, mine were always good. Oh, for the good old days when students had folders to keep their work in.
    Results: I thought everyone's results were a 'mixed bag'. :rolleyes:. Am I missing something here? Do some people have stupendous results every day of the week?? methinks not! You sound normal to me.
    Your HT sounds a bully. They are probably soiling their underwear over the upcoming GCSE results. They are looking for someone to blame if things go wrong. You don't want, or need, to work with them any more.
    Get to the doctor. Get signed off. Whilst you are off investigate how you go about leaving this school and getting a new job. There are lots of teaching related jobs, you can join another school, you can go part time, you can become a TA for a while, you could join a charity or museum - look at the threads on here. You can do supply.
    Priorities: 1) Family stuff - grief takes time and comes and goes in waves. Cancer answers to no-one, you just have to do whatever cancer dictates, professionals will guide you here as will your GP. 2) Your health - take the time off now or it will get worse down the line. Do not work until you are well enough. 3) Work - it's only work. Plenty more jobs in the sea. Once you are fit and healthy it will sort itself out.
  19. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It does sound as if the whole world is conspiring against you. I suspect that your days at your present school are numbered.
    You probably cannot fight every battle and win so need to pick them carefully.
    Just because your school is an academy does not mean that someone from the union cannot come in and make sure that due legal process is observed. In addition, having someone from the union means that you are not alone. If you have any important meetings, it is useful to have someone else to listen, take notes and ask questions on your behalf.
    Do not worry about the stigma of being ill, that is small compared to the stigma of a head teacher shouting at you blaming you for "the failure of the department" and a"risk of the school going into RI". Now both of those are unprovable value judgements and unlikely to be the case. If OFSTED put a school into RI, it's not because one ill teacher has got behind with her marking.
    I understood occupational health to be seperate from the human resources department of your school. OH is a doctor who does check whether you are fit for work.
    See your doctor.
    Stay away from your school until the doctor says you're fit to return.
    Start to negotiate a dignified exit, with the help of the union. Polish your CV and be prepared for a spell of picking work where you can find it (or it finds you).
    Good luck.
    cazzmusic1, ATfan and catbefriender like this.
  20. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    @phlogiston I've been to a fair many OHs in my day and they are not all doctors and many of them are even not medically trained. In an academy they will probably be someone who isn't paid well.

    OHs tend to read all the medical reports (many don't bother to do this) and listen to the employee and are supposed to go by what the medical professional recommends and support the employee. However, because they are PAID by employers, their hands are tied and they sometimes have to play to their employers and make out that the ill employee is pulling a fast one.

    However, the medical professional's opinion is the strongest and if an OH disagree, they are on their own as medical opinions can only be challenged by medical professional of the same standing. For instance a gynaecologist's opinion can only be challenged by a gynaecologist and not a GP, as a gynaecologist is higher up the medical ranking and a specialist consultant.

    Any OH attempting to meddle with medic's opinion is going to have the floor wiped by them.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2018
    cazzmusic1, agathamorse and ATfan like this.

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