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How to explain absence during informal interview?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by rebbywoo, Nov 24, 2017.

  1. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Dear all,

    I am currently signed off with reactive anxiety due to a number of problems at my current work place. I'm also pregnant so my OH report has advised that I do not return to work until a stress risk assessment has been done to preserve my health and that of my baby. This is in progress. I am due to leave my current post at Christmas. As I will no longer be getting maternity pay from work, I have had to look for supply work.

    I have three informal interviews through a supply agency next week for a one-time cover which will take me up to a month before my due date. The position is a step down for me as I am currently a HoD. My head knows about this and has authorised for me to go to them whilst I am signed off. I have a doctor's note explaining that I am fit to attend an interview as the anxiety I have is reactionary to my workplace.

    I am concerned that the heads of the schools I visit will want to know why I am currently not in work and why I am absent from work. I really need to secure a post and feel ready for the challenge of a new school - I do feel a new position would help me rebuild my confidence after a draining 18 months.

    How can I respond to this question if it comes up, without sounding unprofessional or bitter? I am worried they will think that I am flaky and not worth employing.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. You have been very helpful through this whole journey and I hope to have a resolution soon!
  2. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    The agency will send you somewhere. You won't meet any HTs. Or anyone who will give a sheet about you at all.

    As long as you turn up and riots don't ensue they will be grateful.

    That's supply.

    If the agency takes you on then you'll get work and continue to get work unless you are pretty bad. It sounds as if you've covered all the bases. Just move on. Put the past behind you.

    "With the new baby I am going to take a step back from HoD. So I am experimenting with supply to see how it will fit around my needs. Change of pace. Not quite the same workload. It's my chance for a rethink."
  3. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thanks. The agency have already interviewed and accepted me. They sent my CV to these schools and now the heads want to meet me for an informal interview as the posts are all 12 weeks long. So it's the next step after the agency interview, I guess?
  4. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I see.

    Fair enough.

    12 weeks. Well, you can't blame them for being particular.

    Tell them it's about managing your workload and your pregnancy and HoD isn't compatible with that so you thought it was more honest to set aside the management role. You have every confidence that, once you have a routine going with the baby, you can go back to HoD should you wish to do so as you are a strong teacher and a good manager.

    What you don't ever do is cast aspersions on your last school. This is all your idea.
  5. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thank you. Yes, I have no desire to make myself look bitter over my last position (even though I am, as it caused me to have a minor breakdown).

    Focusing on the pregnancy is a good idea, I think.
  6. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    When I went to informal visits while off with WRS, no one asked why I wasn't in work. I assume they just thought it was my PPA time or that I'd been allowed the time out of school.

    Don't bring it up yourself, they may well not ask.
    Don't make it sound that you can't manage workload while pregnant, they will not want to employ someone who is struggling with workload and pregnancy, regardless of a change in role.

    Say something about it being time to move on and that you are looking for a temporary post for now, but if all works well may want a permanent post with them in the future.
    rebbywoo and Pomza like this.
  7. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    I shouldn't think the school will ask too many questions along those lines - It is more for the agency as the actual employer to checkout your background. The school probably just want to make certain that you're relatively sane and appear capable of teaching classes for 12 weeks.

    I wouldn't worry if I were you.

    If asked, I'd just say something along the lines of it being 'time for a change' and mention that the agency have already secured all your references etc...

    Good luck!
  8. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thank you! So is the general consensus that I should avoid saying that HoD isn't compatible with workload?

    I've only ever worked with an agency once before and I had to have a full interview for the post. I'm not sure if they'll ask to see me teach if they like me.

    I'm thinking of saying: "My intention was always to leave in May as we wanted to relocate before having children. However, we got pregnant earlier than expected and so we had to decide whether to leave or stay. We chose to relocate and I'm looking for supply to fill the gap between Christmas and having my baby. I'd fully intend to pursue another HoD post after my maternity period ends."

    What do we think?

    I'm still worried they might ask about absence and sick leave. The agency know I'm off work but I'm unsure as to what to say except for I've had a difficult first trimester so have been signed off until December 3rd..?
  9. Psychochick

    Psychochick New commenter

    I was off for 6 months with stress after leaving one post then going into supply. Apart from the supply agencies, who flat out weren't bothered by the absence, I have never, ever been asked about the time off in 3 years. If they ask you to comment on it, which I highly doubt, one of the guys I know who only does termly cover or less always says that because he has a disabled child he prefers the more flexible approach of a short term contract. I hope your pregnancy gets easier, remember that most of the posts you are going to be going for now are starting January or later.

    Your agency will never ask you to teach for them, however it is extremely rare for a school to take you on for a longer term without seeing you teach and if they do, be afraid, be very afraid. There is a reason and it isn't a good one. The last time I had a post without being asked to teach first I was supply teacher no. 13 and yeah, you could tell, I'll leave it at that.
  10. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I honestly think you need to relax about it.
    If a school is using an agency to fill a vacancy for January at this stage, they will be keen to secure anyone.
    As long as you turn up looking vaguely presentable, don't have a string of convictions and don't swear in front of any pupils, you'll probably get the job!

    The agency will be the people to employ you and they are the ones who would ask such things, if they haven't then the school is unlikely to do so.

    If they ask, just say you are relocating (if it's true) and it was more suitable for you and your family for you to leave at Christmas and do a long term supply post until Easter. Or, as @Pomza said that it was time for a change and you are looking forward to long term supply.

    But I honestly think no-one will ask.
    Tinycat1234 and rebbywoo like this.
  11. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter


    But I wouldn't raise any of this unless they do.

    It's a 12 week supply job, not a perm HoD interview. They won't care. :)
  12. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thank you all so much for taking the time to reply.

    I'm not sure what the next stage is after the informal chat but I guess I'll know more after Tuesday.

    I don't mind them watching me teach. There has been some talk of going in to work a day's supply instead of an interview but as I am on sick leave I wouldn't be able to do that until January. Part of me would rather just do the lesson obs! At least then it's done and over with in an hour, and you're right, it's more a case of proving I'm a competent teacher more than anything else, isn't it.

    I appreciate your help and replies. Thank you again :)
    Pomza and caterpillartobutterfly like this.
  13. Psychochick

    Psychochick New commenter

    One last word of advice - you need more than one agency. You've kind of implied you're going for more than one but I've personally found that 3 is the charm.
    rebbywoo likes this.
  14. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thanks! I'm part of 2. If I can't secure anything long-term, I'll add another one to the list :)
  15. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Say as little as possible.

    "I just fancied a change and to widen my experience and I know a lot of colleagues who suggested supply as a great way to get a feel for different schools."

    Do not be tempted to say too much. Be as brief as possible. They only want to know you don't have 3 heads.
    rebbywoo and Pomza like this.
  16. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    I am trying to tell myself that I am a great teacher - all good/outstanding obs throughout my career, great results from my previous role and excellent feedback from parents and students. I feel like I've lost my confidence and that's why I'm feeling so nervous about it. I'm normally fine. I hate that my last role has broken me in this way and I guess I'm desperate to prove to myself and others that I'm not a failure so I can go into maternity on a high. Is it sad I hold so much stock in my own performance and regaining my feelings about my own abilities?
  17. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It is sad. It saddens me.

    I know teachers have a lot of responsibility and children are the most precious resource in the world but they are also human.

    Most people can go to work with the attitude that they are going to do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. They can hold their head high. They have shortchanged nobody. But teachers seem to be expected to be heroic martyrs!!!

    Sorry. The thing below? Ker-rap. Totally unrealistic ball cox. Don't fall for it. You make sound preparation. You know your kids. You know what they need to do. You put on a smile and you encourage, guide, motivate and push them to do it. And it stops. It has to stop. Then you can do whatever other worker does. Have a life!

    You don't have to be great. If you were great surely you'd deserve a huge bonus or something. You absolutely have to be sound.

    Stop it. The kids can't be great learners every day, every lesson. Great behaviour at break. Great, great, great. Do a good, sound job. Stop beating yourself up. You are fine. You have been badly treated. Hold your head high and don't believe the hype. Most people are going to have to sustain a working life from 18 to nearly 70. You are not Leonardo da Vinci or Mozart. You are a British teacher and mother-to-be.

    Mrsmumbles, bevdex and rebbywoo like this.
  18. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thank you. I needed that!
  19. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Please send this to The Guardian, to help us celebrate National No-Gove Week...

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