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Wife on informal capability for 8 months?? Any advice?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Worriedhubby7, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. Hello all,

    I'm not sure if this is the done thing, and I'll understand if the post is removed, but I am a worried husband of a teacher at the end of her tether and I'm trying to find help any way I can.

    My wife has been on her school's informal capability procedure since November of last year, following a combination of factors that I personally think did not warrant the use of the procedure. To put things in context, my wife has a document from the HT stating 'all teaching is good' two days before she was placed on informal. Prior to being placed on informal, she has always performed well at the school (over 5 years), and has been regularly assessed as good/good with elements of outstanding (with occasional satisfactory's). In the week leading up to being placed on informal, two events occurred. A parent made a complaint that she was not available in the playground to speak to regarding issues with their child and her TA made comments to the HT about some of her classroom behaviour. In relation to the former, the school did not adhere to it's own policy on dealing with parent complaints (the HT should have informed my wife of the issue and arranged for an informal discussion to take place to resolve the matter sensibly, which they did not and pushed the issue straight through as a complaint. I'm sure the fact that the parent is also a parent governor made no difference to how the issue was dealt with). With regard to the latter, the TA apologised within a couple of weeks for making the comments and withdrew them following a meeting between the HT, my wife and the TA. As it then unfolded, there was an obvious personality clash between the two and the TA was switched to a different classroom (having only been working together since September).

    Since then, my wife has been on periods of assessment with coaching provided in order to resolve the differences between her performance and her expected performance by management. When dealing with her colleagues who had been nominated to help her, there had not been any glaring issues identified, just a bit of tweaking here and there. However, during this time, the HT was absent from school due to illness for some time and the DT was then responsible for dealing with the process. Four weekly meetings were scheduled but not always kept (by the DT) and minuting and documentation of the process, other than those we have paperwork for, was not completed (or at least we have not seen any evidence of it). At each stage, my wife has met the targets set, but each of the three letters she received during the process so far (bearing in mind this is now 9 months) stated that management expected to see 'continued significant improvement'. I am unsure how she can meet the targets set and yet not be treated as having met them? Each letter also stated at each stage that unless this improvement was seen, there would be no option other than to take the matter to formal capability proceedings. Surely if she had not met the targets set, she would have already been taken to formal capability? We then found out that the HT was leaving at the end of the Easter term.

    I'm sure that any of you that have knowledge or experience of this type of situation will know that once you are hit with something this serious (my wife had not been involved in any form of disciplinary action prior to this) your confidence is the first thing that suffers. Self doubt, anxiety and the feeling of being persecuted when she had done nothing differently to her previous teaching began to mount, and with each passing period of the process, it only worsened. She became tense and nervous about attending work, felt that nothing she did was ever good enough and this lead to worsening performances in classroom observations. During this period, as much as 'coaching support' was provided, there was no 'personal' support offered, something I think the profession suffers from as a whole. There is very little in the way of recognising the stress and demands placed on staff by management. I wouldn't even think about mentioning her workload to a community of professionals who are all too aware of how much work is involved, and not just whilst on school premises.

    Things came to a head in May this year when it all became too much for her. Her anxiousness had been causing headaches, nausea, lack of sleep, diarrhoea, and, once she had seen the doctor, also discovered that her anaemia (a pre-existing and coped with issue) had worsened considerably. She was signed off for two weeks due to Work related stress. On her return to work she was then informed by the acting HT that she needed to attend a meeting with them and a representative from HR to discuss moving the informal procedure to formal. At this stage (and possibly a little late), she made a call to the union. After having provided her union representative with the documentation she had thus far, they attended the meeting with her, only having spoken once or twice on the phone prior to the meeting. During the meeting, no mention was made regarding the instigation of the process, the length that the process had taken and the effect the process was having on my wife's health. All HR was concerned about was her performance (understandably).

    After the meeting, the union rep suggested to my wife that it might be useful to consider an arranged departure prior to the process being taken to formal. I understand the practicality of this approach, however I was confused that no attempt had been made to address the issues surrounding how she had been placed on capability to begin with and the mis-management of the process (surely this should not have been going on for 8-9 months??) Having returned to work following her period of certification, my wife was trying to carry on business as usual as best she could, having been prescribed medication to try to help deal with her anxiety, anaemia and lack of sleep. During June, as arranged by management, she attended an Occupational Health referral due to her absence from work. After the nurse had heard my wife's side of the situation, she was quite frankly shocked. Apart from my wife's issues, this school year has seen the greatest number of teaching and support staff hand in their resignation, including the DT (now acting head). In all, including the departure of the HT at Easter, 6 teaching staff and at least 2 support staff are leaving at the end of the school year. Surely this should have been setting off alarm bells at the local education authority?? Following her examination, her report stated that my wife was not fit for work due to work related stress and that the cause of the stress was the ongoing management process. She directed my wife to contact her GP and to seek certification, which she did and is currently off work. She has also now been prescribed further medication to deal with her stress, anxiety and nervousness.

    As a husband of a beleaguered wife, normally a fiery go-getter of a woman, I am now left worrying for her health and her future. The obvious answer is to get her out of there and find another job, but our situation isn't as simple as that, with little to no room to be without a dual income for any period of time. We have union representation (that I have to admit I do not have a lot of faith in right now), but do any of you have any suggestions, tips or advice that I might be able to use to help deal with this situation? Would I be wrong to be considering trying to take a grievance out against the management with regard to the process itself?

    I apologise for the lengthy post, and if you have taken the time to read all of this, thank you so much. I'm just at a loss for what to do next. Due to this most recent absence, she has missed the arranged meeting scheduled for the moving of the process from informal to formal. Would this mean the meeting would have taken place anyway? And as a last question (sorry!), whilst my wife is off under doctor's orders, is she obliged to provide lesson plans, answer school emails, respond to texts from management? Not that she would be deliberately obstructive, she has always provided work when required previously when off work, I'm just curious.

    I would like to thank anyone who takes the time to read this and respond in advance, as the husband of a teacher I understand the pressures and stresses of this most challenging career (and one that is given nowhere near enough credit by anyone, including parents, management and government). I appreciate your commitment, I know I couldn't do your job.
  2. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    I don't feel qualified to give any overall advice, but I can say re this:

    No... She is not obliged at all, and if the school ask, she should tell them that. If they continue to harrass her then she should tell her union.

    I would also comment re this:

    That she could, and perhaps should, go further up her Union's structure if necessary. To the professional union representatives, rather than the school or local level...

  3. Hi there. Firstly what a kind and fantastic man you are to post this. I can help you and think the best thing is you ask to have me accept your friendship request so I can message you. I can help you both and give you lots of practical advice as have gone through this. It's not your wife's fault at all . This scandal is going on nationally and schools are so badly run now. I have seen better hr and people management in burger bars. Message me.!
  4. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    What a heartfelt post. Your wife is very lucky to have your wonderful support. I can't offer any advice but a friend went through the same thing in a primary school. They fought it tooth and nail with the husband confronting everyone, including the LEA. It affected their health and their relationship and my friend became unemployed, unable to set foot in a school ever again, such was the trauma.

    It might just be worth your wife resigning, walking away with a decent reference and finding another job, even if it means doing supply for a while. Does any other profession try to destroy people in this way? It's appalling.
  5. azzie

    azzie New commenter

    HI I'm not sure I will be of any help here, but again I wanted to say good for you being so supportive. My "history" is very similar to that of your wifes and I know just how much it has affected my husband as well as other members of the family. Maybe a settlement with a reference and a enough pay to see you over for a month or so would be the best plan? I contacted my mortgage insurance who put me in touch with a solicitor and this was useful so maybe try that? Anyway good luck to you both.
  6. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    This is dreadful and in a just world the school should be named and shamed and your wife would receive mid 5 figure compo for stress etc.

    However we all know that many schools and many SLT have all the morality of Victorian mill owners these days when it comes to their workers.

    I would encourage your wife to resign. If she can take another teaching job after this and wants to, she may be lucky and find a better school. But she would be well within her rights not to.

    And in terms of 'needing; the double salary, health and happiness is far more important than keeping up with the Jones's. Sack off the steep mortgage and move somewhere cheaper. Same with the car etc. Make cutbacks, do you really need the weekly shop at Waitrose say?
  7. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    Posts like this make me wish there was a 'rate that school' site? from the perspective of teachers?.
  8. gergil4

    gergil4 New commenter

    I can't offer much in the way of advice. I also wondered why a LA wasn't panicking when I was the 13th member of staff to leave a 6 teacher school in less than 3 years. It's just a nightmare and there seems to be nothing we can do. Great that you're so supportive and walking away might just be the best thing for your wife. In principle it's wrong, but I did, moved on and decided not to waste my time fighting or thinking it all so unfair. I had young children to focus on and I've moved on to better things. Good luck with whatever you decide is right for the two of you. xx
  9. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    Worriedhubby7, I have sent you a PM.
  10. Hi, what is happening to your wife is outrageous. I hope she is strong enough to fight rather than walk away. The stress must be huge but we have to start standing up to management bullying. As teachers, we are the first to be held to account if we underperform in any way. Management must also be made accountable. I would suggest talking to the union and get support that you can have faith in. Some people talk to their local MP and write to the head of their council. Write everything down. Occupational Health can be a great source of support in making sure procedures are followed correctly. Perhaps it is time for your union's solicitor to become involved? Good luck.
  11. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    Has anybody ever fought these things and won? Walking away isn't an act of cowardice; you need to save your health and sanity.
  12. Compassman

    Compassman Star commenter

    The problem with walking away is that the bullies win and will do it again.

    Sadly for many teachers they will walk away because of the pressure and you cannot blame them.

    At what point did all this poor management become commonplace in schools. t was almost unheard of 10 years ago.
  13. libby77

    libby77 Occasional commenter

    I'm in a similar situation. Not started informal TED yet but was threatened in march, been off with stress since march. Just undergoing a phased return to work. Was given a ridiculous and humiliating list of things I must do on my return or be threatened with misconduct (most of which are anxiety coping strategies). I must sit up straight in a chair and not wear a coat! I must ensure I fully engage in conversations (I find conversations with HR, head, deputy head and secretary taking minutes quite tricky!) and I mustn't communicate with staff outside school hours. They carefully somehow wangled these into teacher standards! Today at 5:45pm, after disclosing to a deputy that I am feeling very positive but also quite low, and have had suicidal thoughts, I receive a letter stating formal disciplinary proceedings are underway for a disclosure to the deputy head and failure to meet teaching standards (from the list given!) The head states she can't give me any details but to speak to my union rep who knows about it! (At 5:45pm). The head then drove of home leaving me at school having severe panic attacks. In despair!
  14. libby77

    libby77 Occasional commenter

    After some time I got hold of the union rep who knows nothing! I'm now not in until Monday! Considering a sick note but have had a lovely couple of weeks with my class and really want to enjoy my last week with them. Just feel extremely vulnerable!
  15. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    Others are probably more qualified than I am to give you advice, but (based on what you have said) if you were a family member of mine, I would say:

    1. Contact your Union at a higher level than your school rep. Fill them in with all the details of your 'case' (I was particularly surprised by the restrictions on contacting other members of staff outside school - what if one or more were a close friend? - and also the comments re: 'conversations').

    2. Phone in sick on Monday, and make an appointment to see your GP and tell him/her about your situation and feelings. I really wouldn't even consider going into school again until given you receive medical advice that it is OK to do so. Prioritise yourself, not the school/pupils.

    Hopefully others can add to this.

    Good luck.
  16. libby77

    libby77 Occasional commenter

    Thank you for your reply.

    This was the area union rep who just happened to catch her phone (it was 6pm). Without her support I would have been left at school having severe panic attacks on my own as the head just went home!
  17. quidditch

    quidditch New commenter

    Contact the borough rep not your school rep. There is a type of paid redundancy you can negotiate, almost gardening leave. A lot of staff at my old school took this when it became a 'badly run' academy

    Health is more important and after more than ten years of teaching under my belt, imdont think twice about leaving if I think they have low expectations of me

    good luck
  18. Not sure if this is the right box to reply to everyone in, so forgive any ineptitude. Thank you all so much for your comments. If nothing else it gives me an idea about the fact that she is being treated completely unfairly and that it shouldn't be happening. We are seeking further advice from the union and wait to see what unfolds once my wife returns to work. It has helped me to see that others have been through the same kind of issues and have come out the other side, scarred and bruised perhaps, but have got through it.

    Thanks again

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