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Writing a Reference

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by misspiggy82, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. misspiggy82

    misspiggy82 New commenter

    I am a relatively new Head of Department, and a member of my team is applying for a new job as she is relocating to Wales with her partner.
    I have been contacted by a school asking for a letter of reference. I have never had to write one of these before, and don't really know where to start.
    As HOD, I haven't yet been involved in recruiting new staff, so haven't got any reference letters that I can look at to get any ideas.
    Is there a standard format? What sort of things should I say? Is there anything I'm not allowed to say?

    Any advice would be gratefully received
  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    How very sensible to ask for advice here! It is a great responsibility, so getting support at first is a good idea.

    The legal requirement is for a reference to be fair and factually accurate. If, because of negligent misstatement (inclusion of inaccurate or omission of important information), a colleague suffers detriment (loss), s/he may claim damages, usually against the school as you are writing on behalf of the school.

    But don't panic - it doesn't often happen, and as long as you try your best to be fair and honest, you should be OK.

    What to include? A CP statement is a good idea, perhaps something along these lines, but see what the usual wording, if any, is in your school.

    This reference is written in good faith as the personal opinion of the referee; however it incurs no legal obligation on the referee, and you are advised to make your own judgment on the suitability of the candidate. We know of no reason why the candidate should not work with children; however you are advised to carry out the statutory checks with the DBS and similar authorities.

    I suggest first that you talk to another HoD. As any reference that you write is coming from the school, not just from you, it's important that you follow the school's conventions on this.

    Some schools, for example, insist that all references are glanced at by the Head before they go out, because it's the Head who has ultimate responsibility if you include something illegal or subject to court proceedings.


    You might find it useful to read this before you start:

    Can your Head write a negative reference for you? Or refuse to write one? Can you see what was written...

    Best wishes

  3. misspiggy82

    misspiggy82 New commenter

    Thank you for this advice. One reference successfully written, signed off by my head, and the candidate got the job
  4. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter



    * Cue warm feeling of achievement *

    Now all you have to do is write a job description and person specification, draft the job advert, shortlist, hold interviews and appoint a new colleague.


    Best wishes


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