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If a reference is requested from a present or previous employer, then they should legally provide one and not have the option of refusing it!

Comment 20th July 2010

At present am a supply teacher of Science, trying to switch over to teaching Maths(both shortage subjects!).Due to personal circumstances, I have had to do supply teaching over the past 5+ years. I I am now trying to get a job as a full time permanent Maths teacher, since hold a Chemistry degree and have adequate supply teaching experience, though I have mainly held permanent Science posts in the past.

My idea is this: I have found such a variation in the way schools and heads of department have dealt with me- some have been brill, when I asked for an open reference, they were keen that I also had a say in what was written, which I think is the way it should be done. I am a landlord, and I always ask my tenants to read and also contribute to the tenancy agreement(what they disagree /agree with-thats part of democracy and civilised society!

Yet, I wont mention schools, but I have found that the last 2 schools I have taught at had such terrible heads of dept and their line managers werent willing to get involved in writing a reference for me.One HOD wrote a statement which barely highlighted my ability or even outlined all the things I did, tied loose ends when I left, planned well, showed professional competence- she merely stated that I was there from – to -. I dont think this is fair, especially since I put my heart and soul into the job and tried to get a good reference.

The 2nd school I went to soon after, incidently both these school had Asian heads of Dept, was reluctant to show me what she'd written but agreed to read it out, when I put her name down as a referee. I didnt agree with what she'd written about me,though she knew full well that I had gone out of my way to do all the jobs required of me and actually volunteered on several occasions, because I think she thought since I was a supply teacher she could do the bare minimum and get away with it, since there was no law which said an employer had to give a reference.She then sent me an email saying that she no longer wants to be my referee.

My view is this: all employers should hold a reference and agree to do a job reference for an employee whether that person is a permanent worker or a  temporary worker( like a supplly teacher). A job reference can make or break someones career. All posts applied for ask for a current or most recent referee, so therefore, if an employer refuses, then thats very very unfair on the worker.Where does that person go-if they've done no wrong, then surely it should be law that they are treated properly and the law protects them from those who use their power in the wrong way and against the weaker. I think the law should be made, otherwise people like myself are struggling to get interviews because a HOD refuses to give a reference stating the positive things I did. I have asked my union and they recommended I wrote to you. I think this is an outdated law and needs to be made compulsory in way which involves the employee…so they can say whether they agree/disagree.

My 2nd issue is with the TDA. There is a Maths development program being run to encourage Teachers who are non-maths teachers to teach the subject. I enquired about this, but was told that unless I get a permanent contract with a school, I was not entitled to apply. With a Chemistry degree, I feel I would be an ideal candidate- I have a passion for this subject. The TDA in my view should be finding and facilitating this scheme by finding schools that need people like myself who could teach Science and be on a part time maths timetable. Since I cant get a reference from one recent HOD(see above) and another which states the bare minimum, its next to impossible for me to get on to the scheme.

I feel the TDA is a government quango which is not really serving any purpose, because it doesnt help supply teachers like myself back into full time work-it is geared towards the NQT's….

more needs to be done by them besides looking after those employed by local authorities, as not all teachers fit into that stream.This is very unfair….we should all have the same treatment if we've passed out QTS etc


I think more needs to be done to sort out the references- I have made over 50 applications this summer for teaching jobs, with one positive reply who said that the one of the referees didnt respond back in time(thats the one who refused to be my referee in future!).I just feel the system is very unfair- all other referees I have had in the past have been excellent, but I feel that there needs to be some consistency in how references are done so that the worker feels valued and appreciated and not dealt with in that way!Perhaps if the head teacher is made the referee as a law, then it helps people like me, but you need to have a law for this.

Why does this matter?

1)it will  be fair on all employees in future-they have the normal human right to a reference!Why should you have to beg an employer to give you one when they can refuse, yet be 2 faced to you in the workplace!

People work hard and spend most hours in the day in their jobs-why shouldnt we be able to leave a workplace knowing that we are entitled to a decent reference that outlines our positives..-this would reduce unnecessary anxiety and more respect for employees- at the moment there is a lot of abuse going on!

2)The TDA are not in touch with reality in Education. Some people like myself are in supply teaching due to a change in circumstances. THE TDA should be an organisation which assists people in supply work to find permanent work. Most courses that the TDA run are aimed at those employed by councils- how about supply teachers with QTS,who want to build up their knowledge and contribute to education- we have been outlawed or barred from even applying.It is a load of nonsense.

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