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Can my request for a reference be refused?

(31 Posts)
LaTrucha Sat 17-Nov-12 22:22:56

I gave up teaching on the brth of my DD 5 years ago. I had no problem with the school I was at nor they with me. I now want to do some examining and contacted them for a reference as they were my last employer. They have told me that they can't as everyone in my department has left since I did and so has the headteacher.

What do I do? I would now have to go back beyond my last employer, well over ten years, to get a reference. I know one who would as we're still in contact and friendly but I feel just plain silly contacting someone out of the blue after such a long time.

shellyf Sat 17-Nov-12 22:27:55

Would you be able to track down your last HT or DHT?I have written references for people I used to work with several times.

LaTrucha Sun 18-Nov-12 07:14:16

I have the number of my HoD in my phone book but one of the children has taken it somewhere and it's been AWOL for months. I tried an ex colleague I'm in touch with on FB but she hasn't got back to me (which made me really sad because we've always been very friendly and I'd do it for her.)

LaTrucha Mon 19-Nov-12 07:21:21

Does anyone have any ideas? I'm feeling pretty stuck.

Bearandcub Mon 19-Nov-12 07:34:20

I was under the impression you can't be refused a reference. Surely they've held records for 5 + years that would confirm you were an employee, even if there isn't anybody who knew you or could provide a character reference.

LaTrucha Mon 19-Nov-12 08:47:44

Me too! And they would at least know that I did my job competently, or it would be on record I had been disciplined, wouldn't it?

Bearandcub Mon 19-Nov-12 23:35:42

It should be. Are you in the UK? If so, have a look at Data Protection and Access to Records. I'm sure there are timeframes for keeping employee records that are longer than 5 years, especially where there is contact with children or vulnerable adults.

My brain is pretty frazzled though so could be mistaken.

LaTrucha Tue 20-Nov-12 09:05:54

Thanks. I'll have a look.

BranchingOut Wed 21-Nov-12 07:29:25

I had precisely this problem when trying to go back to teaching, even after only 1 year out following maternity leave.

I ran into problems when applying for exam marking, as the head from when I had worked with that age range of pupils had left.

Likewise, although my most recent reference was ok (head still in situ) the previous one was not as the whole SLT at the time had left since I worked there. I contacted the school and emailed the head teacher, but she could not give a reference as not only did she not know me personally but the school could not find any record of my reference! Grrr!

So there is a whole year of my working life that cannot be vouched for...

I think it is partly stricter safeguarding rules that make HT very reluctant to provide any surety for someone they did not personally manage.

I found agencies and the exam board I applied to were particularly awkward about all this - in one case I was actually turned down by an agency whom I had previously used to book supply teachers when I was in an SLT post!

My only ideas are:

local authority?
Asking for disclosure of the reference supplied to your new employers, by any new employers. Obviously this only works if you have had other employment since.

LaTrucha Wed 21-Nov-12 09:38:10

Ugh. Thanks for that. How did you get round it in the end?

My only hope is that I have marked for one of the exam boards before- actually before I had a PGCE. I have written them two emails though, giving my examiner number, but have yet to get a reply. They were a generic email address though so I may try and phone and get someone direct.

BranchingOut Thu 22-Nov-12 09:00:08

I didn't, unfortunately. Still have those two holes in terms of references.

Thankfully I found a job outside teaching, but I am aware that it will be an issue if I ever need to return.

I think this is an issue that teaching unions should look into.

LaTrucha Thu 22-Nov-12 09:05:13

It's really getting me down now. It's not that easy to find suitable work round here as I still have prescool DCs and we're in a rural area.

What gets me is that the examining board employed me as an examiner before I even had a PGCE (I have a PhD in field) and now I am far more qaulified I can't get them to respond.

It just doesn't seem fair. I'm a bit scandalised.

LaTrucha Thu 22-Nov-12 09:06:01

Which exam board was it, if you don't mind me asking? I examined for Edexcel in the past.

BranchingOut Thu 22-Nov-12 18:50:30

Can't remember offhand, but it was whichever board marks KS2 SATS.

Oh the gall of some call centre operative informing me that I was therefore deemed unqualified to mark papers...

How I laughed in my sleeve when there were huge issues with the marking the same year...grin

LaTrucha Thu 22-Nov-12 19:46:42

It's awful. I just keep hitting a brick wall. I didn't even do anything wrong! I just had children and stayed home for a while.

I have dug out an old number for the exam board. I don't know if it is still valid but I'm going to ring it tomorrow. They have no phone numbers on their website and emails are obviously easily avoidable.

DontmindifIdo Thu 22-Nov-12 19:53:52

I'd contact the LEA - they were your ultimate employer and they should at the bare minimum be able to confirm the dates you were employed by them, your job title on leaving their employment.

LaTrucha Thu 22-Nov-12 20:00:36

I'll try that. At least it would be something.

NoWayNoHow Thu 22-Nov-12 20:05:15

Sorry to hear you're struggling with this, OP. I know how difficult it is to get back into the workplace after that period of time.

In answer to your question, yes, they can legally refuse to give you a reference - what they CAN'T legally do is give you a bad reference.

I would definitely persevere with your ex colleagye on FB, but if that doesn't get you anywhere, then you just need to explain the gap when they ask for your references.

When I re-entered the workplace, I was really worried about this as well, but (bearing in mind I'd been offered a job at a financial insitution with stringent policies on employment) they were only interested in references going back 3 years. Their other background check on me seemed to satisfy them.

LaTrucha Thu 22-Nov-12 20:08:45

I have a hunch that as long as I have something to put down, they wont care .After all, they employed me when I was way less qualified than I am now. I think they just don't want to do anything that looks difficult.

I'm dithering about the FB friend. I'm really surprised she hasn't got back to me, and a bit hurt. I feel I should send a message just to check she got the other one - and maybe to prod her if she's juts overlooked it. It also feels a bit pathetic to do that.

flowery Fri 23-Nov-12 10:46:47

"what they CAN'T legally do is give you a bad reference."

It's astonishing how many people believe that myth and confidently give that advice to someone.

It's not remotely illegal to give someone a bad reference. As long as a reference is accurate and can be substantiated that's fine, whether it's good or bad. Most employers won't give a bad reference as it's safer not to, but it's certainly not illegal.

I agree with trying the LEA.

DontmindifIdo Fri 23-Nov-12 12:42:19

Yes, it's perfectly legal to give a bad reference, as long as everything you say is true! A lot of public service employers are advised against giving a bad reference (even if it's true) as they are open to being sued and might have trouble proving it's true, but in many areas (NHS, Education etc) what's a internal guideline and the law get mixed up.

I believe (although I could be wrong) it's illegal not to confirm CV details if checked (such as dates employed and job title), but the former employer/education establishment can insist on signed authorisation from the person who's CV it is that they give permission for the former employer to release the information to the person/company asking.

LaTrucha Fri 23-Nov-12 13:21:19

I have written references of all sorts in the past grin so I know it's legal.

I do think references in general are a pointless waste of time, and liable to bias (my former head used to give glowing refernces to people he wanted to get rid of, and vice versa) though this has no bearing on my current situation.

rachael121 Sat 24-Nov-12 04:45:24

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

LaTrucha Sat 24-Nov-12 08:05:39

Ooo what was that?

fabulousathome Sat 01-Dec-12 17:21:59

Would they be able to trace something at the LA because you were paying into a pension (via the school) at that time? I'm not a teacher so I probably don't know what I'm talking about.

Are you allowed to be a member of a teachers' union if you are not a teacher?

Perhaps contacting your old union may be fruitful, even just for advice?

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