Do I have to tell my Head I am applying elsewhere?

7th October 2013 at 01:00

Do I have to tell my Head I am applying elsewhere?

You don’t want your current school to know that you are applying for other jobs. You think that if they knew you were hoping to leave, they might treat you differently. At the very least, it would be embarrassing.


So can you apply without telling your Head?


Yes, if you are applying for a job outside teaching that does not involve working with children or vulnerable adults, because there you don’t have to give your Head as a referee.  Although it would be best to do so, of course, as your current employer.  Be careful when it comes to attending an interview, however.


Do not pull a sickie.  If you defraud the school by taking the day off without permission, the possible consequences are:


a) you will lose a day's pay 

b) AND you will be subject to disciplinary procedures, possibly for Gross Misconduct

c) AND they will write to the other school/employer and tell them so

d) AND the other school/employer will probably withdraw the offer for your dishonesty

e) AND you may well have no job at all come September.


But no, you cannot apply without speaking to your current Head if it’s another teaching job, or a support role in a school, because you have to have your current Head as a referee.  


But can you at least ask the school you’re applying to not to contact your current school unless you get an interview?


Not a good idea.


Application forms used to have a box to tick if you wanted to be informed before they contacted one or both referees, but that has now been removed, as the statutory guidance to schools is that they should get references before interview. Actually, some places are still using up old forms, and it's still there, but I don't suggest that you tick it, for the reasons below:


From the point of view of a school, having to ask you/warn you before asking for references is a pain. A big pain.


Firstly, it makes more work. Yet another thing to do. They have organised a streamlined plan for all the tasks involved with the appointment, and you upset the apple cart.


Then it slows things down. They have to contact you, wait for you to reply (probably not until that evening at the earliest), then wait until you have spoken to the Head, then contact them (and at a different time from all the other referees they are contacting - interfering with a planned working day with a different task) and wait for the reply.


And finally, it could suggest that you don't have a very good relationship with your Head as you haven't told them that you are applying.


These may not seem like a big deal - and perhaps individually they are not - but a school very hard-pressed, in a hurry, or very sensitive to good staff/SLT relationships, could have second thoughts about you if you are even-stevens with another candidate for shortlisting.


And you could at worst lose out all together, at best be seen as a bit awkward before you have even got into the interview room.


So my advice always is to go and see your Head, tell them that you really appreciate working in that school, with excellent colleagues, and have benefited enormously from all the opportunities for professional development, both formal and informal, that you have had.


However, the time has now come to move on to make the most of your development/ an exceptional opportunity has cropped up to solve your problem of long commute and distance from your partner or ailing Mum, so you will, regrettably, be applying for a post at another school and hope that it will be okay to give them as the first referee.


They cannot really say 'no'. So gird up your loins and brave the lion in his den, is always my advice.


Aha! So you can’t ask the school not to contact your Head – but you could wait until you’re called to interview to brave the lion in his den and say that you’re applying to another school?


Sorry, no – too risky!


Risky because some schools do long-listing, where they call for references on, say, 12-15 candidates before finally deciding on their short list of five or six. Your Head might get a reference request out of the blue, and nothing is going to make a Head feel more ill-disposed towards you than discovering that you have been applying without the courtesy of asking to put them as a referee. 


You don’t want the reference to be written when they're in that mood! The school receiving it wouldn’t be very impressed if it began:


"I was surprised to receive your request for a reference for Joan Smith, as she has not afforded me the courtesy of telling me that she was applying for another post, nor asking for my agreement to be her referee."


Don’t think it won’t happen, because it might - I have seen it, and was not impressed by the candidate's lack of courtesy.


And secondly, risky because even if they don’t do long-listing, they will be sending out the requests for references, by e-mail, the same day that they send you your e-mail invitation to interview. And who is more likely to read the e-mail first – you, in a classroom most of the day, or the Head who probably plans to check the in-box every couple of hours?


So back to my advice above: the moment that you see a post that you are going to want to apply for, you must tell your Head, and ask to have them as a referee.


Best wishes