Point of reference

19th March 1999 at 00:00
One of my staff accidentally saw a copy of a confidential reference which I had written on him and is now blaming me because he did not get the job. Am I vulnerable? Should teachers have access to their references?

I hope not. It is the duty of anyone writing a reference to ensure that it is fair and accurate, so unless this teacher can show that you have seriously and deliberately erred, you need not feel threatened. What you cannot protect yourself from is his anger and sense of injury.

Some LEAs have decreed that all references should be available to their subjects and such references should make that fact clear when they are sent. If they are stored on computer, they are, in any case, available to the individual under the Data Protection Act.

I have always believed that it is good management to discuss a reference with the person concerned before it is sent. That way, errors and omissions are rectified. It also facilitates discussion about the nature of the job being applied for, enabling the head more accurately to direct relevant comments. A head who is not prepared to tell a teacher that an application does not enjoy unqualified support is ducking what ought to be an accepted professional responsibility. In a situation where appraisal is routine and professional development a priority, discussions about references should produce no surprises.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today