What keeps me awake at night

Let down by a struggling leader who can't let go

My daughter is 30 and wishes to move closer to home. This means leaving her job at a school under the threat of special measures and where many teachers have gone off with stress. She told her headteacher of her intention before Easter and they asked what they could do to persuade her to stay. But her mind was made up.

Since Easter she has had two interviews. She was a close runner-up in the first and the second was going well until the interviewer asked if she had read her reference. She said no, to which the interviewer replied, "Well, if I were you, I would be going to see your headteacher about it at the earliest opportunity."

It turned out that her headteacher had answered "No" to the question "Would you reappoint this person?" And it got worse. The headteacher had also assessed her quality of work and completion of tasks as only "acceptable".

My daughter asked why her headteacher told her she had written a good reference when she clearly had not. The headteacher maintained that it was good. The reason she said she wouldn't reappoint my daughter was because "there have been some `requiring improvement' elements in the two most recent observations".

My daughter is an inexperienced teacher with a very difficult class and has no teaching and learning adviser, because they too have gone off with stress. So surely some negatives in otherwise good observations (with outstanding elements) should not be enough to warrant a damning "No"?

Her headteacher says she is "not prepared to lie on a reference" and will continue to answer "No" to that question. Two acquaintances - a primary school leader and the chair of a governing body - advise that this will severely hamper my daughter's chances of employment.

What really upsets me is that my daughter has kept on going when lots of older and more experienced teachers around her have fallen by the wayside. She does so much extra for the school, too.

She is reluctant to involve her union with a view to getting an "agreed" reference because she says this would make her look like "a poor teacher and a troublemaker". I feel desperately sorry for her and cannot understand why her headteacher is doing this.

The writer is based in the North of England

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk

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