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What keeps me awake at night

One bad reference has torn my career to shreds

One bad reference has torn my career to shreds

Under the threat of redundancy and having recently relocated, I was pleased to secure a job as a part-time specialist primary teacher in an inclusive provision for children with autism. But after two terms in post, I found myself in conflict about the way the provision was managed.

I needed a job where I had my own class base. I also needed to address my work-life balance. The headteacher agreed to give me a reference so I could move on to a new school.

I applied for another part-time post, this time as a specialist teacher in an assessment unit attached to a mainstream school, working with children who had a range of conditions including autism. I was shortlisted and attended an interview, which seemed to go well.

When I received feedback from the headteacher, however, she said that she regretted not being able to appoint me because of my first reference - the one written by my school leader. The second reference, written by my immediate manager, was very positive and my teaching had been assessed as good with some outstanding features.

I was devastated and contacted my union immediately. I naively expected a meeting to be set up with the headteacher, where he would be made to justify his scathing reference.

Unfortunately, the branch that dealt with me was short-staffed and overworked, and arranging such a meeting proved impossible.

It was a battle just to get the representative to write a letter to the headteacher stating that he was not to provide any further references for me.

With no support from the union, I felt hopelessly let down and had no choice but to resign.

We read about teachers' workload pressures but spare a moment's thought for the workload of your union officer. If mine had not been so overworked, perhaps I would still be teaching.

The writer is an ex-primary teacher

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