How can I request a reference from my school?

Overview

If you have accepted a job offer to work at a different school or workplace your new employer will make a request for a reference. In the vast majority of cases there is nothing to be concerned about and your reference should highlight your successes in the classroom.

If you have been through the capability process or have been dismissed from your position you may be apprehensive about receiving a negative reference. Receiving a poor reference could have implications on starting your new role or your new employer withdrawing your offer of employment.

What can I expect from a school reference?

You should ask your line manager or your headteacher if they would be willing to provide a reference after you have secured your offer of employment. Your school might have a set template or an agreed proforma when providing references. Often this will include information such as the length of employment, role and responsibilities, areas of strength and areas for improvement. It may also include sections for your referee to include information on any investigatory or disciplinary procedures you have been involved in.

Another article on Edapt includes examples of what references from schools can look like.

Does my school have to give me a ‘good’ reference?

Schools have a duty to their staff to take reasonable care to ensure that references are accurate and fair. References are given at the discretion of your employer and there is no statutory duty for schools to provide references. Referees must disclose any concerns they may have regarding a teacher’s suitability to work with children. This includes any sanctions or warnings that may have been issued previously.

What should I do if I think my school has not given me a satisfactory reference?

If you have not received a satisfactory reference and it has had an impact on your employment opportunities, we may be able to support you. If a reference you have been given is not accurate or is deliberately misleading it may amount to defamation, in which case, you could claim for libel. This means you may be able to claim damages in court. Ideally, you must have evidence to show that your references are misleading, inaccurate or a job offer has been withdrawn in response to your reference.

How can I request to view my reference?

GDPR prevents you from directly asking your school for a copy of any references they have provided about you. However, you are allowed to ask your new or prospective employer for copies of references it has received from your school.

To request a copy of your reference you need to make the request to the employer the reference was sent to. You should make a ‘subject access request’ in writing to your new employer.

We can support you in making a subject access request and guiding you through this process. To find out more information on making a subject access request you can visit the Information Commissioner’s Office website.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.