What happens when the education system lets you down?
I am no longer a teacher because of a toxic Headteacher and I fear that my story may be all too familiar. I write to raise awareness and for closure. That chapter in my life is over; I am happy once again.
I was a member of the senior leadership team (SLT). It was custom and practice that emails would be sent day and night and throughout the weekend despite our policy stating differently. A work-life balance did not exist.
One such Sunday I received an email from the head teacher to our SLT gloating that they had got rid of a member of staff and had two more to go, by whatever means necessary. The head used a derogatory term that I cannot use here for fear of recognition. The following week I expressed my discomfort to the deputy head and as is custom and practice, they agreed but nothing was done.
I continued to challenge decisions being made but knew that my card was marked. Things began escalating when I was told to leave my union to show my loyalty! The politics were ugly and things were toxic.
The headteacher decided …
It is worth noting that I wasn’t a big trade unionist, up to this point I’d used them for the discounts my membership brought and nothing else. How things changed! I received a written apology which accepted that the things were said; but that I over-reacted. For the first time in a 15+ year career, I had brought the union into school; I had a bullseye on my back and had become a moving target.
The head teacher took on my performance management and that of my team. Suddenly, I am an inadequate teacher; I am unable to complete documents and I am too generous when assessing my team. All things that were disproven by Ofsted and other members of the SLT – conducting paired observations and exams analysis – but the head teacher had decided.
Things reached ‘toxic levels’ when the head teacher accused me of sharing a Sunday night email with colleagues. This is something that I did not do. Despite the head’s best efforts, I remained professional in the face of adversity. Even though there was no evidence, letters were issued inviting me to a disciplinary hearing. The Headteacher believed it was me.
I made contact with my union and asked if they could get me out of the school by whatever means necessary. I would not and could not work for such an immoral, unethical, narcissist.
Beware of settlement agreements
Settling agreements are deeply unsettling. I, like so many others, (4 similar stories in the two years I was there) reached an agreement. The letter stipulated an agreed reference; proformas for recruitment would be completed in the spirit of the settlement agreement and that the terms would remain confidential.
- Interview One: My reference is titled an ‘Agreed Reference’. A breach you say?
- No, an administrative error. I apologise. Oops.
- Interview Two: “Tell me, can you work well with senior leaders?”
- Phone calls have taken place, and not in the “spirit of the agreement”.
- The Union response? “There is nothing we can do.”
- Interview Three: I ask for interview notes. Scribbled out but clearly legible “XXX is trouble”.
- This wasn’t in my agreement! Indeed I have an unblemished record, but clearly, the head teacher has decided.
As I write this, my union is procrastinating.
My advice, beware when taking a settlement agreement; the union is happy to be a stretcher bearer and negotiate an agreement for you, but they are not so happy to push for ‘legal action’ when the head teacher breaches the agreement
I am no longer a teacher. That chapter in my life is over; I am happy.