I worked hard as a teacher during my pregnancy. I was incredibly ill and suffered with terrible sickness for 24 weeks, back pain, severe swelling of my feet and legs and so on. I was unsupported all the way through, even to the point where I was still carrying 30 coursework folders up a tower block at 32 weeks pregnant. I was also unsupported with poor behaviour of pupils and I raised complaints about this however my line manager was rarely in due to sickness.
At 32 weeks I decided I couldn’t do it anymore and left for Mat leave having intended to go to 37 weeks. It gave me time to rest and actually get the nursery ready. I left extensive handover notes and a 12 page booklet written about all my classes and their progress. Again, my line manager was off so I handed over to ‘second in command’.
Once off I received a few worrying emails saying coursework folders had gone missing and ‘second in command’ suggested he had not been given them on the handover day, despite me having run through each one and having a detailed spreadsheet. At this point I’d already started kicking myself for not insisting on having 2 people sign off on my work and/or having written evidence of the handover being complete and full. I offered to come in to help for ‘free’ as a favour really, and this was denied.
I thought no more of it until October when I submitted my FWR (flexible working request). My baby was now 5 months old and I intended returning in March but wanted to give the school as much notice as possible. I submitted via email one evening at around 10pm and by 9.30am I had a response, meant for the head teacher, from the HR manager instructing that the head had ’14 days to reject her request and give reasons.’ This was followed by panicked phone calls from the HR manager saying she copied it incorrectly from the contract… but low and behold when I attended my FWR meeting it was ‘mutually agreed’ I would give up my TLR (extra responsibility) due to ‘poor performance’. I pressed the head of department for what this meant and she offered no elaboration or evidence at all. It was agreed that between March and July I would come back 2 days per week to undertake intervention and we would review in Feb regards to September.
Between October and Feb (despite taking 4 KIT days inbetween) I chased and chased and chased to get evidence and further clarification on the ‘poor performance’. It was claimed that 3 members of the department (including second and third in command) had to step in and redo my coursework as it was incorrect. In fact, they produced a 4 page document which talked about all my failings and all the extra work they had to do (in paid overtime, I might add). I finally got my hands on the work in February and – surprise surprise – nothing had been done to it…no remarking, no ‘tweaking’, no evidence of very much at all being changed. I raised this and requested a meeting to discuss.
I attended this investigatory meeting on the same day as my further FWR meeting. My FWR meeting was to deny me part time hours and suggest that I leave before May (of course, paying back the maternity pay I’d received totalling 8.5K). I was told that it didn’t matter even if one of the 8 part-time members of staff in the department left, I would still not be offered part-time hours. Following this I sat in a meeting and was attacked by all 3 senior members of the dept. and the head telling me my work wasn’t done the ‘***SCHOOL NAME** way’. They cited a number of students’ work which wasn’t to standard, claiming this is why they’d had to work overtime but I had evidence that none of that work had been touched since the day I left in March. They handed over folders to ‘show’ where they had remarked, but I asked my union rep to look and IN THE MEETING it was proved they had done no such remarking or changing of grades AT ALL (not even one folder!) and yet the head teacher chairing the meeting did not address this at all, even when asked what had they been doing to claim the overtime. Feeling beaten and vulnerable, I let the meeting end and felt that I had been well and truly nailed to the cross.
To add insult to injury they advertised a new job in my department – full OR PART TIME!
I went to a solicitor and after hugely drawn out proceedings we agreed I would leave, not pay back maternity and get 2 months’ pay. He advised I wait longer to get more / be signed off sick until September when I could sue for unfair dismissal. I wanted it over with – I was drained and it was taking over every spare bit of energy I had. In a 9 year teaching career I had never been anything but outstanding, and between October and April I cried regularly about how badly I had performed and how much of a bad person I must be to have made them hate me so much.
Now I am looking for another job and STILL they are thwarting me. I have now signed away all of my claims… but I know for a fact (as a recruitment agent told me, not knowing the can of worms she was about to open) they have been sending my standard reference and then following it up with a phone call to tell employers it is a legal matter and they should ask me. And of course, I am bound by a confidentiality agreement. I have been for jobs where I have been told I will most likely get the position depending on references and then never heard from them again. More than once.
I am now having to supply teach to remove that school as my first reference. I am struggling, REALLY struggling to get over how I feel about those members of staff in their highly paid, part time jobs at a school I worked my arse off for, who LIED and thought I would just roll over and take it. I saw one of them (now on mat. leave herself) in Costa and I had to leave as I thought I might cry.
I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it is clear they wanted rid of me. These were people who I thought were my friends… who bought my baby daughter beautiful gift sets and sent cards. And they stole my Mat. leave from me. And decided to destroy my career, finances and confidence. I’ve needed counselling to try to come to terms with what’s happened. I wish I’d done the not-so-honest thing and waited and taken them to court for discrimination.