In this blog piece Teacher Horizons Director, John Regan, provides extensive amount of information concerning job references. You may well find all answers to your questions in this informative piece but of course, if we omitted anything – feel free to get in touch with us and ask the team directly.

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Who do I choose to be my referees?

Ideally, your referees should have seen you teach recently and are able to assess your professional performance.  They should be line managers (Heads of School, Deputy Heads, Heads of Section, Heads of Departments or, in the case of senior leaders, members of Boards or owners) not colleagues, friends, parents, students or someone outside the teaching profession.  You must assess whether the referee will be supportive.  If you feel that your relationship with a Head of School is less than satisfactory, you should choose a Deputy Head instead.

Why do my references need submitting before I’ve even been offered a position?

Unlike in the world of commerce, schools need references before they can proceed to offer the position.  This is partly due to being confident that the candidate has the ability and experience to teach, but it is also partly due to child protection issues.

My Head has never seen me teach – can I not ask my HOD for a reference instead?

It is conceivable (particularly in very large schools) that the Head may not have direct experience of observing teachers in the classroom.  I such cases, it is likely that they receive reports and assessments from Heads of Section, Deputy Heads or Heads of Department.  Thus they are able to complete confidential references.  It is wise to ask the Head of Section, Deputy Head or Head of Department to be a referee in addition to the Head of School.

The Teacher Horizons reference proforma for teachers consists mainly of a tick-box exercise where the referee gives an assessment of the candidate’s performance on a number of professional parameters such as planning & preparation, use of ICT, relationships with students, colleagues and parents, as well as personal qualities, such as communication skills and flexibility.  There is also room for a comment.

The proforma for middle and senior leaders uses the same format, but focusses on leadership skills and experience.

Can all schools see my references?

Only schools that are approved by Teacher Horizons may see the profiles, which includes references, of teachers.

What if I don’t want to tell my current school I’m thinking of leaving?

That’s not a problem, but don’t insert the details of referees at your current school onto your profile just yet.  As soon as you insert the details, a reference request will automatically be sent to them!  When you make a definite decision to apply for a new post, and certainly if you are called for interview, it is only polite and professional that you approach your Head of School to tell them of your intention and ask that they be a referee for you.

How many references do I need?

You will need at least two references (one from a Head of School submitted using a school’s email address – ie not gmail, Hotmail etc) and preferably three.

Can I see my references?

No.  They are strictly confidential.  Only the Heads of School and Teacher Horizons staff will have access to your references.

Will my referee be sent a copy of the reference?

When the referee completes and submits the reference, they may keep a copy.

How will I know when my references have been submitted?

When the reference is received by Teacher Horizons, an email will be sent to you.

Can I update old references?  What happens to old ones?

When you would like to update, get in touch with your Teacher Horizons adviser.  They will offer you advice on what to do.  They will copy the reference that you wish to remove and file it and delete the reference from your profile.  This will leave space for you to insert the details of a new referee.


Did we cover everything? If you are requiring any additional information, please contact our friendly team directly and they will be happy to assist with any job reference query you may have and of course any other questions regarding your potential placement abroad.

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Written by John Regan
former International School Head and CEO of Teacher Horizons
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