When I was 39 weeks pregnant, I was told by my employer (a school) that, as a result of my husband’s criminal record, I was ‘disqualified by association‘ and would be suspended from my job as a teacher until such time as I was granted a waiver which would enable me to continue working. Although I was given forms to complete, I wasn’t given any other information by my local authority or Ofsted. No one seemed to know how to deal with the matter, or how long the process would take.
At my next antenatal appointment my midwife noticed that my blood glucose levels had spiked which I imagine was as a result of the stress I was under. The prospect of losing my job and quite possibly my house meant that I felt unable to look after my baby and in this fight or flight mode, I was rejecting my unborn baby.
As a result of my husband’s conviction four years previously, I suffered from post traumatic stress symptoms and paid for private counselling to help me to understand that I was not responsible for what happened and that I was not to blame. As soon as I was disqualified, I immediately took on the blame and all those years of work in therapy were redundant.
The PTSD symptoms I suffered were mainly related to the invasion of my house by the police – I suffered terrible flash backs. The result of my disqualification was to bring all those symptoms back after 4 years, at the most vulnerable time in my life, when I was due to give birth. The disqualification process was like another police investigation for which I was the focus and the invasion of my privacy felt exactly the same as when my husband’s original offence had taken place. I decided that the only option was to start counselling again.
The investigation by Ofsted took weeks and for a lot of the time I heard nothing. Then, whilst on the maternity ward and in the early stages of labour, I was contacted three times on the telephone by Ofsted. They left no message and when I called them back in a blind panic, nobody could give me any information and they didn’t seem to know who had been trying to contact me. The birth of my child was overshadowed by waiting for someone from Ofsted to call me back to let me know if I had a chance of keeping my job and home.
The stress, PTSD and the secrecy surrounding the investigation caused me difficulties in bonding with my new born daughter. I was extremely distressed and the focus of the distress was this investigation. I went to the doctors and was prescribed medication. I felt unable to discuss the reason for my distress with the midwives or health visitors as I felt the fact I was being investigated as to whether I was a danger to children would mean that social services would get involved and also investigate me.
Finally, I was given some information from Ofsted about how the investigation would play out. I was told I needed to have a face to face meeting with an Ofsted Inspector. At five days old, one of my daughters first visitors was an Ofsted Inspector who sat in my home and went through such personal and traumatic details with me to make sure I was safe to be around children.
Having this traumatic event dragged up after 4 years had a massive impact on my marriage. It broke down and we separated. Again, having an impact on my daughter in the first year of her life. Luckily my husband and I believed that our marriage was worth fighting for and went for counselling with Relate.
Ofsted sent me a number of emails to my hotmail account which contained some very sensitive information. They asked me to give them specific details of my husbands offence and I was really worried about the security taking into account the method of contact. They also sent me a letter which apparently had details of his offence contained within it which got lost in the post. Obviously this was a real concern to me especially due to the nature of his offence.
It didn’t matter who I spoke to at Ofsted, nobody at any level seemed to know what was going on or could give me any information. Due to the massive trauma this caused to me and my family and countless others, I feel there needs to be very clear guidance and information for everybody involved. Knowing what was going to happen to me and some idea of time frames would have at least alleviated some of the stress.
I understand that what my husband did was wrong but we have both paid the price for his offence. He was fully investigated by the police and they deemed him not to be a danger to society. We spent a lot of time, effort and money rebuilding our lives to the point where we felt able to have a baby only for this to happen to us.
The thing that is most upsetting is that I did not actually have to go through any of this as I was not one of the teachers covered by this legislation so………. It was simply a lack of clarity in the guidelines which caused this to happen to my family at such a vulnerable time. The whole process has had a huge effect on all areas of mine and my families life. I understand that this legislation is supposed to protect children but it has actually caused harm to my own child at a most critical time of her life and development. Nobody spotted this at the beginning and at no stage has anybody apologised for putting me and my family through this.
By Louisa (name changed to protect identity)
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- Information – We have practical self-help information on Childcare Disqualification Requirements – Primary school teachers, nursery staff and others – ‘Disqualification by association’.
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