Kathryn Wright (@kathrynfenlodge), freelance RE Advisor, RE Advisor to the Diocese of Norwich and Lead Consultant for Teach: RE explains how chance encounters during her maternity leave lead to unexpected career developments.
I am writing this blog because I passionately believe that parental leave can be an opportunity for career development and I want to support The MTPT Project. Let me explain why…
Very few people can probably claim that their career took off during maternity leave, but this is what happened to me about ten years ago! In short, this was partly due to being in the right place at the right time, but also due to the incredible support of colleagues who saw the opportunities that maternity leave provided for flexible working from home.
Ten years ago I had a nine-month old baby, and a toddler running around; I had been an RE Adviser to the London Borough of Newham for a number of years, but had decided to explore other avenues of work to fit better around my family and avoid the long daily commute from to London from Cambridgeshire.
A Chance Encounter
During my maternity leave I started to run a toddler group – slightly out of my comfort zone as I am secondary trained! However, I required some resources to help me, and whilst searching for these, bumped into an RE Adviser. She suggested that whilst I was on maternity leave I trained to become a Section 48 (Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools) Inspector, explaining that I could choose when to undertake inspections so that the commitments worked around my children. I took her up on this suggestion and whilst on the training course met another Adviser who told me they needed a secondary RE specialist to work with schools in Norfolk! My new ‘freelance’ career had begun!
The RE community is strong and vibrant. There is probably some kind of network meeting taking place every week for teachers. There are similar networking opportunities for Advisers too, and I decided to pop along to my local group. I was fortunate that my husband was working shifts, so had the children for the morning. It was here that I met Mary Myatt (@MaryMyatt) who at that time was an Adviser in Suffolk. Mary saw the possibilities and opportunities of my situation and supported me in my early days as a freelancer by opening doors for project work, and inviting me to events to help me network with others. She also always understood the constraints of being a parent, and I never felt pressured.
Lastly, a number of organisations contacted me during my maternity leave because they knew I would be based at home. I would have more time to write, apparently! So I wrote articles; I helped prepare a bid for funding; I wrote material for a website; I acted as a consultant for a media organisation… many of these opportunities came about because of the creative thinking of other Advisers in my field – other Advisers who did not have time to ‘write’ because they were in schools had the foresight to pass these opportunities on to me.
Opportunities for All
In my work as an Adviser now, there are a number of ways in which I try to support those on parental leave leave, I think partly due to the way my own career has developed. One of my roles is as Lead Consultant for the distance-learning TeachRE Course, which has many flexible routes and pathways that enable teachers to complete it remotely – perfect for those on parental leave! If this sounds like the right CPD opportunity for you, then we’d love to hear from you!