Waking Up Parts of My Brain

English Teacher, ECT Induction Tutor and Teaching and Learning Impact Lead, Katherine Cummins (@ke_cummins) explains how she embraced the opportunity to complete her NPQML during her first maternity leave, and shares top tips for those who want to do the same.  

By the time I went on maternity leave in August ‘22, I had spent as much time on the NPQ journey as I had spent pregnant. That academic year, I managed being a KS3-5 English teacher, Creativity subject leader, my NPQML and a growing bump: this is what I learnt.

  1. Speak up

From the start, I was adamant that maternity leave was not going to prevent me from finishing the course. Thankfully, the course provider was supportive of my goal. In module 3, I was meant to attend a face to face event in a local school but with a 3-month-old baby at home, this was impossible. I was instead invited to an online event, which meant I could continue to breastfeed my baby while her grandparents took over childcare. My fellow Zoom attendees didn’t bat an eyelid when they heard my daughter nursing while we were working in breakout rooms. My online mentor was also very supportive. When we got to the final impact review, she told me she that I had always been the first participant to submit assignments throughout the course. This spurred me on for the summative assessment.

2. Ask for help

I was lucky to have visiting in-laws and parents based locally who were happy to look after the baby while I had course commitments. My daughter got to spend quality time with them whilst I got on with studying. After an intense study session, being able to have a cuddle and play with the baby made the hard work fade into insignificance. When we got to the summative assessment, my husband was working abroad, my daughter was unwell and not sleeping and I had caught her cold. Having family around to take the baby out took a lot of pressure off me and having friendly adult company in the house made life a lot easier.

  1. Be organised

The NPQ has a lot of very tight deadlines; luckily, the provider’s online portal made it very clear when they were falling. I had to be extremely organised and put aside hours in the evenings and days at the weekend in advance to complete the studying. Otherwise, life would have taken over, especially when you really want to put your feet up after a run of sleepless nights. I found having time constraints made me more productive. For example, knowing that I only had an hour to work before my daughter needed a feed made me more focused. When I was still pregnant, knowing that I wanted to complete the course while on maternity leave motivated me to meet deadlines.

  1. Enjoy the ‘break’ from baby

I am passionate about teaching and learning and really enjoyed the modules I completed while pregnant. When the baby arrived and life became a joyful mess, it was impossible to think of anything apart from her. As module 3 rolled round when my daughter was just three months old, I had to force myself to create a mental space where I could think about teaching. I ultimately found the moments where I left the baby stimulating as studying woke up parts of my brain that had been put on standby since her birth. Being able to exert control over study sessions and assignment writing was also a welcome change after the happy chaos that is life with a newborn.

  1. Celebrate achievements

Six weeks passed between the summative assignment submission and results day. Though it was easy to forget about it when busy with a baby- we started weaning the day after I submitted the final assignment- it was a welcome relief when I learnt I had passed. I liked to think that my baby’s beaming smiles were her congratulating me for the hard work that had finally paid off. More than anything, I learnt that having the right focus, support and passion to succeed meant that I could keep developing professionally even when on maternity leave.

Remember that you cannot be denied training or development opportunities whilst pregnant or on maternity leave.  Katherine completed her NPQ with Best Practice Network and other colleagues in The MTPT Project have provided positive accounts about completing their NPQs through Teach First, Ambition Institute, Harris Federation and their local TSH providers.