This week, I travelled to the West Country to visit my parents and to join our South West Representative, Kate Fiddian, and other members of The MTPT Project in Bristol for a spot of lunch at the M Shed – a fantastically family friendly venue packed with paid and free exhibitions perfect for parents and baby alike.  They are exhibiting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year until April, and seeing these powerful, distressing and emotive photographs – perfect for this English teacher’s ‘Writing to Describe’ lessons! – in a more reflective space than the often-packed Natural History Museum was an added bonus of the visit.

It was fantastic to connect with this hub of MaternityTeachers who have supported the growth of The MTPT Project by tweeting, blogging, representing us at conference events and TeachMeets, and completing their own self-directed CPD in a way that suits them and their new families.  Together, we covered four different subjects – English, SEND, Science and Music – varying stages of careers – from six years’ experience to early retirement – and an impressive array of middle and senior leadership titles – SLE, HoD, LP, AH, HT – almost too many acronyms to keep track of, proving that parenthood can be perfectly compatible with leadership ambitions.

We were also joined by three babies and one toddler, which highlighted the changing ‘manageability’ of having children at networking events.  Whilst the venue was entirely family-friendly, it definitely helped to have my mother present to follow Hugo’s curious lead.  At 16 months, he has now found his feet and there is nothing he wants to do less than sit still, and nothing he wants to do more than climb the highest and most dangerous sets of stairs (on his own).  This was really something to think about in terms of childcare provision at large CPD events where parents will want to focus more on the content being delivered and less on what challenge their adventurous toddler has set himself.

It was so inspiring to hear the parental leave stories from our community, and it was definitely a learning opportunity for me.

We discussed the expectations and complexity of both full time and part time working, especially the lack of evident role models in co-headship positions – a topical discussion given @LizzieRobinson3’s #flexworkdfe pledge this week to raise the profile of the many Head Teachers around the country purposefully getting on with such arrangements.  It was fascinating hearing former Head Teacher @ClaireRising’s experience of changing her path in education to better suit her family’s needs when she became a mother.  It was also interesting to hear that many parents still face the expectation from colleagues that they will return to work part time after having their children.  All four current teachers present had either returned full time, or intended on doing so, and all spoke of this being a surprise to friends, family or SLT.

It was reaffirming to hear of @bristol_teacher’s successful SLE application which will enable her to share her SEND expertise with a wider community of schools upon her return to work in January.  Like @M_X_F found when she applied for her successful promotion at the beginning of her maternity leave, @bristol_teacher spoke of the reflection and preparation space that maternity leave afforded her to complete her interview with calm confidence that may not have been possible in the midst of a full timetable.

Our South West Representative, Kate Fiddian, filled us in with details of the upcoming event she has organised in partnership with @WomenEd and Women Leading in Education (South West Network), focusing on taking action to challenge inequality on the 21st November – an organisational feat akin to @MrsMcKinneyDT’s organisation of #TMHatfield whilst on leave.  Find out more about Kate’s event, and how to attend on our events page.

Lastly, it was a real contextual eye-opener for me to learn more about the educational landscape in Bristol.  Having worked in and around London, or on the international scene, for my entire career, I am painfully uninformed about schools and student profiles in other parts of the UK.  The dominance of academy chains in the South West, for example, the varying levels of deprivation and measures taken to tackle this, as well as @MrsGleedMusic’s explanation of how a formerly private Cathedral Choir School could transform into a non-selective comprehensive school and the mammoth role of being a Head of Music in an establishment where the focus is still very much on the Arts.

Listening to these stories was particularly profound because they highlighted the importance of The MTPT Project network and the culture of choice, empowerment and professional learning that we celebrate.  When Kate joined our team in April, The MTPT Project in the South West was just a rumour connected to WomenEd, Teach First and the keen community members who follow us on Twitter.  Now, just six months later, not only do we have a big enough group of teachers in this region to organise coffee mornings, we also have a succession plan for growing our South West presence and continuing our positive impact.

Thank you so much to everyone who attended, who has supported us in the South West both formally and informally, and to those who couldn’t get to us this time, but are equal cheerleaders and advocates on social media and at South West regional events and schools.

If you’d like to organise a coffee morning, lunch or afternoon tea in your region, check out how simple it is with our easy ‘How To’ guide.

If you’d like to get involved in a more formal capacity with The MTPT Project, check out our possible team roles (or suggest your own!)

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