Claire Schnellmann begins a two-part series considering the possibility of bringing her child into a school environment to support the work of either her own school or one closer to home, and whether this could be both a rich professional experience and an excellent opportunity to stimulate her child during the day.

“Why would you want to be in a school when you’re not working or paid to be there?”

This was one response I received when I discussed with a few people about the idea of approaching local schools to see if I could offer support during the days when I am not employed as a teacher elsewhere. I was willing to volunteer during a period of parental leave, and I specifically was interested to see if there were any roles which would be open to my child coming along also.


What inspired this?

Firstly I’ve recently become an MTPT member. I absolutely love the fact that their events are open to parents and their accompanying chldren. This opened up a whole new world where it seemed possible to integrate my role as a teacher with my role as a parent. If I can engage in a virutal coffee morning or attend CPD events with my child what else can I do?

Secondly, I recently heard a talk from Gill Whitty-Collins explaining some of the ideas in her book ‘Why Men Win at Work’. One reason her book gives, which I found interesting, was the idea that part of the reason why women in particular get fewer promotions is because they aren’t drawing attention to their excellent work and accomplishments, rather they are getting on with the job and expecting their good work to speak for itself.[1]

Whilst I’m not completely convinced that this is necessarily an issue for women alone, I do think that it is very significant for those who work part-time or who are out of work (e.g. on maternity leave) but engaging in CPD or other activities which benefit them professionally. The need to speak to people and to share what you’re reading and thinking about makes all the difference if your hard work is going to be meaningful.

So I thought, are there roles in school where I could be present and have that opportunity? I therefore am more visible in the workplace and being able to speak to people sharpens my thinking, and also gives me an opportunity to share a bit more of what I’m learning and doing.


What’s the point? Would it really be beneficial?

I believe so. I’m currently working part-time and the arrangement suits our family, I want to spend time with my young daughter and be with her during the day. Yet on the days I don’t work, I’m always looking for things to do with her as she craves stimulation. She likes to walk, see nature and see people. We could go the library or baby classes or meet friends for coffee (let’s imagine there are no COVID restrictions!), but why couldn’t we go into a school? She would have plenty of stimulation there and it would help us both by giving us something short to focus our day around.

I also believe that a significant part of understanding education and schools in understanding school culture. This is what leadership is about. I understand the culture both from the perspective of the classroom, but also from outside the classroom. Seeing a school from a different perspective would be beneficial if I aspire to school leadership later in my career.

My own school is quite a distance away from where I live so the thought of heading there an additional day during the week with a baby wasn’t attractive, but I was keen to get involved and try to support a local school in some way. Obviously being present and having conversations is going to have much greater impact in your own school where you have existing relationships, but a contrasting school could also be very enriching and stimulating – including a switch in age-range or type of school.


Part 2 to follow – considering practically what opportunities might be possible within schools.


[1] She refers to it as ‘Umbrella Theory’  and outlines it in Chapter 9 of the book and here