Having secured a new job as Assistant Head Teacher, had her baby, and recovered from the shock, Madeleine Fresko-Brown (@m_x_f) set out on some exciting CPD trips, which she tells us about in this blog.

Would imitate, and sail upon the land

To fetch me trifles and return again

As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.”

– Titania, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

First thing’s first: if you have a young baby and are trying to get out and about more/more easily, can I take a moment to recommend the ‘wrap sling’. This ingenious stretch of fabric made my life so much easier, and baby’s so much more comfortable and snuggly than in a buggy, it made our first few forays very stress free.

I have one from ‘Little Bears Boutique.’ They always seem to have a *FLASH SALE* on, making them the cheapest on Amazon. You can get a wrap sling for £12+, much more palatable than the eye watering £100+ for an Ergobaby or BabyBjorn carrier while you are still trying to work out if baby wearing works for you!*

Now that’s done, back to the task at hand – CPD adventures with baby.  Our first ever trip on the tube was to the Palace of Westminster!  We were lucky enough to get a last minute ticket to ‘Leaders with Babies,’ organised by the wonderful Verena Hefti (@VHefti), hosted by Heidi Alexander MP and chaired by Tulip Siddiq MP. Baby F-B was the youngest there, at 4 weeks, which I think made her the easiest as she simply slept in the womb-like sling the entire time.

The panel was great, featuring five inspirational female leaders at different stages of their parenting careers. I tweeted about it heavily at the time from the @MaternityCPD account, so if you have the time and the inclination feel free to scroll back through the twitter feed…

There were two highlights for me: one was hearing from co-head Liz Robinson about how she made headship and parenting work by sharing it with someone else, and the other was the interlude of nursery rhymes led by a charismatic puppet.  It was generally lovely to be around like minded people who care a lot about their children and their careers, and the whole room was imbued with a very supportive, ‘can-do’ attitude.

Our second big trip was the following week down to Lambeth North for a visit to Oasis Academy South Bank.  Again we took the sling – no messing around with heavy buggies on the tube – and arrived at the school for 9.15am – by far my earliest start since giving birth.  Baby was an angel and again slept through our tour of a few lessons, led by Ruthie Jacobs. It was just like being pregnant again, with a large bump out front, a bit slower moving and more hungry but otherwise still myself!  The students were impeccably behaved – some smiled when they saw the baby but none let it interrupt their learning.  There was a focused, studious atmosphere throughout the school which the staff have clearly worked hard to create and maintain.  I breastfed baby in the staff room at break which was totally fine and again halfway through my meeting with the school’s CPD lead, Josh Goodrich (@theCPDparadox). She got a special cuddle with wonderhead Carly Mitchell, who had a baby herself last year and set a the tone by bringing him into school with her on multiple occasions.  I also changed her on the table in my friend Kim Coplee’s DT classroom (Kim merged her name with her husband’s when they got married – very cool!).

The meeting with Josh was very helpful.  As I remember well from his days as my colleague and mentor, he is incredibly hard working, reads a lot, thinks a lot and everything he says makes a great deal of sense.  He opened with the statistic from a report by CUREE that less than 1% of whole school CPD has an impact on pupil outcomes (See https://improvingteaching.co.uk/2014/02/23/being-the-1-what-does-it-take-to-make-cpd-effective/).

“So what do we do about it?” He asked.

“That’s what I’m here to find out!” I replied.

He went on to tell me that their approach is to essentially scrap most whole school CPD in favour of “Leverage Coaching,” taking ideas from Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (@paul_bambrick)’s books Leverage Leadership and Get Better Faster. They have also borrowed Andy Tharby (@atharby) and Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison)’s categorisation of what makes good teaching from their recent book Making Every Lesson Count:

Teachers are organised in triads and expected to observe each other for 10-15 minutes once per week and feed back for a similar length of time, resulting in one small, high leverage ‘action step’ to take forward into the next week’s lessons and beyond. The biggest challenge Josh said was accountability- ensuring these observations didn’t slip to the bottom of people’s priority lists. Another issue is that teachers aren’t generally very good at coming up with really specific or helpful action points for themselves or others, often opting for the less tangible “differentiate more” or “improve your questioning.” To combat this, Josh has created a master document of specific action points, organised by area of teaching and teacher expertise. It is a thing of beauty for a Teaching and Learning geek like me, but a little unwieldy, weighing in at 5+ pages of quite small print. Josh’s next plan is to make this into an app. Sign me up!

We left the morning much enlightened and full of ideas to speak to my new Head about, once I’d read the books Josh recommended (Get Better Faster and Making Every Lesson Count).  Before going home, we had lunch with our NCT friends which was lovely and a slightly more normal maternity leave activity. By the end of the meal, I was struggling to keep my eyes open so made my excuses and went home.

And here comes the health warning. I loved my our excursion to the school and learnt a lot, BUT I was completely shattered when we got home.  I didn’t know what to do with myself or the baby, so ended up texting my wonderful friend Emma Salomon in desperation who very kindly left her school (it was after 4pm by now) and came over to babysit while I sank into a deep sleep.  When my husband came home they swapped over and I continued sleeping, oblivious. I continued to feel unable to do anything much all evening, prompting me to realise that I might just have “overdone it” a little bit.

I had grand plans to visit a load more schools, perhaps one every week, but this sheer exhaustion reminded me to be realistic – and brought into sharp relief how important the MTPT project’s mantra of “no pressure no guilt” is – no one is expecting me to do anything other than look after my little bundle of cuddles this mat leave, and though there are some things I want to do, I must not expect too much of myself either!


*At 10 weeks old, my baby weighs about a stone so I have planned a trip to the local sling library  to try out something more substantial…



Setting Sail on Maternity Leave: All the Questions

Changing winds – or why parental leave is a great time to apply for a new job


Checking the charts – reading (or trying to read) during parental leave