#IWD2020 – a reflection on women’s voices

Dunloy Community Playgroup, set up by Angela’s mother (on the right at the back).

To mark International Women’s Day 2020 I wanted to share some thoughts on women’s voices, the power of networks and how our shared work for equality is not finished.

This photo was taken in 1981. My mum is the woman on the far right, with my youngest brother Ciaran on her hip and my other brother, Christopher is in the middle row, second left. I can’t begin to describe the pride I feel when I look at this photo. This is the inaugural group of mums and toddlers at Dunloy Community Playgroup.

Dunloy is a rural village in North Antrim, Northern Ireland where I grew up. Living through the Troubles made an imprint on life there and we lived in the shadow of terrorism and economic deprivation. Much that was positive was built on community life and the work of a multitude of volunteers. My childhood revolved around community groups – Irish Dancing School, choirs, drama clubs and youth groups. It taught me early in life the power of communities in shaping identity and creating a sense of belonging.

My family struggled financially. My dad was a jobbing bus and lorry driver. Often away from home, I know my mum felt lonely at times raising three kids. Unable to find stimulating activities for my brother she started a community playgroup in our village hall – from scratch. Recruiting volunteers, building momentum, securing funding, establishing a committee, defining roles and responsibilities. She was a true leader. Bold, tenacious, uncompromising. Determined about child safety, the value of play and most importantly the power of women helping women to parent and thrive. I think of and honour her bravery today.

When the opportunity of Chief Executive at NCT arose, I immediately reflected on my mum’s influence in those early years. I had seen first-hand the power of volunteering in building communities, creating deeply valued community fabric. I had witnessed the power of women working passionately together to raise children with love and to give them the best opportunities despite their social and economic circumstances.

I’m so proud that today I lead NCT, a charity which has been fighting for women’s rights since 1956. Set up to help women prepare for birth and beyond, it has for decades enabled women to support other women to access knowledge, build networks, raise their voices and campaign for change. We’ve championed women’s rights on birth and motherhood. We contributed to the 2010 Equality Act, which gave women the right to breastfeed in public.

Our #HiddenHalf campaign has enabled thousands of women to share their stories of isolation and postnatal depression, and it called for powerful change.

But our fight is not finished. It’s shocking and sad that for so many women in our country, their maternal care is blighted through social and racial inequality. The MBRRACE-UK report stated that black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth. There is so much more to do and I and my passionate colleagues at NCT stand ready to lead, build alliances and speak out for systemic change. On International Women’s Day 2020, I’m proud to have the opportunity to shape the next chapter of the work of NCT, as part of a powerful movement of women for change. Today, I honour my mother and all other brave women to have the courage to stand up and do something small or big to create community and a true sense of belonging.

Read NCT’s response from November 2018 on the MBRRACE-UK report.

Angela first published this blog on LinkedIn 8 March 2020.

A busy month as NCT President

February has been another busy month packed with breastfeeding calls, home visits, a visit to Peterborough, marathon decisions and starting a new job.

Busy breastfeeding month

February has been just as busy as January in terms of breastfeeding calls and home visits.

I’m sure other breastfeeding counsellors find this too… If one mum from a group calls, then I get calls from almost all the other mums too.

Another five home visits this month as well as a visit to Baby Café in Beckenham to celebrate their fifth birthday. It was a busy day at the café – I supported 4 mums while I was there!

I also supported several families while on the Lidl/NCT stand at the Baby Show at the end of February.

Giving myself permission to listen to my body

Last month I told you that I’d decided to use my London Marathon place to fundraise to set up a local breastfeeding drop-in.

Quite honestly that was the wrong decision. Well, right decision but wrong timing.

I have been really struggling with the training. Training for a marathon is hard. It’s not my first marathon so I know what to expect.

But this time it’s been different. Many of you know that I had breast cancer in 2018 with surgery and radiotherapy treatment. What with that and a shoulder injury last August, I haven’t run consistently for nearly two years. I only started running again on Christmas Eve!

I realise now that I haven’t fully recovered. After all, I’m not super woman.

I’ve listened to my body and decided to defer. I will run in 2021 instead, and use 2020 to get back to fitness. And then in autumn this year, I’m walking 75km of the Camino de Santiago.


I love the new look branch pages! My branch is currently ‘dormant’ though I’m working to change that. One thing I can do right now is to get my branch pages updated.

So far I’m loving the fabulous support from Robin at UKO. He’s been super helpful.

Invite me to your events

I really want to be an active visible President. So please do invite me to events, whether volunteer or practitioner-led.

I’ll try to attend alongside the need to balance my family life with my business, my paid work, my role as breastfeeding counsellor and the volunteering I do outside of NCT (crow rescuing and grant applications for a small cancer charity)!

In February I accompanied CEO Angela McConville to Peterborough to visit an NCT Bump & Babies group. We also got to meet the local service delivery manager, one of our amazing breastfeeding counsellors, several breastfeeding peer supporters, BBCS supporters and the Bumps & Babies volunteers, as well as lots of mums and dads.

It was incredibly inspirational to see the fabulous work our volunteers are doing in Peterborough.

It was also a challenging visit because of recently announced changes to the breastfeeding support contract. Although the support extends into the Fens, we lose provision of paid breastfeeding counsellors. I had lots of time with Angela on the train there and back to voice the concerns of fellow breastfeeding counsellors.

A successful job hunt

As you know, I ran as President knowing I’d have to quit my staff job if elected. I was absolutely gutted to leave behind my job on the Parentforce project.

So I’m delighted that I’ve now started a part-time contract at Macmillan Cancer Support as a Learning & Development Specialist.

And finally …

It seems rather appropriate that I’m writing this on International Women’s Day.

This year’s theme is #EachforEqual because an equal world is an enabled world. It’s so important for all of us to celebrate women’s achievements and increase visibility, and at the same time for us to have the courage to call out inequality.

It’s the only way we’re going to make progress. So important in the work we do in NCT.

Find out more

You can find out more about my life as NCT President on Facebook.

Getting to know NCT

It’s now been a month since I joined NCT as your new Chief Executive and it’s been a brilliant start so far. Thank you sincerely for such a warm welcome. I’m thoroughly enjoying getting out and about meeting practitioners, students, volunteers and staff. Hearing about the passion for our charity and the amazing work we do to support parents is truly inspiring. Not just today, but throughout our history.

I feel very lucky to have joined NCT just as we’re celebrating a very exciting victory for our #HiddenHalf mental health campaign as NHS England announces funding for dedicated postnatal check-ups for new mothers. We’ve been vigorously campaigning for this outcome for the past 2 years since NCT research showed nearly half of mothers’ postnatal mental health problems were not being picked up by healthcare professionals. So this response from NHS England is a huge step forward and means more new mothers will be supported to talk about their mental health and get the help they need. The campaign was driven by our movement of volunteers, practitioners, staff and members and around 14,000 people supported the campaign online. I got the opportunity to meet with the British Medical Association last week, alongside Vicky Fobel, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager, and they shared just how collaborative and engaging NCT’s Campaigns Team have been in pushing for this outcome. A huge thanks to them, and to everyone in the movement for your support for this campaign.

As I’ve been getting out to meet our teams and see our work, I have been hugely impressed with the passion, professionalism, commitment, vision and sheer hard work being exerted all across the UK in the pursuit of supporting every parent in their first 1,000 days. I particularly want to thank NCT practitioners, Karen Hall and Katie Kelly who both invited me to join their workshops over recent weeks. Karen’s study day on breastfeeding facilitation skills was such a great, fun day. I learnt a lot about our reach across the country and it was great to see the skills exchange and sharing of practice that takes place on these days. With Katie, I got to join a special women-only session and again it was a terrific insight into the power of our knowledge sharing and network building. It was really lovely to share in the excitement and anticipation of the expectant mums at the session. Both Karen and Katie showed me just how much talent we have in our network. It was great to see this so early in my journey.

Angela at NCT Tutor and practitioner, Karen Hall’s Study Day on breastfeeding in Manchester

Last week I joined the first part of the Regional Practitioner Forum in London which gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to our practitioner community and hear more from practitioners about the outlook and challenges of our education work. Our guest speaker, Maria Booker, from Birthrights, was truly inspiring and from the feedback in the room, it seems she prompted some very powerful conversations on human rights and birth.

I’ve just finished reading “New Generations: 40 Years of Birth in Britain” which charts NCT’s first 40 years. From the initial advert in The Times in 1956, announcing the establishment of NCT, Joanna Moorhead’s book tells the story of our decades of success in campaigning. Since then, we have supported millions of women and parents through birth and early parenthood whilst also securing major advances in professional practice and public policy. In these early weeks, I’ve really enjoyed seeing how more than 60 years later we continue in our conviction that education and community can radically transform the experience of childbirth and early parenting.

Please do continue to invite me to see your local activities and projects. Later this week I’m spending the day in Reading with PSA Becky England and volunteers and families at my local branch. I can’t wait for the Mums & Monsters Club! And next week I’ll be visiting NCT services in Peterborough with our NCT President, Sherry Bevan. I look forward to meeting more of you soon and continuing to hear your amazing stories about how you’re helping parents to do their best every day.

To hear more about Angela’s personal and professional background which has led her to NCT, check out this video.

A month in the life of an NCT President

I’m still grinning ear to ear at being elected NCT President at the AGM in November 2019.

January has been a full-on month packed with breastfeeding calls, home visits, job interviews, volunteer recruiting and celebrations.

Celebrating the #HiddenHalf

First let me say how absolutely DELIGHTED I am to hear the news that NHS England has announced it’s going to fund a dedicated six week check for mums.

Such an impressive piece of work by our Campaigns team. I know they’ve worked really hard on this to mobilise 100s of people to get involve and lobby MPs and decision-makers.

Busy breastfeeding month

In my breastfeeding counsellor role, January has been a busy month.

I’ve done four breastfeeding sessions, supported lots of mums with calls after birth, done five home visits, attended a study day and bid for classes in September and October.

I finally got round to asking my Capacity PSA for one of the fab new Photo Packs – it arrived a couple of days ago and looks amazing.

Such a busy month as a breastfeeding counsellor helped me to decide to use my London marathon place to fundraise so I can open a local breastfeeding drop-in.

Decision made, I got in touch with the Volunteer Support Team at UKO who helped me set up my Justgiving page.

After joining Baby Cafe Beckenham for its 5th anniversary, I know that was definitely the right decision.


I’ve also been working hard to revive my local branch. It feels a bit odd to be President when my local branch is dormant. I’ve met up with a local mum who’s really keen to get involved.

We’ve agreed to investigate venues for a table top sale, Baby First Aid and a bumps & babies group.

Again the Volunteer Support Team have been brilliant at giving me everything I need to relaunch Baby First Aid classes. Not only will this provide a great service to local parents, it will help to attract new volunteers.

Invite me to your events

I really want to be an active visible President. Please do invite me to events, whether volunteer or practitioner led. Don’t worry about location – I don’t want to limit myself to being London-centric.

Though I can’t promise to accept every invite because I need to balance my volunteer life with my family, work and marathon training!

A successful job hunt

As you know, I ran to be our President knowing I’d have to quit my staff job if elected. So in between all the NCT busy-ness, I’m applying for part-time roles in L&D, Change Management or Business Engagement, to run alongside my coaching practice. I will have exciting news on this very soon! Lips are sealed for the time being.

Find out more

You can find out more about my life as NCT President on Facebook.

Buzz of co-production satisfaction

By Naomi Gill, Capacity PSA, Service Support and Improvement Specialist for ourNCTservices projects

I’m a new face to the Knowledge and Service Development team, and it’s still wearing a smile – reflecting on the seriously productive day spent at the paid for 1:1 breastfeeding co-production team pilot review meeting in Birmingham at the end of September. My addition to the team is a complimentary role to my other NCT role as a Capacity PSA. It sees me bringing my working knowledge of operational policies, processes and systems to support ourNCTservices projects.

It was comforting to join my friend, colleague and fellow pilot team member Lucy Joyce for the train journey from our home town of Leicester to Birmingham. I first met Lucy nine years ago, when I moved back from London to my home town, heavily pregnant with my first child, at NCT Leicester Branch’s Bumps and Babies group and drop-in. She ran it with my sister. Nine years of ongoing branch involvement for me – including stints in every conceivable branch volunteer role – meant we could enjoy an animated catch-up about work, children and life as we trained it over to Brum.

Hosted by Gowling WLG, in a glass office set amidst an expansive atrium, it was a contrast from the home office environment, apart from perhaps the rain! We had five hours and one packed agenda to tackle:

  • Review timescales and progress
  • Lone worker policy – agree streamlined approach for remainder of the pilot
  • Booking & payment processes – what should we do for the rest of the pilot?
  • Supporting free/subsidised breastfeeding support
  • What’s the difference between a voluntary and paid for visit?

Key team decisions were required. After a thought-provoking warm-up exercise by Sophie where we mind-mapped both our current internal thoughts and preoccupations, as well as our hopes for the day on another – the sharing of which prompted both tears and laughter – I felt we were both bonded and ready for a collaborative day.

The paid for 1:1 breastfeeding support pilot team. Naomi is front and centre.

The meeting really flew by – fuelled by breastfeeding counsellor Louise Oliver’s doughnuts. These kicked off a day of necessary and ongoing refreshment to keep us on track. The discussions were in-depth, with balanced and considered input which propelled us forward to arrive at decisions we needed to make. I felt both personally and professionally welcomed and supported, especially when leading the session on the possibilities for our payment and booking process. Here I showcased a process map and exploration of available alternative systems and processes for the project. Great questions and insightful contributions from all of the team helped us to develop and agree both a SWOT and improvement plan for our existing 18-step process. The energetic session pace was balanced by a reflective discussion around the differences between voluntary and paid for visits, which was fascinating for me as a non-practitioner.

As I smile, I am relishing how the day provided me with a map of a new service growing in different ways and defining itself along the way through dedicated work and thorough analysis. I can still feel that buzz of co-production satisfaction gained from coming together with the group, sharing different experiences and viewpoints and digesting our feedback to make decisions that moved the project forward and planned its future shape. I have always embraced and valued NCT’s co-production ethos – attending ourNCTservices workshops, the Joint Weekend where PSAs and Senior Practitioners (and volunteers) come together – and value of this was only further cemented for me by this round-the-table day meeting.

Useful links:

Bookending my NCT story

By Ann Carrington, Quality Manager

My first involvement with NCT was in 1987 when I booked to attend antenatal classes. And just as my first involvement was because of a baby my decision to leave is also because of a baby – this time my granddaughter – as I will looking after her three days a week when my daughter returns to work next year.

I’ve held many jobs and roles during my time with NCT. I volunteered as a postnatal supporter – and the woman I supported is one of my best friends some 30 years later. I’ve been treasurer to our local teachers’ group in pre-PSA days. I trained as an Antenatal teacher, became an Advanced Teacher (now known as an EP), an Assessor and then a tutor. I was a co-chair of Teachers’ Panel, an Assessor Co-ordinator for two stints and my last role has been as Quality Manager.

It’s been a tremendous experience and I have enjoyed being with parents, practitioners, students, senior practitioners, tutors and other staff members. There have been challenging moments – a couple of Assessor Update weekends spring to mind! But what really shines out for me about NCT is how good we are at collaborative working and the huge amount of support that is offered by peers and colleagues.

During my last few months, I have been involved with the One Antenatal project which feels like a fitting end to my NCT career. I’m the proud possessor of one of the Golden Guinea Pig awards – given to those of us who took part in the first cohort of the BA in Educational Studies. Over the years I’ve seen our training and courses change and adapt to meet the needs of parents. I particularly enjoyed my last few years of teaching when the parents were at the same stage of life as my daughter and son-in-law. Then watching my daughter and son-in-law as they embarked on their NCT journey was fascinating and gave me plenty to think about!

As well as many good friends, my time with NCT has given me so many valuable skills which I intend to continue to put to good use in the future. A local branch of a charity is looking for facilitators for a restorative justice programme…  As I wheel my granddaughter around Balham, I see other grandparents doing the same thing and I wonder about starting a grandparent and baby/toddler group…

The two photos form bookends to my life with NCT. The first is the family photo I included in the portfolio I submitted to Teachers’ Panel to qualify as an Antenatal teacher. The second is a photo of the first time I held my granddaughter.

Opening up the ways we learn

By Vicky Mariner, breastfeeding counsellor and member of ourNCTeducation practitioner reference group

A little over ten years ago, I completed my level 5 training as a breastfeeding counsellor. I loved the cosy tutorial groups and formed close friendships with my fellow trainees. Karen (our lovely tutor) had a box of books we could borrow in the corner. We had stimulating discussions, shared mini-presentations and were given plenty of paper handouts. 

Last year I completed a level 5 in Learning and Development with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The revolution which has taken place over the last ten years in learning and training is astonishing. E-learning, m-learning, digital learning platforms, social learning, blended learning, LMS, CMS, MOOCS and a whole host of other confusing acronyms – it’s a brand new language! 

Foundations of human learning have not changed – our brains don’t actually work differently just because we are in the digital age. E-learning is not automatically more effective just because it is delivered by computer. I must admit my personal experience of e-learning through my day job as a corporate HR Manager has not been positive. When executed poorly it can be boring and ineffective. Many see it as simply a tick box exercise.

But the possibilities… are exciting!

Algorithms taking into account everything, from existing prior experience to how confidently or hesitantly you clicked on an answer, means that programmes can be tailored to each learner’s needs.

There are now so many options available for reading more on a particular topic which grabs your attention. A pop-up links you to the most up–to-date NICE guidelines. Or your own local statistics, an audio podcast, a YouTube video or TEDtalk, a webinar invite, or a discussion on a related forum. And that is before we get to the possibilities of virtual reality or augmented reality. Practice in front of a virtual “live” group of parents anyone? Or instead of a 2D picture of a pregnant woman’s body in a text, you hover your mobile over the page and you can see inside a womb projected right in front of you?

It’s a far cry from the “click > click > next” of the boring clunky e-learning.

Social learning is another huge shift. We know that often the most enjoyable part of a study day is the informal learning which goes on when we swap stories, tips and techniques. When done well this can work effectively digitally as well. Students can set up their own Moodles, Wiki’s and forums and even attend “virtual” coffee mornings. We know that nothing will ever beat the personal, face-to-face touch of really being with other people. We also know that the time and cost of travelling for training sometimes makes the whole endeavour prohibitively expensive. We don’t all live near London or Bristol after all!

As our training of practitioners evolves it is exciting to think how we can harness this new technology. Even via a computer, people learn from people.

It’s great to see how the project team are genuinely looking at how we can utilise these new tools while protecting what is good about the old style of training.

Stay up to date with the latest project news from ourNCTeducation on the project babble page here.

I thought someone should do something…so I did

Lucy Champion, Breastfeeding Counsellor and member of our Practitioners' Rep Body
Lucy Champion, BFC and PRB member

In May 2018 I received a message via Facebook (of course!) asking if I would like to join the Practitioners’ Rep Body (PRB). I had been quite vocal in the weeks before about a few things and the PRB thought I might like to take on some issues formally. So, channelling my best Prunella, I decided to say yes, so that I could join and try to influence change. One of the biggest areas of interest for me was the use of social media.

I soon found myself in the position of unofficial spokesperson for practitioners around any social media issues and kept in close contact with the Comms team at NCT to share feedback. Over the course of a year we had many honest conversations – not all easy ones – and trialled a collaboration between members of the PRB and the Comms team by having a small Facebook group where we could share ideas, give feedback and make suggestions about NCT’s social media. However, even with this, some social media offerings – particularly around breastfeeding – were upsetting practitioners.

We eventually came to realise that to truly understand the issues and make positive change, we – staff and practitioners together – needed to dedicate time to really drill down into the areas of concern to get it right.  

We already had the updated Infant Feeding Message Framework, but what was missing was more specific clarity on what it all means in practice for NCT’s communications across social media, in print and in digital content for parents. So the Deep Dive Group on infant feeding was born and our collective aim was to create an easy to understand and use guide for staff on all communications about infant feeding.

The process

We met 3 times in total and really thrashed it out. It was hard. It was emotive. There were disagreements. But together we began to understand each other’s perspectives. The hours of discussion meant I got an insight into staff roles and some of the complicated challenges they face and helpfully, learned what their goals actually were – but not just what, but why they were goals. For example, how different social media channels are used to reach different audiences; how different platforms and algorithms make a big difference to the way people engage with content and the careful planning that goes into getting the most value out of these platforms. There’s a lot of factors to consider. But, the way that parents are reached and what speaks to them isn’t always in line with our work as practitioners. This was really hard to accept sometimes but with talking and listening I began to see the importance of NCT voice vs practitioner voice vs parent voice. These are in some (but not all) circumstances quite different and the balancing act that NCT has is really very hard.

During the deep dive process I finally saw real change taking place. Deeper understanding and a mutual respect between all involved, greater appreciation for the Infant Feeding Message Framework and even a complete change in direction on some views of what NCT ‘should’ be saying about infant feeding. All now better aligning with the views and beliefs of many breastfeeding counsellors too.

Myself and other practitioners on the team were included in decisions and discussions throughout and in our final meeting we all went through the draft guide word by word ensuring that we all agreed entirely with the content. In addition, the guide has been reviewed by the CEOs of both First Steps Nutrition and The Breastfeeding Network. This is true co-production and collaboration.  

The finished product

Let’s be honest, this guide won’t tick everyone’s boxes. At times even breastfeeding counsellors may not agree with each other. But some hard decisions had to be made and some lines had to be drawn. While it is impossible to share with you all of those nuanced conversations that were had, believe me when I say that all of them were deep with various twists and turns and they allowed us to eventually come to mutually agreed decisions. Throughout this co-productive process I think we all changed and grew in some way too – just like this document can change and adapt as NCT does the same.

The writers of the guide – practitioners, staff and a trustee – have spent many hours getting this right and what has been produced will really help those who make the tricky decisions on how to talk about infant feeding and what images to use. Training for all comms staff on the WHO code has also taken place already to make sure that everyone is informed and on the same page, and this will be part of future inductions too.

NCT have really heard the concerns of practitioners and have made huge leaps forward to ensure that our message on infant feeding across all communications is consistent and the right one.

I’m really proud to have been part of this process. I have tried to be the voice for many practitioners and I really hope that you feel I have represented you well.

Beautiful things happen when we work together.

Find out more about NCT’s Infant Feeding Message Framework and view the easy-use guide here.

ourNCTeducation – a work in co-production

Rachael Bickley, practitioner and member of ourNCTeducation reference group
Rachael Bickley, ANT

My name is Rachael Bickley and I am an antenatal practitioner and have been working on the ourNCTeducation review as part of the reference group. This blog is just a bit of an overview about how we have been working together to develop the new education model for NCT practitioners. It isn’t ready yet and there is still work to be done but through this blog I wanted to share some of the emerging themes so far.

So… What is the goal?  What does success look like?

Well, the model will have been successful if it…

  • Increases the number of practitioners by 2023
  • Diversifies the practitioner profile
  • Improves parent feedback surrounding bias and reality vs expectations
  • Maintains NCT’s good reputation for high quality practitioner training and professional standards.

Putting our Heads Together

Bring any group of people together and ask them how to do something. It is probably guaranteed that you will get many different solutions to one problem, but this project has many challenges (not one) and the goal is to co-produce. So as many voices as possible are needed to make this work well. The review group has consulted with practitioners from all specialities through social media surveys, small focus groups and practitioner forums. The result was many different ideas of what practitioner education should look like, but listen just a little (and we have been listening a lot) and common themes start to float to the surface.

Our practitioners bring the skills through their training… but more support is needed

There has been agreement that the listening, facilitation and knowledge that practitioners offer parents through their training is hugely beneficial,  but more support is needed as practitioners move from study to practice.  This itself has sparked further conversations about how practitioners are trained and there has been agreement that a greater practical element to the training would benefit practitioners in their early practice.

We don’t use technology effectively enough

From our first initial contact on a Zoom conference call it became clear that we don’t use technology as well as we could in educating practitioners. In comparison to my phone tutorials on Level 6 this call was amazing. I could see everyone (even if it is online and not face-to-face) and the technology on Zoom works well. Throughout the co-production process it has become clear that some of the content we have as practitioners could be offered online – this would be very helpful for more remote students. But face-to-face contact in “real life” is valued too and so far everyone I have spoken to has felt a combination of these methods would be best.

All together now?

The discussions that developed about what practitioners needed for their role highlighted that some would benefit from greater counselling skills.  For example, antenatal practitioners in their role at postnatal sessions. A shared knowledge base and understanding of common themes was also highlighted and in turn developed the concept that perhaps the new model could have some elements that everyone studies and others that are added to it to develop specialities. There were acknowledged differences though, and it seems that a completely uniformed training for everyone isn’t at all desirable. That said, there could be some aspects that specialities could train together with.

Accreditation and cost

This has been a difficult one to discuss with views on both sides and probably the most polarising of aspects in the development of a new programme. My training was completed half with Bedfordshire and half with Worcester and I have just completed my BA (Hons) degree. I value the accreditation of my own learning very highly, but then I would, I have just completed it. But I think the Level 6 learning has given me a more critical view on evidence and allowed me to be more balanced in my approach to facilitating than I previously had. I have also found that other birth professionals have valued the qualification when they have learnt about it, but accreditation brings cost, and some have found the training too expensive. On the other hand, without accreditation national student loans and bursaries may not be available, which could increase the cost rather than lower it for some students. This is one area we are all still reviewing, but through the developing discussions there seems to be a bit of a shift towards an accreditation of some sort and the project team are looking into all the possibilities.

Onwards and upwards

Working on this project has been really interesting so far and certainly challenged some of my core ideas about our education. The discussion has been wide ranging, passionate and sometimes a bit difficult, but overall has strengthened my view that NCT practitioners love what they do, are proud of their training and give their best to the parents they support.

ourNCTeducation – open and collaborative

Helen Allmark, staff member and practitioner
Helen Allmark

It’s days like this, I love my roles in NCT. Today I have taken part in a Zoom call for our ourNCTeducation project. As a staff member, I am part of the project team, and as I am also a practitioner I am the link to the practitioner reference group. These two teams are working together to guide the project to identify a new education model, able to train high quality practitioners, in the right places (to meet current and potential demand), who are motivated to work with NCT, committed to their own CPD and are flexible to the changing needs of our organisation.

A big ask… but one that we are addressing head on, question by question. We have already recommended that there is more of a focus on practical experience working with parents during the training and that the training paths for facilitating groups and for working with parents could be different, whilst recognising the common elements too. Current questions being considered are ‘should the training be accredited or not?’ and  ‘what is the minimum time it could take to train a practitioner?’

The process is open and collaborative. We are spending time unpicking our assumptions (for example, would a non-accredited training package really be cheaper for students?) and looking for evidence to guide our decisions.

Both groups are made up of staff, practitioners and tutors with different backgrounds, experiences and views, leading to robust discussions. There’s lots of sharing, challenging and re-framing of conversations. Part of my role is to be the link between the two groups, so sharing where each group is up to, and looking at where similarities and differences are emerging.

It feels like lots of voices are being heard and it’s exciting to be part of this journey. Please keep up to date with the project at  https://babble.nct.org.uk/about-nct/our-work/research/ourncteducation and if you would like to offer your views please do so by emailing ourncteducation@nct.org.uk.