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.

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