How can you Keep In Touch when on parental leave?
How to use Keep In Touch (KIT) days is a personal decision, and is one I made over the time I was off on maternity leave, rather than too much in advance of my time off work.
I was lucky enough to be able to take a full year off (with the encouragement and support of my partner). In the UK as a mother you are entitled to 52 weeks leave, as a mixture of paid and unpaid leave (although check your school’s terms and conditions). As a minimum dads are given 2 weeks paternity leave, but there is of course now shared parental leave.
How to use Keep In Touch Days
If you are not sure what your rights are regarding KIT days have a read of this document. Here are a few tips on what to do with them and how to make the most out of them for you.
1 Use training days/twilights
This is an easy way to keep up to date with your school’s CPD opportunities and very often will cover their focus for the time you are off. Attending a day like this utilises events that have been organised by someone else and is a lighter way to touch base with your colleagues.
2 Use days at different times
If you can, go into school at different times of day. As a new parent you will be exhausted (sorry no avoiding this). Sometimes you will feel great in the afternoon and then other times you will just wish you could take a nap. Play it by ear.
3 Do as much (or as little) as you want
I did not use all of my ten KIT days; this was my choice and your school should respect whatever decision you make. Do not feel you have to go into school just for the sake of it.
4 Plan what you are going to do
As I got closer to going back to work, I knew I wanted to spend a couple of full days doing work. I wrote a ‘To Do’ list before these days so I knew what I wanted to do in that time (even if things did get sprung on me). It helped me to gradually ease myself back into things.
5 Utilise some of your KIT days as a slow restart
This is one thing I wish I had done. I had a couple of full days and then was straight back in – 45/50-hour two-week timetable. By the end of the second week I was wrecked! I think if I had used some of the KIT day allocation to do a soft start this might not have felt so bad.
6 They are not days
To be counted as a KIT day you only have to complete a couple of hours not a full working day (unless you want to of course). If you just want to come in to have a meeting with your line manager or with the head teacher, you can.
7 Organise meetings with your Head of Department
Again, this was something I did informally and so not strictly organised. This meant they were rushed and squeezed into the teaching day. As a consequence, I don’t think I or my HoD got what I wanted out of them.
8 Do consider your finances
You get paid for KIT days (weirdly I did not know this until a friend told me). So do consider when you want to use them to get the extra pay. Your pay decreases with shocking rapidity and so knowing that you are going to have an extra day here or there is a great relief.
9 Have a look in your classroom
By the time I was due to come back, three other teachers had been in my classroom taking my classes. This meant my classroom was the way they wanted it, not the way I was used to. When I got back this affected me more than I thought it would, making me feel uncomfortable in my own classroom. In hindsight I could have used a KIT day to put things the way that felt most comfortable.
10 Talk to the substitute(s)
This is not always possible, but if you can, chatting to the person or people who have been covering your classes will give you a brief insight into what they are like – especially if they classes you haven’t taught yet. You can also talk subject strengths and weaknesses etc.
Or if none of the above take your fancy don’t KIT at all! After all this time is for you to be off away from work, not constantly thinking about it. Just remember: it’s your choice.