A union for life

Retirement - Skipton Finance

Retired head teacher, Michael Wilson, shares his experiences of retirement and NAHT Life Membership*.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I started my career as a PE teacher in Wigan before moving to Leigh, where I successfully coached the team that won the Champion School of England Rugby League Cup. I was also a linesman at Wembley for the school boys’ final at the 1989 Silk Cup Challenge Cup Final, when Wigan beat St Helens 27-0.

From here, it was back to Wigan and fulfilling my dream of working in a primary school, which prepared me for my leadership roles: deputy head teacher at Hindley Green County Primary School and eventually head teacher at Orrell Holgate Primary School – a school that needed significant modernisation and focused leadership. Not only did I integrate three buildings into one and install a multi-sport all-weather pitch, I also brought the toilets indoors!

After 17 years as a head teacher, a local leader of education and a Greater Manchester Challenge leadership support associate, I decided to retire. Retirement has allowed me to spend a lot more time with my growing family, explore my hobbies, like becoming a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and dedicate time to NAHT. I met my wife Diane, a fellow PE teacher, at college and we now have three children and two grandchildren. In fact, a few months ago we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary.

Why did you choose NAHT?

As soon as I became a deputy in 1994, I quickly joined NAHT. It really was that simple. It’s the only union that offers advice, guidance, representation and support solely to school leaders. On top of this, the focus on collaboration, learning, sharing experiences and meeting fellow leaders has always been a tangible expression of NAHT membership at its very best.

Even after retiring, I stayed active in a union that’s always been there for me. As a Life Member, I’ve been Wigan branch secretary, North West regional secretary, Life Member Committee member, and communications and development officer. That’s 25 years and still going strong!

Was it just as simple transferring to Life Membership?

Simpler, if that’s even possible. Becoming a Life Member was an automatic choice for me because it keeps my educational and trade union passion alive, allows me to collaborate and share my
experience, gives me retrospective protection so I can enjoy my retirement and still have a voice on issues that matter to school leaders (and to grandparents, of course).

How’s being a Life Member enriched or benefitted your life?

It’s been so good for me. Aside from the physical and mental health rewards, I’m surrounded by those who are equally, if not more passionate about education. It’s the sort of camaraderie you don’t get elsewhere. Plus, I can now give back to a profession that I’ve devoted my entire career to and make a lasting difference.

What advice would you give to retiring leaders about Life Membership?

This is the easiest, but probably one of the most important, transitions any leader will make. NAHT really does all the work. Call 0300 30 30 333 (option 2) as soon as you know you’re retiring, and it’ ll handle the rest. All you’ll have to worry about is how you’re going to spend your well-earned retirement.

A lot has been said about how overwhelming retirement can be because it’s such a dramatic shift after decades of routine. What was your experience?

For me, planning was key. I went on two pre-retirement courses to explore a wide variety of options, but there isn’t just one way to approach any aspect of life, including retirement. I’d encourage anyone retiring to become a Life Member immediately and then allow themselves to do what feels right for them. Some will thrive in the freedom of not having to follow a regimented routine, some will continue playing an active role in education and some will go off on a round-the­-world trip of a lifetime.

Whatever a retiring member chooses to do, they should do so with the peace of mind Life Membership brings.

What more could NAHT do to support retiring leaders and help them transition to Life Membership?

You already do a great job. Please keep shouting about this superb membership type. I hope Life Membership becomes second nature to all retiring school leaders. Oh, and the amazing pension advice is invaluable.

You can find out more about becoming a NAHT Life Member here.

*This article originally appeared in NAHT’s Leadership Focus newsletter.