Lessons for life

Retired head teacher and former member, Carol Hine, talks about her experiences following retirement and the benefits of Life Membership.*

What is your background?

After qualifying as a teacher in 1973, I taught in primary, secondary and tertiary education, and then became a head teacher in 1998. I thoroughly enjoyed being head of a junior school, leading it through amalgamation and significant reorganisation.

Following a change in family circumstances, I took on headship of a school in another part of the country, but my tenure was dogged with issues out of my control, so I called upon the services of NAHT for support and guidance. With its help, I reached a suitable resolution and gave up being a head teacher.

How is retirement?

Retirement has been great and my pension is enough for my lifestyle. However, six years after retiring I was horrified to be told that Teachers’ Pensions had re- calculated my service: I now owed them over £1,000, and my monthly pension would be reduced.

Despite being told of the importance of Life Membership, I just didn’t think I’d need it. How wrong I was. NAHT was there when I needed protection during my career, and would have been right by my side during my retirement. Unfortunately, I’m left to fight this myself.

Do you think Life Membership would have made a difference?

Having spent the past six months trying to communicate with Teachers’ Pensions and Capita, my stress levels have been through the roof. Knowing how well I was supported during service, I feel confident that NAHT would have had the expertise to advise me on this very important issue.

What stopped you transferring to this membership type?

The last thing I wanted to do was maintain connections with a profession that had become a challenging experience. Mentally, I wasn’t thinking ahead.

Could NAHT have done anything else to help the transition?

I never really gave it much thought at the time. While in post, I took for granted the information and support NAHT provided – I’d called upon NAHT in a time of crisis and they were right there. I didn’t expect to need them after retirement. It may have been different if I had been shown examples of what NAHT can provide post-retirement.

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

We all move into retirement with different ideas and goals. No matter how much we plan, the future’s unknown. In retrospect, I believe I’d have benefitted from still belonging to a community and support network that shared and understood some of my life experiences.

A lot has been said about how overwhelming retirement can be. Do retiring school leaders need guidance on this, and if so what would this look like?

It would’ve been helpful to know just what NAHT can offer post-retirement. Updates about education issues through regular newsletters may not seem relevant, but they just might be. We all travel in different directions; some maintain strong links with schools, while others, like myself, choose to pursue avenues far removed from education.

Some find the transition easy, but I’ve also known colleagues who suffer terribly without the structure and demands their work provided. While serving as a head teacher, I found little time for community involvement, and I’ve subsequently taken on a number of voluntary roles. Ultimately, this is a hard question to answer as often we don’t know what we need until we’ve experienced it. Maybe profiles of retired leaders after one, three, and five years would help, especially if NAHT has played a significant role for them during this time.

Although, I haven’t found retirement overwhelming, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the freedom after 40 years, it would’ve been so much better had I not had to deal with this horrible experience alone.

If you are approaching your retirement years and haven’t yet considered how you can stay supported after work, find out more about the benefits of NAHT Life Membership.

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