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NAHT Life members' newsletter - spring 2021

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Introduction

I sincerely hope this newsletter finds you all safe and well. Yet again, we find ourselves being asked to follow a national lockdown so that we can all help to protect the most vulnerable in society. However, as I write this welcome there are signs that the future is looking brighter, and the country is at last beginning to win the battle against covid. The amazing delivery of over 14 million vaccinations by the dedicated NHS and associated partners; achieved by the target date is to be rightly celebrated. I am sure many of you will have received your first vaccinations and, hopefully, the rest of our Life Members will receive theirs by the middle of this month. It seems promising, with this progressive rollout, that we are getting closer to the end of what has been a year of unprecedented challenges. Colleagues in the NHS are rightly celebrated for their incredible efforts during this pandemic; but it would be very remiss of us if we did not acknowledge the work of all those in the teaching profession who have continued to provide the best learning opportunities to our children and young people, especially the vulnerable and the families of critical workers. I am pleased that, due in no small part to the pressure from our association, all school staff had a proper half-term break.

The National Life Members Committee has continued to meet virtually during this period and progress business on behalf of our members. I am sure we all are becoming increasingly confident users of ‘Teams’ or ‘Zoom’! The last meeting was held on 20 January 2021, where we moved forward with several key issues including the transition to sector council status, which should be completed in time for the June meeting. Annual Conference 2021 has been postponed until the autumn, although the AGM is still going to take place virtually on Friday 30 April. NAHT membership has seen an amazing rise over the last six months, with an increase of nearly five thousand new members. Life membership has also seen good growth during this period, which is very pleasing.

I trust Life Members are making good use of the NAHT Extras benefit which is a free service to all members which provides good savings on many of your purchases. I am also pleased to report that another positive outcome from the Life Members Task and Finish Group’s work is a potential discounted offer to members for BUPA services, which may be of interest to you and your families. More information on these and other benefit developments will be circulated to you in due course.

I hope you find this newsletter interesting and informative and as always we would welcome contributions for future editions from all members. Enjoy starting to plan for those future holidays which must just be around the corner.

Kind regards

John Killeen
Chair of Life Members Committee


This issue of the Life members' newsletter includes: 


A message from Tim Bowen, national vice president

I write this with just five weeks to go before I leave my school - Maple Primary, St. Albans – at the end of the spring term, prior to beginning my secondment working full-time for NAHT, initially continuing as vice president and then moving on to become the national president.

I am in my 25th year of headship.  After four years as the head teacher of a 100-pupil village school, I moved to Maple (a single form entry primary school with a specialist base for profoundly deaf pupils) in January 2001. Over 20 years later, I will be ‘saying goodbye,’ at least for the time being, as I embark on the new challenge and the privilege of being a full-time national officer.

And what a final term it has been, for all school staff including school leaders!

After a Christmas holiday spent watching the news updates and wondering what the start of term would hold, the prime minister assured us all on 3 January that it was safe to go back to school. So on Monday 4 January, we did. All my staff (both teachers and support staff) came to work with positivity and energy – despite many no doubt feeling quite anxious about the direction of travel of the pandemic – only to be told at 8 p.m. that evening by the prime minister that schools were now to stay shut for most pupils.

So the following day, our remote education provision kicked in for all the year groups, with the school remaining open for approximately 15% of the pupils, who were either vulnerable pupils or who had a parent classed as a critical worker. (This was double the amount of pupils we had in school compared to last year’s lockdown period, due to the increased eligibility for critical worker status, along with the inclusion of pupils with EHCPs.)

Like many schools, our remote education provision has improved significantly since the first lockdown, due to the introduction of Google Classroom and Google Meets. However, the teaching staff have, in my opinion, never worked harder and my deputy and I have done all we can to impress on them the need to be mindful of their own well-being and workload.  Being a single form entry primary school, the teaching assistants have been asked, on a rota basis, to oversee those pupils in school, to enable the teachers to be employed full-time on providing remote education for each year group. The TAs have worked with real professionalism, along with the skeleton staff (premises, office, lunchtime staff) who have continued to come in to school each day. The teamwork has been terrific – but everyone is so thankful schools are now reopening.

While not all my parents have been happy – some expecting ‘live lessons’ every second of the day so they can position their children in front of a computer screen while they get on with their own work – the vast majority of parents have been supportive and appreciative of the work of the school, as they have done their best to cope with the significant demands of helping their children with their remote education.

I received the following email from one of my parents.  When I read the Subject Title: ‘My Ofsted Letter’ – my heart sank.  But on this occasion, I needn’t have worried.

"Dear Ofsted,

At the urging of Gavin Williamson, I am emailing to report my children's school. I think that it is imperative that you know what is going on with the remote learning at Maple School, St Albans.

It is brilliant.

Despite been given 12 hours’ notice to close by the prime minister after weeks of insisting that schools will stay open to the extent where schools were threatened with legal action for wanting to close early at Christmas, the staff at Maple School have worked tirelessly and professionally to make sure that its students get the top-quality education they got face to face. 

The staff have adapted very well to using the digital tools that they were probably never taught to use in their courses (as an aside, do you inspect course providers for teacher training and the relevance of their material?) And they have come up with a process that has helped me deliver the material in an effective way.

Before lockdown, the teachers were coming into school and exposing themselves to infection to educate my children.

I would love for you to know this. What I find disappointing is that the positive emails you have received have apparently stopped you doing your job of finding problems in the school system. While addressing problems is important, the implication is that there is no room to report on the dedication, professionalism and general awesomeness of the teaching staff. The whole system seems to be set up to identify any and all negatives in a profession full of people that- at the beginning at least - just want to help society. How they end up after a few years is a different matter. You may have noticed, but I've never seen it mentioned in your reports.

I'm kind of glad that this has come to light as the general public has now realised that it seems that the whole system from the education secretary down is making the lives of people who want to look after their children more difficult.’’

I am hoping to be in a position to welcome the pupils back before I leave at Easter. There sadly won’t be the big whole school assembly when I leave, with songs and a few speeches; and I am not even sure if I will be permitted any form of social event with the staff.  Definitely not the manner in which I envisaged my time at Maple ending but, as the current saying goes, ‘it is what it is.’

Looking ahead to the future and hopefully the easing of lockdown and a return to ‘normal schooling’, there will inevitably be some practices we will want to consider keeping, eg the greater use of remote education to improve homework activities; the increased use of handwashing, which although time-consuming, has made for a much healthier environment; and no doubt online meetings will now always have a place, to reduce the time travelling to/from and attending meetings out of school.

For our profession, the ending of the pandemic provides a unique opportunity to review our whole approach to education: the curriculum, the system of inspection and accountability, staff workload and retention, term/holiday dates etc.  Rather than continuing to hear the phrase ‘catch up’ used, I think that ‘adapt’ and ‘improve’ would be far more relevant.  I sincerely hope that the government acts courageously and seizes the moment to undertake a comprehensive review of our whole education system, rather than simply returning to ‘more of the same.’ It is vital that NAHT is a full and active partner in all discussions and decisions going forward – as we look to speak and act on behalf of all our members and in the best interests of the pupils we serve.

I consider it an honour to be entrusted with the responsibility of a full-time secondment to work for NAHT, in what is going to be an immensely important year ahead, both for our union and for the education profession.  Perhaps the most important year of any stage in my 34-year career as a teacher?

Tim Bowen
National vice president

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Pensions report for the National Sector Council Life Members’ Committee

Public service pensions increases
On 12 January 2021, the government made a written statement on indexation and revaluation in public service pension schemes and published the 2021 pensions increase multiplier tables which can be found here.

The statement confirms that public service pensions that have been in payment for a year will increase by 0.5% from 12 April 2021, in line with the September-to-September increase in the consumer prices index. Any pension which has been in payment for less than a year will be increased by a proportionate amount depending on the number of months it has been in payment. The statement also confirms that active TPS CARE accounts will increase (be revalued) on 1 April 2021 by 2.1%.

Public sector exit payments

The government has concluded that the cap on public sector exit payments may have had unintended consequences and the regulations should be revoked. On 12 February 2021, the government issued the Exit Payment Cap Directions 2021 which disapply parts of the exit cap regulations until the regulations are revoked. As a result, the exit cap no longer applies with effect from 12 February 2021.

Public service pension schemes: changes to the transitional arrangements to the 2015 schemes

On 4 February 2021, HM Treasury published the government’s response to the ‘Public service pension schemes: changes to the transitional arrangements to the 2015 schemes consultation’ – this is relevant for the teachers’ pension scheme in England and Wales. On 25 February the response to the consultation in relation to the Northern Ireland teachers’ pension scheme was also issued. Both consultation responses came to the same conclusions.

The key messages are as follows:

  • The government is implementing the ‘deferred choice underpin’ (DCU), to remove the unlawful age discrimination identified in the McCloud judgement from unfunded public service pension schemes. This means that active members will make a choice at the point of retirement.
  • Eligible scheme members will be able to choose to receive final salary or career average scheme benefits for the service they have accrued in the remedy period, ie the period of discrimination, 1 April 2015 - 31 March 2022.
  • Where eligible scheme members have already retired, they will be contacted and asked if they would like to amend their pension to reflect the fact that some or all of it may now be able to be treated as a final salary benefit rather than career average benefit and should be provided with information to make this choice. It is worth noting that this process will take a substantial amount of time due to the numbers involved and as such contact may not be made with eligible members for some time. However, if you are eligible and would have had a higher pension you will be paid any arrears owed.
  • The final salary schemes will close to future accrual on 31 March 2022. From 1 April 2022, all those who continue in service will do so as members of the career average schemes, regardless of age, meaning all members will be treated equally in terms of which pension scheme they are a member of. Benefits built up in the final salary scheme will be protected. 
  • The government will bring forward new primary legislation to provide the powers to deliver these changes through public service pension schemes.
  • Members (whether active, deferred or pensioner) do not need to take any action. Teachers’ Pensions will contact them at the relevant point. 
     

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NAHT membership services update

Last year was a phenomenal year for joiners and we achieved a total of 512 life memberships. We have a number of new and existing services for members, including our NAHT Extras platform which offers a wide range of discounts on top brands; we have also launched a new LGBTQ+ networking group and have increased the number of mentors and mentees on our mentoring platform. Our CPD programme continues to be very popular throughout the spring term, with members particularly interested in our School Leaders’ Summit and Ofsted Updates course.  

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Looking after your health and well-being

Age UK

Age UK has a number of resources to support your mental and physical health. You can call them for free on 0800 678 1602 (8am - 7pm) or find out more here

Other Age UK services include: 

Telephone friendship: Get a free weekly friendship call. We'll match you with one of our volunteers. The Age UK service is flexible to suit the different needs of everyone who takes part.

Zumba Gold: Zumba is known as the ultimate dance party, bringing together Latin-inspired moves and music with more traditional aerobic exercises. Zumba Gold classes are set at a level and pace suitable for all ages and abilities and are so much fun that it won’t even feel like exercise.

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NAHT support line

NAHT provides a free and confidential NAHT support line to all members that can be reached on 0800 917 4055.

This service is available all year round and during out-of-office hours.

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A tribute to Colm Davis (OBE)

Colm was principal of Torbank School in Dundonald, Northern Ireland until ill health forced his early retirement in 2017 after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. Colm was an NAHT Life member taken too early by MND after a life of dedication to others.

Colm was instrumental in building a new school for children with special needs, moving from a site with limited facilities near the Ulster hospital to a new state of the art purpose-built premises on Dunlady Road. It was a long journey just like Captain Tom’s laps, but he fought courageously and tirelessly with the education authority to champion the cause of children with special needs. He wanted the very best for them and for his staff and, while he expected the highest of standards, he led from the front in striving for those standards. It takes courage to stand up and be a voice for those who themselves have no voice. 

Later, when illness robbed him of his own voice, he campaigned fearlessly and vigorously for the correct benefits to be awarded to families where someone had been given a terminal diagnosis. 

Many would have grown resentful or bitter about such a challenging health condition, but Colm threw himself into advocacy and fundraising for the motor Neurones Association. He encouraged his wife, Vic, to take up running and, together, they raised large sums of money to help fund research and support families living with this cruel disease.

When we think about inspiring leadership, Colm is someone who should always be at the forefront of our mind. He operated an open door policy as principal and was always available to hear the concerns of pupils, staff, bus drivers and parents. He took time to get to know everyone and, while he set the highest of standards, people were what mattered most to him. 

He was someone who looked for solutions to make life more manageable for people coping with challenging situations and, in the challenges he faced in his own life, his thoughts were first and foremost for his loved ones surrounding him.

The final important life lesson Colm showed his family and friends was all about embracing windows of opportunity. When his health permitted, he pursued his love of travel and adventure. 

Even when he wasn’t well, he always sought to make each day special, to find occasions for celebration, to seek out the positive and embrace life. 

As a lifelong Leeds supporter, he took whatever opportunity he could get to travel to watch his team or follow their fortunes on TV.                 

He made huge efforts to make journeys that others in poor health would simply not contemplate and he expressed his appreciation and gratitude to those who made these things possible for him.

Today, think of Colm who refused to give up, who chose to offer hope rather than despair, who stood up on behalf of those who were perhaps feeling weak and vulnerable and did what they could to make this world a softer, more compassionate place. May God’s comfort surround those who loved Colm most, may he rest in peace and rise in glory.              

Rector – Rev. Canon Jonathan Pierce Belfast       

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National Pensioners' Convention webinars

Many thanks go to the excellent panellists on the Connections For All webinar.

  • Heléna Herklots, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
  • Helen Milner, CEO, Good Things Foundation
  • Jenny Haskey & Bryan Rossi-Anderson, Citizens Online
  • Roger Jenkins, National Officer, GMB
  • Genevieve Lloyd, Campaigns Manager, Which?

NPC would like to extend apologies to those who had technical difficulties and were not able to access the webinar.

The slides and video are now available on the website. Didn't manage to catch the previous NPC webinars or just want to watch it again? Go to the links below to watch the webinar and download the slides

Care: https://www.npcuk.org/post/uk-health-and-care-experts-call-for-national-care-service-at-npc-emergency-online-summit

Ageism, human rights and hate crime: https://www.npcuk.org/post/ageism-human-rights-hate-crime-in-the-uk

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What is your retirement story or journey so far?

Please send your article to michael.wilson@nahtofficials.org.uk.  

Useful Life member website links

NAHT Life Members' Committee's future executive meetings

2021

  • Thursday 21- Friday 22 January (Zoom meeting)
  • Thursday 11 - Friday 12 March 
  • Thursday 24 - Friday 25 June 
  • Thursday 14 - Friday 15 October

2022

  • Thursday 20 - Friday 21 January 

  • Thursday 10 - Friday 11 March 

  • Thursday 23 - Friday 24 March 

  • Thursday 13 - Friday 14 October

Time to remember

If any NAHT branch or region/devolved nation wishes to record the sad passing of an NAHT member in the life member newsletter please email michael.wilson@nahtofficials.org.uk.

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First published 10 March 2021