How to wind down to retirement | Education Support
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How to wind down to retirement

11th July 2018

Though you may be longing for the days when your working life ends and the long, languid days of retirement beckon like a waterfall in a desert, the shock of no longer working can be overwhelming. So why not think instead about easing yourself into retirement gradually?

Even people who love their jobs probably yearn for that weekend or holiday lie-in to become permanent. To spend as much time as they want in the garden, read, listen to the radio, relax and perhaps most of all, at last, to be able to go on holidays outside the school term!

However, pleasant though this picture may seem, it can require a huge adjustment from working a 50 to 60-hour week to... nothing. No calls on your time. No alarm bells in the morning. No students, no plans and perhaps toughest of all for some, no colleagues. Even when life in school or college is tough to the point of sometimes seeming unbearable, there were always colleagues. People you can share war stories with and enjoy a giggle. People who help you to keep some perspective. People who keep you sane.

Are you really ready for all that to suddenly go?

Ease into retirement

If you are concerned that going from full-time, full-on employment to an engagement diary that gives you snow blindness, there are ways you can ease into retirement by downsizing or slowly reducing your hours. Adele in her late fifties had a very full plate as the head of department at a big academy in the Midlands and also a long commute. “I’d be up at six every day and wouldn’t get back home till half seven. It was exhausting. I longed to retire but I knew that giving up such a busy working life with only my husband for company and the garden for something to do, I’d maybe go a little nuts!”

So Adele requested scaling back her hours and giving up her head of department job. “I went back to teaching, no staff to organise, nothing else to run. Just the job I loved and teaching the kids - the reason I went into teaching. I went to four days then three. Then I found a school closer to home and worked there two days a week.” Adele is retired now but still works as an exam invigilator and course assessor. “I like to keep my hand in. I feel useful, it means my days aren’t entirely empty and of course the extra money on top of my pension is nice.”

Roles for retiring education workers

As you wind down to retirement you could prepare to take on a role after you give up work. One that utilises your skills and makes you feel useful.


You could use your skills to work as a tutor to help students who struggle with basic reading and maths or to coach students to do well at GCSE, A levels or entrance exams. You could also help to build confidence offering one-to-one support. You could do this privately or work in a school setting where some children need extra attention. This may be particularly satisfying if you noticed gaps when you were teaching but were unable to fill them.

After school clubs and summer school

Schools which run after or pre-school clubs, breakfast and homework clubs and other extra curricular activities can always use an extra pair of hands. An experienced education worker is invaluable. You could also help run summer clubs to help working parents who can’t take the entire summer holiday off. You could also maybe help run a school trip in this country or abroad so keep that passport up to date!

Exam marking and invigilating

Another way to go back to school is to do exam marking, course assessments, verification and invigilating. This not only keeps your hand in a bit but it’s paid work and it tends to be seasonal so you don’t have to commit to working the whole year.

Go to jail!

Running or helping to run a prison reading group is a way to volunteer and use your education skills. Reading novels can promote empathy and this makes committing crime less likely so you’d be continuing to help society with work like this. You may also be introduced to books you wouldn’t otherwise read and enjoy discussions that are probably quite different from those you might have in a reading group of your contemporaries so more eye opening and educational.

Volunteering and other roles     

Teachers have many useful skills that are transferable if you want to keep active. One way to feel useful is to consider volunteering roles. Schools are always looking volunteers. You could volunteer to help out with teaching young children to read, work in a nursery setting, or become a school governor.

If you’re a good listener you could consider volunteering with The Samaritans. Another useful role you could maybe think about after or leading up to retirement is becoming an official prison visitor where listening skills are much prized and in demand. As with other voluntary work it’s a chance to learn and it’s important to view voluntary work in this light - you get something back for what you put in. Many people find this a very rewarding activity and it can help facilitate rehabilitation as prisoners who have regular contact with the outside world are less likely to reoffend.

Help run your local council                 

You could also run for the council and play an important role in the administration of where you live. You don’t have to belong to a political party to run for your local council. Many councillors are party affiliated but increasingly they’re not and quite a few now run as independents or as spokespeople for a vital local cause or something close to their hearts such as, say, cleaning up local woods, improving the environment, monitoring traffic and pollution levels. You could run for office while still working and then throw yourself into the role after you leave work. Councillors aren’t paid but they do receive expenses which can be anything from around £2,000 a year.


There are also local campaigns you could join or even run. Maybe you need, or definitely don’t need, a new bypass in your area. Perhaps the schools near you are campaigning to reduce the speed limit at school times to 20 mph or they want a zebra crossing.

Volunteer driver

You could also consider becoming a volunteer driver helping to run people to hospital or collect them or take people to a day centre or children to school. This can be enjoyable and fun. It gets you out the house, you meet people and you feel useful.

Get set to retire before you retire

Think of how you might make best use of your time post retirement and make plans now as to how you might like to use that time. Of course you may just want to lounge around and never have another formal commitment again in which case, fine! Enjoy. You’ve earned it. You deserve it. But you may find gradually winding down into retirement is easier and less stressful, less of a shock to the system. At the very least, try to be prepared then you’ll enjoy that retirement you’ve worked so very hard for.

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