Education & Family

Troops to Teachers sees 28 ex-servicemen qualify

Army members Image copyright Corporal Andrew Morris (RAF)
Image caption Ex-soldiers are being encouraged to retrain as teachers

A flagship scheme to bring ex-servicemen and women to England's classrooms has seen 28 veterans qualify as teachers since it started.

Former Education Secretary Michael Gove had hoped to attract 2,000 applicants to the £4.3m Troops to Teachers scheme.

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said the low numbers showed the government had failed to get a grip on the teacher shortage crisis.

The government said the scheme's impact was positive and set to grow.

It stressed the figures, revealed in a written answer to a parliamentary question, referred to the first round of trainees to graduate from the scheme.

'Desperate need '

In another answer, schools minister Nick Gibb said a total of 551 applications had been received for the scheme, which began training people in 2014.

This led to 41 individuals starting the programme in its first year.

Since then 28 of the 29 who completed the programme had achieved qualified teacher status (QTS), he said.

Ms Powell said: "I very much want to see more veterans re-training to become teachers as they have a huge amount to offer and we desperately need more good teachers.

"What's clear is that, as with the government's general slow response to teacher shortages, this scheme isn't working because the government isn't focusing on teacher recruitment.

"We urgently need a proper strategy for teacher recruitment, including of veterans for whom this could make a great second career."


Analysis

By Hannah Richardson

It was back in 2008 that the then shadow education secretary Michael Gove, backed a UK version of an American programme to get ex-servicemen teaching in England's schools.

Within months of taking office, he announced plans for the Troops to Teachers programme.

But the simplicity of the idea, giving soldiers leaving Afghanistan and Iraq future careers and getting a bit of military discipline in classrooms, has been belied by its delivery.

Challenges lay in working across two government departments - education and defence.

The programme is part of the DfE's commitment to the cross-government Military Covenant, which aims to help support service leavers get back into civilian life.

Many applicants did not have the pre-requisite qualifications or could not stay the rather demanding course of becoming a teacher - despite their Army heroics.

And as teaching unions have warned, there is no direct correlation between a good service record and being good teacher material.

But ministers are convinced the scheme is good and that it can still be a success.


A Department for Education spokesman said: "The 28 graduates referred to are the first trainees to be recruited and completed their two-year course at the end of December.

"A further two cohorts are being trained right now which means that more than 140 former troops are working in our classrooms and record numbers of eligible applicants have applied for the latest cohort."

These figures relate to recruitment for 2016.

Military values

The spokesman added: "The impact of these recruits in the classroom has been overwhelmingly positive with head teachers praising the influence they've had on pupils' attainment."

It is not the first time the low take-up of the scheme has been in the news.

In July 2014, the BBC News website reported the scheme had sent a total of 41 trainees to England's classrooms in its first year.

The revelation comes just a week after a National Audit Office report highlighted how the government had missed its teacher recruitment targets for four years in a row.

The Troops to Teachers scheme, run by the University of Brighton, is based on the idea that military values such as leadership, discipline, motivation and teamwork are particularly useful for teaching.

First mooted in 2008, it provides non-graduate recruits with on-the-job training four days a week, with one day reserved for academic study.

Trainees go straight into the school-based programme after a minimum of one week's work experience in a school. They start to teach after spending two terms observing.

After two years, trainees count as "newly qualified teachers" and gain an honours degrees in education, specialising either as secondary school subject teachers or as primary school teachers.

Some teaching unions criticised the entry requirements for the scheme and questioned the notion that a good service record meant a candidate would make a good teacher.

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