Troops to Teachers

New directions for service leavers: but should UK be doing more?

The University of Nottingham is offering extra places for for former service personnel wishing to retrain as teachers. It’s an interesting development and one which has arisen as part of a government initiative:

British servicemen and women who are leaving or have left the forces within the last two years are being offered the chance to bring their unique skills into the classroom and train as teachers at The University of Nottingham.

The University’s School of Education will provide extra places from September 2012 as part of its established and highly successful Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP). The School has developed a course which is tailor-made for graduates who have served in the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force.

The new Troops to Teachers course is part of a government scheme which pledged a package of support for ex-military personnel wanting to retrain as teachers when they leave the forces. It was prompted by a similar scheme in America which showed that ex-servicemen and women are proving to be excellent teachers, particularly in high-poverty areas and in high-demand subjects such as modern languages, mathematics and science.

When the policy was launched The Guardian questioned whether more ex-soldiers should become teachers and offered two contrasting viewpoints, the latter from someone who had followed this route:

Against:

The truth is that this is a deeply nostalgic policy, harking back to the two previous wars of the last century when demobbed soldiers entered our classrooms in their droves. But they were very different times; only a tiny fraction of the school population went to university and corporal punishment was rife. Times have moved on, but sadly Gove and his miserable policies have not.

For:

My military background was something that gave me instant respect and the training in instruction I could draw on from the army was very useful. The students enjoyed my lessons and other teachers would ask me to be the disciplinarian. So, yes, if you ask me, I think former soldiers make excellent teachers. If these plans go ahead, it’ll be good for them, and it’ll be good for their students.

I do think that it is possible that there is an element of nostalgia underlying the policy as is suggested here. However, helping ex-military personnel to find meaningful careers is surely something we should be concerned with. The USA demonstrates a significantly greater commitment on this front having a Government Department dedicated to Veterans and specific advice and substantial financial support for those wishing to return to higher education. Should we be doing more in the UK?

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