Forget the loud, beetroot-faced Sergeant Major stereotype, modern military personnel are highly trained, motivated and ideal for inspiring young people in further education.
So, should you be looking at the battlefield, parade ground or flight deck for your next generation of teachers and managers?
A new, improved recruitment scheme
After the failure of “Troops to Teachers”, launched in 2013 by Education Secretary Michael Gove, a new scheme called the Further Forces Programme was launched earlier this year to attract soldiers, sailors and airmen leaving the Armed Forces into the teaching profession.
The original Troops to Teachers scheme failed to gain traction either with the Armed Forces or the FE sector. From an initial 293 applicants only 28 teachers qualified by the end of the two-year course, and Mr Gove’s own comments about bringing discipline into schools through a “military ethos” no doubt raised scepticism from teachers and FE managers. The scheme was also dogged by lack of support and inter-departmental barriers.
However the Further Forces Programme benefits from lessons learned and is better supported by the Department for Education and the Ministry of Defence than its predecessor. The Education Training Foundation is contributing £550,000, and The Gatsby Charitable Foundation an additional £300,000, to the scheme.
Bringing honed skills into the classroom
The two-year course is aimed at non-graduate ex-Armed Forces personnel who have relevant skills and experience in the Science, Engineering and Technology fields, recruiting them for a Further Education sector short of STEM experienced teachers. But what can former soldiers, sailors and airmen bring to the classroom?
The Armed Forces have moved on hugely from the old stereotype of drill instructors yelling at recruits or arrogant officers bullying their subordinates. Apart from possessing a wealth of exciting stories and life experience, they all come from a culture of nurturing talent, continuous training and leadership by example.
Transferable “soft” skills
Not only are men and women carefully selected for their character and professionalism before being given responsibility and leadership roles, they will also have stood out for their softer skills such as effective communication, the ability to empathise and to motivate.
Former Service people will also have received up-to-date training in instructional techniques and management from modern and innovative leadership schools which are constantly learning from the outside world.
Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (Sergeants) will have been given responsibility at an early age for large numbers of people and expensive (and potentially deadly) equipment, making them well suited, as their careers progress, to take on management roles within college.
What’s in it for the former squaddie?
The pilot project is expected to run for about two and a half years, training 110 teachers at two national centres. The first batch is expected to finish training by July 2018.
When they emerge from the training pipeline, they will receive Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status and training up to their Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training.
What do you think?
Would you recruit a teacher from the Further Forces programme? Do you think they would inspire young students or scare them away? Is PTSD a risk in the classroom? Let us know what you think.