Teaching on the front line: military gets training course

26th February 2010 at 00:00
Armed forces personnel targeted to help stem shortage of physics specialists

Soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are among those who will form part of the first cohort on a teacher training route designed especially for the military.

The course's backers argue that recruiting from serving members of the military will help to stem the shortage of science and technology teachers.

The non-graduates will eventually teach physics in English schools. They will train through the Open University for about two years before starting work in the classroom.

It is the first time a training course has been designed specifically for those in the Army, Navy or RAF. Only those doing "technical" jobs that require daily use of physics - for example, engineering, communications or weapons maintenance - will be eligible.

Troops will be able to train while in the forces, using books, DVDs and online tutorials and forums on educational research and theory.

However, they will also have to work in two schools in order to be awarded the BSc in secondary education in physics.

If the new training route is judged successful, similar courses could be set up in other science subjects and maths.

"Those in the services have a really good knowledge of the subject as well as an enthusiasm and an interest in it, and they will be able to show children how important physics is in the real world," said the Open University's Sandra Amos, who is running the course.

"We expect many of the people who we will accept will have substantial qualifications awarded during their time in the services.

"Those we have already heard from are beginning to plan their lives after leaving and they already have considerable technical experience."

The course was developed in collaboration with the Institute of Physics and the Ministry of Defence.

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation has paid the #163;50,000 administration costs.

Those who have already signed up plan to use their leave to study and complete the school-based part of the training after they quit the forces. They will have a teacher mentor.

Applicants will first have to complete subject enhancement modules. If they are successful, the Open University will admit about 20 every year to the final part of the course - teacher training.

Of the 25,000 people who leave the three armed services in Britain each year - including 7,000 officers - only about 60 become teachers.

Daniel Sandford Smith, director of programmes for the Gatsby Foundation, said that the new programme could improve physics teaching.

"It's seen as a very theoretical subject so it will be fantastic to get more people who used it as part of their job into the classroom," he said.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "We anticipate that there will be a good deal of interest in the course and we hope this route will be extended to other Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in the future.

"We expect those with an engineering background will be interested in this course, and many applicants may already be training military personnel, so used to working in an educational environment."

- For more information, phone 0118 652111 or email ss-srs-specialism-team@open.ac.uk

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