Troops to Teachers: why recruits are standing down

22nd January 2016 at 00:00
The scheme to get ex-Forces personnel into schools misses target and suffers a high drop-out rate

A controversial scheme to turn former military personnel into teachers has trained just a sixth of its target number of veterans during the first two years, TES can reveal.

The Troops to Teachers initiative had 180 places for its first cohort, which completed training this month. But only 32 people have finished the course and become teachers.

The government-backed scheme had attracted controversy from the start because the plans to retrain former soldiers as teachers were sold as a way to bring a “military ethos” into struggling schools.

The initial target is revealed in tender documents seen by TES, which show that the scheme had a budget of £10 million. But just 41 people were recruited in the first wave of training, which began in January 2014. And nine later dropped out, it has now been disclosed.

The two subsequent recruitment rounds have not fared much better (see box, below).

‘Any extra teachers are a help’

The scheme is continuing with a further intake in September. But John Howson, director of TeachVac and an expert in teacher recruitment, said that he would be surprised if it continued as a separate entity in the long term.

“My guess is the scheme will be wrapped up into another initial teaching scheme rather than be kept as a separate scheme,” he added. “It has probably been as successful as it is ever going to be.

“Any one extra teacher is a help at a time when schools need anyone they can get, but if you are getting a high drop-out rate, it could be they are taking people without considering whether teacher is a suitable career for them.”

The figures have emerged after official reports criticised the organisation of the Troops to Teachers project.

In its 2014 annual report, the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) said that the management of the scheme had been “insufficiently robust” prior to September 2013 but said it was starting to get back on track. The 2015 NCTL annual report says that there have been “challenges on recruitment” for the initiative.

Despite the criticisms and the small numbers involved, the scheme has still proved invaluable to some schools.

Carrie McMillan, assistant head of Isca Academy in Exeter, said that the school had taken on two trainees through the scheme, one in maths and one in computing.

“The people who arrived were older and had more work experience and life experience [than most trainees], but they made it clear they were here to learn,” she said. “They had that mindset that they were retraining as teachers. Because it is a two-year course and it includes a degree, I think it is a challenge.

“Both the trainees who came here were really ambitious and keen to enter teaching. I got the sense that not only will they stay in teaching, they want to go into leadership.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said that Troops to Teachers offered “talented service-leavers a chance to inspire the next generation” by teaching leadership, teamwork and resilience.

“Headteachers are already praising the impact that these recruits have had in their classrooms,” they said. “The percentage of participants going on to achieve a degree and qualified teacher status continues to rise and we have already received more applications for the next cohort in September 2016 than ever before.”


‘Incredible role models’

Ben Slade, chief executive of SkillForce, says that ex-military personnel can be “incredible role models”. The charity arranges for former members of the Armed Forces to work in schools on character education programmes and as mentors.

“We find that pupils respond very well to our instructors,” Mr Slade tells TES “But there is an equally positive impact on our instructors, supporting their transition from military to civilian life – particularly if they have suffered physical injury or emotional trauma.

“Seeing the lives of children and young people being transformed is extremely rewarding, and gives our instructors a new focus that draws on their talents and experience.

“Our instructors are incredible role models. Their former military training means they understand teamwork, problem-solving, discipline and determination – all highly valuable skills that help children and young people to get on in education and in later life and work.”

Troops to Teachers

Jan 2014 41 started, 32 finished training

Sep 2014 54 started, 46 still in training

Sep 2015 51 started, 49 still in training

Total 146 started, 127 trained or in still training

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