My first thought was to head this piece ‘The triumph of hope over reality’, but I thought that a bit unfair. Nevertheless, the fact that the much trailed ‘Troops to Teachers’ scheme has recruited just 102 entrants into teacher training over two years, when the government has said in answer to a Parliamentary Question put on 6th March 2013 that they were planning to be able to support 1,000 entrants from that route on either School Direct Salaried or Training courses, does raise some questions.
Now those leaving the forces have often ended up in education. For many years Warrant Officers and NCOs leaving with a pension have taken their skills into the further education sector, and some officers similarly leaving with a pension have become bursars, mostly in the independent sector. So, were the government policymakers expecting these leavers to switch to mainstream teaching or had they indentified a group of earlier leavers from the army that might be attracted into teaching? I am sure someone in either the DfE or the NCTL asked the question; how many leavers of a graduate level or with the skills to acquire a degree leave the army each year; and how many might want to teach? I assume you can leave aside most of the specialist trades and professions within the army as they would normally head back into law, medicine, the church, or whatever trade, skill or vocation they had used in the army.
So, did that leave mostly the infantry and the gunners as the main source of potential teachers? I don’t know what the number of graduate level leavers there are each year from these two branches of the army, but I doubt it is anywhere near 1,000 even every two years. As a result, 61 this year might just be a good haul from the possible pool. I have been told that around 1,000 expressed an interest, and 300 were possibly eligible, so a one in six conversion rate for those eligible compares with a conversion rate per place of about 3.3 for higher education secondary courses according to one source in the comments to an earlier post on this blog.
Now I suppose that there were those that felt former army personnel would have the necessary grasp of discipline to be able to deal with behaviour management: as if hormonal teenagers were no different to young soldiers. Personally, I think it more to do with the personal qualities any occupational group that works mostly with people requires. Those from such groups often make good teachers because they understand the need to relate to others. It is also why teachers make such attractive employees to other employers, a fact we should not overlook as the economy expands and business look for graduates with the inter-personal skills teachers have in abundance.
The question that needs asking is, who was responsible for talking up the possible delivery target for the ‘Troops to Teachers’ scheme, and did a Minister accepted the figures without asking any questions? If so, what was their special adviser doing?