The news that 28 entrants through the troops to Teachers scheme have qualified as teachers – subjects not specified – can be looked on as a failure in one respect, since it was one of Michael Gove’s big announcements when he was Secretary of State for Education. But, in another respect, it has generated useful discussions about encouraging career switchers into education.
I doubt that this is the total number of armed forces personnel that have moved into careers in the education world during the period of the scheme. There has always been a steady flow of non-commissioned officers in all services entering the further education sector when they have finished their stint in the military. Many joined the forces as raw recruits and progressed through the ranks acquiring skills and knowledge on the way, paid for by the Ministry of Defence. Indeed, there will be many tutors on university training courses that will testify to the success of these recruits into lecturing in the FE sector. Had Mr Gove taken this supply into account, he might well have questioned how many leavers there were with degrees or near degree status in academic subjects quitting the forces each year to enrol on his scheme?
The next question to ask is where have those teachers that have completed the Troops to Teachers course ended up teaching? Are they in challenging urban schools or independent schools serving the offspring of military families? Hopefully, some researcher will be tracking their experience of teaching as a career over the next few years.
Whether setting up courses for specific groups of entrants into teaching is a good idea is debatable. After all, if they join staffrooms of teachers from a range of backgrounds wouldn’t it have bene useful to have trained together with those from other backgrounds rather than seen as a separate group?
What is interesting, in the new employer-managed world of academies, is at what point the employers are going to take a greater interest in preparing the next generation of teachers? This is an issue that should be high on the agenda of the faith communities and especially the Church of England with its large number of rural primary schools. There is a network of church universities that can trace their heritage back to the days when they were Church of England training colleges producing the bulk of the certificated teachers for the church elementary schools across England. For many years after the move of teacher preparation into higher education there was a concordat between the Department and the Church over the percentage of training places the Church would provide. Does that still exist or should the Church of England be ensuring that it has control over enough places to ensure the staffing of its schools in future years.
At the same time, it can continue to ensure that there are enough teachers willing to take on the leadership roles in schools and the strategic oversight of the sector going forward. The removal of local authority oversight places a greater burden on the remaining providers of education.