Scheme to offer military veterans £40k bursaries to retrain as teachers greeted with scepticism

Unions say more action needed on pay, work-life balance and lack of career development to stop teaching haemorrhaging skilled professionals

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
@Eleanor_Busby
Tuesday 06 March 2018 13:45
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Military veterans are to be offered a £40,000 bursary to retrain as teachers
Military veterans are to be offered a £40,000 bursary to retrain as teachers

Military veterans will be offered £40,000 bursaries to retrain as teachers to help instil self-discipline and leadership skills in young people, the Government has announced.

Former military personnel who begin teacher training courses in priority subjects - including maths, the sciences and modern foreign languages - can get a bursary from September.

The Department for Education and Ministry of Defence want ex-servicemen and women to whom discipline is second nature to share the ethos with pupils.

But headteacher unions have responded by warning "piecemeal announcements” from the Government are unlikely to make a substantial difference to the recruitment and retention crisis facing the sector.

Their warnings come after Ucas last week revealed the numbers applying to start postgraduate teacher training in September are 23 per cent down on last year.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We welcome any initiative to recruit more people into teaching because there are severe teacher shortages in many schools in many parts of the country.

“However, we do need a cohesive strategy which works on a large scale, rather than piecemeal announcements which, with the best will in the world, are unlikely to make a huge difference to numbers.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, added: “Teacher recruitment is currently a pipeline leaking at both ends. There are insufficient numbers of newly qualified teachers coming into the system, but there are also too many experienced teachers leaving prematurely.

“Not only has pay has fallen behind what teachers could expect in other sectors, they are faced with heavy workloads, a difficult work-life balance, and little professional development due to budget cuts.

“New schemes for teacher recruitment are welcome but unless money is also spent addressing retention, ultimately nothing will really change for schools.”

The new bursary - for undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, computing, maths and modern foreign languages - will be for those who have left the armed forces in the past five years.

It replaces the Troops to Teachers Programme which was previously branded a “flop” after figures revealed that only 28 former armed service personnel had qualified under it.

Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, said: “Academic standards are rising, with 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools and a record 15,500 more teachers than in 2010.

“We want this trend to continue and to explore every opportunity to attract the best and brightest into teaching.

“Our ex-servicemen and women – who have already contributed so much to our country – have a wealth of experience and expertise that can be shared in the classroom, teaching pupils the knowledge they need to succeed alongside vital skills, such as leadership and self-discipline.”

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