'Troops to Teachers' shot down by critics as only 28 veterans qualify

Figures indicate the scheme is an 'embarrassing failure' for the Government

Richard Garner
Education Editor
Thursday 18 February 2016 01:02
The scheme has been branded a flop by Labour
The scheme has been branded a flop by Labour

A plan to recruit ex-military personnel to the classroom has been branded a “flop” after it emerged only 28 former armed service personnel had qualified under it, new figures show.

The figures, released in the House of Commons, indicate the “Troops to Teachers” scheme is an “embarrassing failure” for the Government, Labour claimed.

It was billed at the time by then Education Secretary Michael Gove as an attempt to improve discipline in schools. Every child, he argued, could benefit from a “military ethos” in their school.

However, according to figures given in the House of Commons, the number of applicants for the scheme has plummeted from 293 for the first cohort three years ago to 62 for the lates cohort. Only 28 have actually qualified to teach in the classroom from the first cohort who completed their training programme in December 2015.

“This is more evidence in a series of failures by the Tory government to get a hold on the teacher shortage crisis,” said Lucy Powell, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary.

“Teacher recruitment continues to threaten standards under the Tories and yet - despite David Cameron’s personal commitment to the scheme - the Government has only managed to get 28 veterans to qualify as teachers.”

She added: “I very much want to see more veterans retraining to become teachers as they have a huge amount to offer and we desperately need more good teachers.

“What’s clear is that, as with the Government’s general slow response to teacher shortages, this scheme isn’t working because the Government isn’t focusing on teacher recruitment.”

In launching the scheme, Mr Gove said: “Every child can benefit from the values of a military ethos. Self-discipline and teamwork are at the heart of what makes our armed forces are the best in the world and are exactly what our young people need to succeed.”

Prime Minister David Cameron also threw his weight behind the scheme saying it was “a good idea and a good proposal and I want to make sure it is working”.

A spokesman for the Department for Education described the figures as “completely misleading and an unfair portrayal of a scheme that is giving talented service leaders a chance to inspire young people and use their unique experience to teach the skills that will help them fulfil their potential”.

The 28 were only the first trainees to qualify under the scheme - for which recruitment began in 2013. A further 140 former troops were still undergoing training as part of the second and third cohorts of the scheme. Record numbers had applied for the latest cohort.

“The impact of the recruits in the classroom has been overwhelmingly positive with headteachers praising the influence they’ve had on pupils’ attainment.”

However, Alison Ryan, senior policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “There are many career changers, including veterans, who could make a strong contribution to the profession.

“But the Government needs to learn that tackling the ever-growing teacher shortage is about making the profession a more attractive on to join and stay in - rather than weakly supported but expensive gimmicks like ‘Troops to Teachers’.”

Last week a National Audit Office report revealed that the Government had missed its trainee teacher recruitment targets for four years in succession. In addition, the numbers leaving the profession had increased by 11 per cent between 2011 and 2014.

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