BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 08:34 GMT
'Retrain ex-troops' as teachers
Assault course
Could army-style discipline be the answer to some schools' problems?
Ex-servicemen and women should be retrained as teachers to bring military style discipline to tough inner city schools, a think tank has said.

The government is being urged to adopt a US-style programme returning former soldiers, sailors and airmen to school.

The Centre for Policy Studies says ex-soldiers could have a profound effect on discipline and learning.

The Conservatives are backing the idea, saying children need order and role models for self-discipline.

A report by think tanks says the fact that ex-soldiers had a macho image could help engender respect - particularly among boys.

The Troops to Teachers (T3) programme in the US retrains soldiers with a minimum of 10 years' experience, and a degree, as fully certificated teachers.

Those with lower qualifications are retrained as vocational teachers.

Some 16,000 service personnel have qualified as teachers since T3 was set up in the US in 1994.

Whether we like it or not, children from more deprived neighbourhoods often respond to raw physical power
Centre for Policy Studies report

The report said the programme had been an "outstanding success", with some 88% remaining in the profession three years after they qualified.

This compared to the usual retention rate for teachers in the US of 50% after five years.

The report suggested ex-servicemen could have a particularly strong effect on discipline and learning.

"This is not merely because ex-servicemen are sure of their own moral authority.

"They are not intimidated by adrenaline-fuelled adolescents: they have, unlike most teachers, been there before," it added.

It also argued that the perception that these teachers had been in a "macho profession" would be well-received by inner city children.

"Whether we like it or not, children from more deprived neighbourhoods often respond to raw physical power," it added.

'Terrific boost'

Chief of Defence Staff Lord Guthrie said knife crime, drugs and violence were reported daily in the inner cities.

He said the T3 programme was a "possible answer" that had been shown to work in the US.

"This will not, of course, solve all the problems of the inner city. But it will help," he said.

"It will provide youths with role models who understand discipline and self-restraint at the time in their lives when they need it most. And it will be a terrific boost for our Armed Services."

Children, particularly in the worst schools, desperately need order and role models for self-discipline
Michael Gove, shadow children's secretary

The charity Skill Force is already running a similar programme with 35 teams across 200 schools in England, Scotland and Wales, and the report says it could be expanded with government help.

Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove said helping soldiers retrain as teachers would be great for our schools.

"Many British schools need a change of culture because they face real problems with violence and bad behaviour.

"Children, particularly in the worst schools, desperately need order and role models for self-discipline."

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesman said: "We know that professionals with industry experience can make really inspirational teachers and we are always looking to recruit teachers who have skills in other fields."

The Ministry of Defence said it was already working with the Department for Children, Schools and Families on a scheme to encourage more ex-military personnel to consider secondary-level teaching.

A spokesman said help and advice on pursuing a career in education formed part of the resettlement package for service leavers.

We invited your comments. Here is a selection of your responses

I am a former soldier who gained a 2:1 after leaving the Army. While some servicemen may make good instructors (not teachers) the majority are the 'monkey see monkey do' types with limited intelligence and communications skills. They know the 'what' but rarely the 'why' or 'how'. However, there may be a role for them in maintaining discipline within schools rather than have police based within the school as has already started happpening.
Jon P , Portsmouth

I went to a school with cadets and so met ex-military people who worked either as teachers or in other roles within the school. Provided the right people are selected for the job (let's face it - just being in the forces does not automatically make you a good teacher!) it could be great. Half the battle in the classroom for any teacher is winning respect. In my experience, good army officers are perfectly capable of acheiving this. On paper it sounds a good idea, but it needs to be VERY carefully handled. I wish this project every success, as anything that will truly benefit troubled schools is welcome in my opinion.
Jen, Ipswich

If the yoof of today could actually take military discipline, it might be an improvement. More likely, the 'hardcases' would be wanting to fight the teachers. Perhaps their parents should be in class as well. But surely our Civil Liberty friends will be bleating that you cannot shout at them. Remembering - with fondness - my instructors from Bassingbourn Barracks, they would make mincemeat of the lot of them. But it has to come from within - the army is voluntary, you expect what you will get. School is compulsory...
Voice of the Voyager, Gloucester

I am astonished at this proposal. It seems as if 'toughness' is the qualification that is perceived as the quality required for teaching now. Haven't we yet learned that violence or the threat of it does not work? Having taught in an exclusion unit in southern England for a number of years, I can attest that many of the exclusions who attended the unit were boys who had suffered violence at the hands of their military fathers who obviously believed that threatening their offspring was the best way to control them. Indeed, whole military families of children were excluded from school. I visited one family of five boys to give home tuition. All were excluded from school for violent and uncontrollable behaviour. Mother was illiterate and sat in on reading lessons. Father tried to maintain discipline with his fists and complained to me that the more he tried to get the boys to behave, the worse they became..............
Enid Anderson, St Coulitz, France

When I came out the RAF in 1992 with an HNC in Electronics (I now have a degree if that matters)I was being interviewed by my local job centre and was offered the chance to train as a teacher. There was no way I would then or now accept the job as I do not have the temperament to deal with todays children. They are frightened of and respect nothing and wouldn't waste my time and energy trying to teach them. Until the government gives back the ability for teachers to punish unruly children then this very sad state of affairs will continue. Oh and I actually would seriously consider teaching if this was the case.
Andy, Bristol, UK

I went from Royal Navy to outdoor education (Outward Bound Trust) and am now applying for Secondary PGCE, later this year. This sounds a good scheme, though I think the discipline aspect is more to do with having straightforward, clear, boundaries, with consistent and dependable consequences for right and wrong behaviour, as well as being somebody "who understand[s] discipline and self-restraint". "Raw physical power" has an occasional place, but the best soldiers (or sailors) don't depend on it, nor should we in schools or society.
Chris Terrell, Aberystwyth, Wales

I am a former soldier who gained a 2:1 after leaving the Army. While some servicemen may make good instructors (not teachers) the majority are the 'monkey see monkey do' types with limited intelligence and communications skills. They know the 'what' but rarely the 'why' or 'how'. However, there may be a role for them in maintaining discipline within schools rather than have police based within the school as has already started happpening.
Jon P , Portsmouth

Great idea! Perhaps then we'll establish beyond all doubt that 'military intelligence' is an oxymoron.
Geoff Wolstencroft, Helston, Cornwall

Back in 1966 (so I cannot remember his name!) at Portland Secondary Modern School we had a geography teacher (ex-army) and he could teach us how to open a tank with a tin-opener! We had regular lectures about his service in the desert during the last war!
sue chadwick, slough, berkshire

Two of the best teachers i ever had at school were ex soldiers. They explained everything clearly and enthusiastically which i believe is an attribute instilled in the armed forces. The classroom was always dead silent whilst they were talking and the outdoor pusuits activities they organised were the best!
Sam, bristol

My Dad was ex army who went into teaching. He did not use macho man technigues with his pupils but a more reflective approach with a stong framework, clear rules and guidance coupled with firm and fair discipline. I doubt if his pupils ever knew what he done on active service. His own children only had a hazy idea of the real traumas of his career even we had been to school in army trucks with armed soldiers as guards. Schools do not need an injection macho alpha males to teach but we do need Youth Workers and counsellors to help those who do not have opportunities for sport and problem solving.
Injeanius, Somerset



SEE ALSO
Teachers 'quit jobs' in thousands
27 Dec 07 |  Education
Teachers report violent assaults
23 Feb 07 |  Education
Many teachers 'stressed in class'
18 Feb 07 |  Education

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific