Does the UK Need Soldiers in Their Classrooms?

Former Marine and Headmaster agrees with a think tank’s suggestion that a presence of former soldiers in schools will do students good.

Every school pupil has plenty to learn from a soldier, writes Clive Dytor at the Telegraph.

Former members of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force have all the virtues and experience needed to run a school effectively, says the headmaster of The Oratory School and a former Royal Marines officer.

“Interspersed with periods as an instructor of young officers and leading the recruitment of young officers nationwide, the Forces gave me the most comprehensive and far-reaching training and experience that one could imagine.”

Dytor is now the head of The Oratory School, a boarding/day school for boys founded by Blessed John Henry Newman near Reading in south Oxfordshire.

In a new report from the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, it is proposed that a free school, staffed entirely by former military personnel, be set up in an inner-city location in Manchester. And Dyton is a fan of the idea:

“I feel reasonably well qualified to judge whether the suggestion is a good one.”

As an all-boys’ school, Dyton says that all his staff have to be involved outside the classroom and in the houses in addition to their core task of teaching.

“The day and week are long. Most teachers live in school houses in or around the school, so we form a cohesive community together. Staff families eat with the boys on a Sunday.”

The serviceman or woman fits into this groove like an axe into wood, writes Dyton.

“The Forces’ qualities of commitment, loyalty, tenacity and determination to see the job through are huge boosts to the lives of our boys. They benefit from that great “can-do” approach that our Armed Forces embody, and which we have seen again so vividly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.”

Dyton asks what pupils need in Broken Britain today.

“Discipline, commitment, loyalty, the ability to focus on the task in hand. In other words, T-CUP in exams and on the sports field – and around the mean streets of our cities. To the serviceman, all this is second nature because he has had it drilled into him through rigorous training – what modern educationalists would describe as “spoon fed” or “not independent learning””.

Staff who have entered the profession from university or other walks of life can be equally positive, proactive and inspiring, admits Dyton. And he concedes that “holding the Queen’s Commission is no guarantee of quality”
But he believes it is the training that all Service personnel receive on their way through as officers or recruits that brings such a treasure of virtues.

Telegraph reader ‘Helen’ agrees with Dyton and contributed:

“Thinking about the problems the current education system has this can only be an improvement. Boys from inner cities in particular without a father figure could turn their lives around, especially if there is an emphasis on outdoor activities/physical education as well as academic qualifications.

Obviously those employed will be suitable and have the qualities necessary to achieve good results or the school will fail. We are at a position where we should be open to all ideas however radical. The soft approach most definitely has not worked.”

However, another contributor called ‘Grasshopper’, pulls Dyton up on one of Dyton’s ideas:

‘Former members of the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force have all the virtues and experience needed to run a school effectively.’ This is nuts. You might as well say that every teacher has all the virtues and experience to be a soldier. The two things are quite different and while some individuals may be able to switch, the suggestion that soldiers automatically have all it takes to be teachers is absurd. The fact that the idea surfaces at the same time as soldiers are being laid off gives the game away.”

Grasshopper added:

“We already have a surplus of genuinely qualified people who want to teach. So, are the squaddies to jump the queue, or what? And will they have to do teacher training? Presumably not, since they “have all the virtues and experience needed.” A pity. I rather fancy seeing how they would cope with courses like “Blu-tak 101″ and “Sellotape – the hidden dangers.””

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September 2nd, 2011

Staff Reporter

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