Steering former veterans into the classroom could simultaneously solve two vexing problems for the United Kingdom: high rates of unemployment among those returning from deployment and a lack of new teachers who have what it takes to stick it out when facing the challenges presented by the teaching profession. This is the reasoning behind a new program announced by David Laws, Britain’s Education Minister, that will allow former soldiers who already have a degree to enroll in a one-year graduate teaching program that will pay a salary or up to £2,000 in extra bursary.
Unemployment among former members of the British Armed Forces is likely to get worse in coming years as the Ministry of Defence outlines plans to streamline the regular Army to 82,000 members by 2020. To meet this goal, the Army is set to announce an additional 5,300 job cuts by the end of this month.
The new initiative, called Troops to Teachers, could prove to be a welcome option for soldiers who will be faced with making decisions about their post-military careers.
In addition to the one-year graduate course for those with a degree, the government will also begin running a two-year intensive training program for veterans with special technical expertise or instructional experience in the armed forces who do not have prior higher education experience. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond promised that the selection process for the course will be “rigorous.”
Around 7,000 former service members have asked about becoming teachers in the past two years, officials said.
The National Union of Teachers warned that keeping control in classrooms was very different to maintaining military discipline and said the profession should only be open to graduates.
Christine Blower, general secretary, said: “Teaching involves a complex mix of knowledge, skills and understanding of child development. Trainees need both a high level of education themselves and thorough teacher training before they can take on the demands of educating our young people.”
Reservations aside, Britain isn’t the first to consider that discipline and grit required for military service could translate well to the classroom.
In America, school administrators have taken steps to aggressively recruit veterans to the teaching profession where they hope the new teachers will buck a disturbing trend that sees many rookie teachers leaving the profession within their first five years.
Education officials aren’t the only ones noticing that teaching and the military demand some of the same skills. Teach for America, a group that is known for attracting the most promising candidates into the profession, has now turned its recruiting prowess towards the military, as Toppo points out, just in time for the wind down of military commitments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.