Despite costing millions, a flagship scheme to bring ex-servicemen and women to England’s classrooms has only seen 28 veterans qualify as teachers since it started in 2014. Due to the low numbers qualifying the Labour Party has labelled the scheme a ‘flop’ and believe it is further evidence of the government’s failure to “get a hold” on the teacher recruitment crisis.
The former Education Secretary Michael Gove had hoped to attract 2,000 applicants to the £4.3m Troops to Teachers scheme. Since the scheme began in 2014, a total of 551 applications had applied to gain their qualified teacher status (QTS). In the programme’s first year, 41 individuals applied to the course and since then 28 out of 29 who completed the programme have achieved qualified teacher status (QTS).
The fact that the Troops to Teachers scheme has so far only recruited just a sixth of its target number over the past two years of operation was highlighted by the Shadow Education secretary, Lucy Powell. Mrs Powell believes that the current government “urgently need a proper strategy for teacher recruitment which includes ex veterans for whom this could make a great second career.”
Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said “it has long been known that the headline-grabbing ‘Troops to Teachers’ would not translate into significant numbers entering the teaching profession.” Mrs Blower continued to add “to those ex-Forces who did qualify and are teaching, we say welcome. To the government we say I told you so.”
It was back in 2008, when the then shadow education secretary Michael Gove, backed a UK version of an American programme to get ex-servicemen and women teaching in England’s schools. The programme is part of the Department for Education’s commitment to the cross-government Military Covenant, which aims to help support service leavers get back into civilian life. Teaching unions have consistently warned the government that there is no direct correlation between a good service record and being a good teacher. Ministers however are convinced that the scheme is good and that it can still be successful.
A DfE spokesman branded the figures as a ‘misleading and unfair portrayal’ of the scheme. He said “the 28 graduates referred to are the first trainees to be recruited and complete their two year course at the end of December. A further two cohorts are being trained right now which means that more than 140 former troops will soon be working in our classrooms.” The Conservative Party criticised Labour for expressing “negativity” about teaching, “Lucy Powell is twisting figures to paint a negative picture about the programme.”
So is Lucy Powell correct to call this scheme a ‘flop’? Or is the scheme just finding its feet and worth the amount of money spent on Troops to Teachers? Should the government continue to fund the scheme? Or do you think the government should be looking to implement a new strategy and make the profession more attractive to potential teachers? What do you think? Have your say…