Ex-troops without degrees to become teachers

There is no doubt that many of our serving military have an extremely high level of technical skill. Such skills are deployed in situations where there are no prizes for coming second so their knowledge and skill has to be of a very high order. In my role of an external examiner I once met an ex-serviceman who was training to be a teacher. He had been a member of the SAS on the Falklands. There was absolutely no doubt that he was extremely competent and extremely tough although neither was particularly apparent from his appearance or demeanor. I had to ask him about his experiences on teaching placement. This is what he said. “I’ve never been more scared than when I was with a challenging group of year 9 pupils on a Friday afternoon with half an hour of the lesson left and I had run out of things for them to do. Shouting at them didn’t work and all my military expertise was to no avail.” So what did you learn from this I asked. “Actually it’s straightforward”, he said, “Always prepare more than you think you’re going to need, absolutely essential to have more than a little something up your sleeve.” He went on to become a very accomplished teacher.  So the points made about discipline in the classroom being different to discipline in the services are well made but I don’t see that those with an aptitude for teaching can’t adapt to the classroom situation. A former school student of mine who served in the Royal Navy told me a Navy saying which indicates that many military folk might have the right attitude to this need to change. “Remember the seven Ps – Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.

My question is who will be responsible for the “on the job four days a week one day at university “ approach suggested by the government? Schools Direct?

3 thoughts on “Ex-troops without degrees to become teachers

  1. I was lucky enough to get a place on Nick Givens’ 2 year course at Exeter in 1998. I don’t see why this model can’t be resurrected. The contact with Nick and the lecturers supported by speakers like Ted Wragg allowed me to make the transition from RN to teaching more smoothly than a teaching practice heavy approach would have.


    • Hi Dan,
      Very interesting comment. We know Nick well and admire the work he does at Exeter. It would be good if you could tell us more about your experiences on his course.


      • Hi David

        I believe that the 2 year degree course was ideal for ex service personnel. The fact that it was based in the university allowed me to make a shift in mindset.

        It is true that service personnel have a lot of experience of vocational courses and leadership but they need time to absorb a range of teaching and learning styles AND the underpinning theory.

        I have witnessed GTP teachers going too quickly from service to classroom and they truly struggle with the sudden jolt.

        Service personnel are generally intrinsically motivated and it can be a shock to discover colleagues and students who are not.

        The MoD spend a lot of time explaining to their recruits why things are so and giving reasoning before expecting them to work within the framework. It would be glib to assume that service personnel just follow orders – they are explicitly trained to question and problem solve. To ask them to move straight into a school without this sort of investment is unwise.

        My course benefited from spending the first term alongside the PGCE cohort so we were introduced to a range of subjects and ideas and then had time to develop them across both TP and tutorials in the remainder of the 2 years.

        It also benefited the PGCE as we often had skills they lacked and we could learn design skills from them as we were more on the technician side. (Whether we were ex service or civilian)

        Throughout this I think that Nick was uniquely positioned to mentor us with his background in both the RAF and as a successful classroom teacher. It transpires that this course was perhaps ahead of its time.

        I have started to ramble so I’ll stop now.



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