The Phoenix Free school in Manchester ,not approved by the DFE in the latest round of bids,  was keen to emphasise its military credentials  and the bid was backed,  too ,by  respected former army chief ,Lord Guthrie. The rejection  came as a bit of a shock  and surprise to the sponsors. It was particularly galling given the work, nearly all pro bono, put in to getting this  bid  off  the ground. It wasn’t helped by reports that three creationist schools  had got through the vetting process (there is  little substantive evidence that these schools  are creationist)   .The Coalition government had,  after all, signalled that it rather liked the idea of schools backed by  former servicemen and  attracting more former troops into the classroom.

Education Secretary Michael Gove had   warmed to the idea of   introducing a variation of   Troops for Teachers, a scheme started in the US in 1994. The Centre for Policy Studies reminded us back in 2008 of the Troops to Teachers (T3) US programme .Retiring  US servicemen are retrained as teachers, mostly for high-poverty, typically violent inner-city schools. T3 is extraordinarily successful and is popular with Head Teachers, retiring servicemen and the military. Pupils demonstrably benefit from T3.  It is thought that many UK inner-city schools face similar problems to those of US inner-city schools.  The CPS suggested that a UK Troops to Teachers programme  could be based on the example of Skill Force  – a successful British charity which already employs ex-servicemen to work closely with schools with hard to reach children (albeit mostly outside the main classroom).  Gove  made all the right noises  when  the  CPS pamphlet, by  Tom Burkard, was published, referring to it also  in speeches. ( Burkard  also  of course supported the Phoenix school.)

But it is the Labour party, in the form of Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg, which has taken up the baton.  Twigg after some flip flopping over Free schools  policy is finding his feet. He  recently endorsed the idea of schools with military links proposed in a ResPublica pamphlet earlier this year.  The think tanks report  called on the Coalition to back a pilot scheme that will see 10 schools set up in “Neet blackspots” – where a large proportion of youngsters are not in education, employment or training – before rolling them out in all local education authorities. It said: “Military academies would open up new opportunities for those lacking hope and aspiration; they would change the cultural and moral outlook of those currently engulfed by hopelessness and cynicism.” The report ‘ Military Academies – Tacking Disadvantage, Improving Ethos and Outcomes and Revitalising our Armed Forces, was compiled in the wake of last summer’s riots.

Its interesting that the while the Tories seem to have gone cold on this whole  idea, the opposition is very much up and running with it.  And Philip Blond ,who  heads ResPublica and was lauded by  David Cameron over his Big Society ideas , now has one foot  placed in Labours camp.


Many people rashly assume that servicemen are natural Tories . Troops, more often than not,  feel let down by politicians of whatever political colour.. But   if you look at your History books many of the biggest cuts to the services  (since  the withdrawal from Empire))  have been inflicted by Tory led governments. The latest , just announced, are the biggest since the Cold War.  Options for Change (1990),   led to an 18% reduction in manpower. The 1982  Falklands war is irrevocably tied up with the Tory  Defence cuts of 1981. Food for thought?


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