Campus close-up: University of Brighton

Troops to Teachers programme allows veterans to turn swords into whiteboards

July 9, 2015
High-altitude, low-opening (HALO) paratroopers jumping from aircraft
Source: Reuters
Making the leap: one trainee, a former army corporal, said that he was looking for a career with a long-term future

Imagine a hulking ex-RAF fighter pilot teaching a group of 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds mathematics. It sounds like the premise for a new Disney comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this is the reality for “Steve”, a trainee on the Troops to Teachers (TtT) programme. This Department for Education-funded initiative, introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove in 2012, is led by the University of Brighton.

Although Hollywood has yet to come knocking for the film rights, the results are worthy of celluloid, according to Carol Plater, TtT course manager and principal lecturer at Brighton’s School of Education.

“If you look [at] and talk to the people we’ve taken on in cohort one, more than two-thirds of them already have jobs. A normal cohort of teacher education trainees wouldn’t be in that position at this early stage. They’re high quality,” she said.

TtT has received some negative press since its introduction. Expected to train 180 people in its first two years, the programme’s first cohort attracted just 41 trainees. There have also been reservations about funding such a scheme while graduate teacher training is cut.

But Ms Plater insisted that TtT has been popular and attracted quality applicants: the first cohort had about 945 applications.

“The whole world and his wife wanted to be part of the programme,” she said, but many didn’t understand they needed subject-specific credits before entry.

“Advice was given to those lacking qualifications about further study and many have now successfully joined other cohorts,” she added. Cohort two had 52 trainees and “about 50 to 60” have joined cohort three, which is still recruiting.

Ms Plater said that she “hoped to have 100 in cohort four”, adding: “We have headteachers ringing up, saying: ‘I’ve had one trainee, I’d now like 10.’ The programme speaks for itself. These are highly capable people and they make some excellent teachers.”

Mike Parry, a trainee religious education teacher and former army corporal, said that the course had come along at just the right time.

“When you leave the forces there are a lot of jobs you can go into, but there are very few careers. That’s what I was looking for: something that had a long-term future, as well as being something I enjoyed,” he said.

Because he had failed to complete a degree course (he dropped out after two years), Mr Parry thought that teaching was not an option. But TtT took his previous study into account. “I don’t know where I’d be if this hadn’t existed,” he said.

The course, which is employment-based, is similar to the government’s salaried School Direct model (teacher training in schools), but also touches on the traditional PGCE route by including university study: graduates receive a degree as well as qualified teacher status.

TtT trainees do not pay fees and are employed by the schools where they train (they receive 80 per cent of the wages enjoyed by unqualified teachers, about £12,000 a year).

Former troops can study at a number of universities as part of the course, but as the programme’s lead institution, Brighton controls the funding provided by the DfE. A total of £10 million was allocated to cohorts one and two as the scheme was set up, and a further £8.65 million has been provisionally earmarked for cohorts three and four.

“There is regular monitoring and tracking, which is vital because the degree we are awarding to all of them is a University of Brighton degree, so we’ve got a high quality assurance role,” Ms Plater said.

Consequently, she has chosen Brighton’s partners carefully, based on veterans’ resettlement areas. They include the universities of Bath Spa, Canterbury Christ Church, Southampton and Reading.

“I did a grid of the Ofsted grades for universities, then I [picked] a balance of redbrick and newer universities,” she said.

“This gives a really good flavour because I wanted…a wide spread of [partners] and…subjects.”

Ms Plater said that there would be a DfE evaluation of the scheme this Christmas, concentrating on cohort one graduates, to check if it is value for money.

“At one level it’s an expensive route because a standard undergraduate would pay £9,000 a year; these trainees are getting this degree thrown in.

“It needs to be value for money, but I think it’s more than value for money with the quality of people coming in.”

In numbers

£10m – DfE funding allocated to get Troops to Teachers off the ground

Campus news

University of the Highlands and Islands
Seventy delegates from 16 countries have attended the annual conference of a federation of island-based universities. This year’s Réseau d’Excellence des Territoires Insulaires conference, hosted in Orkney by the University of the Highlands and Islands, focused on the impact of cultural heritage on economic development in island destinations. The event attracted attendees from as far afield as Tasmania and Canada.

University of Huddersfield
Playing with Lego can unlock undergraduates’ thinking, a historian has claimed. Pat Cullum, principal lecturer in history at the University of Huddersfield, began experimenting with the plastic bricks after attending a seminar about the use of Lego in the business world. “At the beginning of their courses, some history students find it difficult to move from concrete thoughts to more abstract kinds of thinking,” she said. “Making things enjoyable means it is easier for people to engage and they will often do so longer and more deeply.”

King’s College London
The Queen’s private secretary has been made chair of King’s College London’s governing council. Sir Christopher Geidt will succeed the Duke of Wellington in the independent and unremunerated role, effective from August 2016. The King’s alumnus, who has also studied at the University of Cambridge and was a Fisher Family fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, joined the Royal household in 2007 after work in the military and the diplomatic service.

Goldsmiths, University of London
A doctoral student’s debut novel has won two prestigious literary awards. Zoe Pilger’s book, Eat My Heart Out, was awarded a £2,500 Somerset Maugham Award and a £5,000 Betty Trask Award by the Society of Authors on 25 June, in recognition of a first novel of outstanding literary merit by an author under 35. Ms Pilger (the daughter of campaigning journalist John) is studying for her PhD, which focuses on romantic love in French art, at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is also an art critic for The Independent.

Northumbria and Newcastle universities
An academic has written and directed an animated film aimed at women experiencing breech pregnancy. Ellie Land’s film, Breech, will be hosted on the NHS Choices website and explores the options in this scenario, such as whether to turn the baby in the womb, elect for Caesarean section or have a breech delivery. Ms Land, senior lecturer in animation at Northumbria University, based the film on research carried out by Rebecca Say, National Institute for Health doctoral research fellow at Newcastle University.

University of Hull
The 2017 UK City of Culture’s sole academic partner is to establish a dedicated research institute to study the programme’s impact. The University of Hull’s Institute for Research on Culture and the Creative Industries will explore the benefits of Hull 2017 on the city’s economy, health, image, identity and pride. Glenn Burgess, deputy vice-chancellor at Hull, said that it would help to make the city “an internationally significant model for the role of culture in urban and civic development”.

University of East Anglia
Researchers have been awarded a £2 million grant from the National Institute of Health Research to investigate ways to reduce medication errors in care homes. Led by the University of East Anglia’s David Wright, professor of pharmacy practice, and Richard Holland, professor of public health medicine, the researchers, drawn from across the UK, will develop and trial a model to enable GPs and pharmacists to work together to improve patient care.

University of Essex
A university will launch a centre to study all aspects of language development from childhood to old age. The Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi) at the University of Essex will seek to discover the best age to learn a foreign language, how speaking multiple languages shapes polylinguists’ identity and what happens to language when people suffer from degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

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Article originally published as: Whiteboards not weapons for veterans new to the job (9 July 2015)

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