Press release

Ex-military to be inspiring role models for young people

A major new financial grant will enable former military workers to train as inspirational new schools staff.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Former members of the armed forces will become mentors to young people in schools across England following a £1.5 million grant to the charity SkillForce, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced today.

Through three pilot programmes, ex-service personnel will be fast-tracked into schools, using the skills and experience gained on the frontline to help young people achieve. SkillForce will be funded to set up the three programmes from September 2011:

  • Military to Mentors: 100 ex-service personnel will be trained to work as mentors for young people in and out of schools across England. SkillForce will work alongside two other organisations, Endeavour and the Knowsley Skills Academy, on this programme
  • Zero Exclusion Pilot: SkillForce will provide intensive support to 100 young people at risk of exclusion from school. This will take place in five regions across England (areas to be confirmed), over a 12 month period
  • Expand SkillForce Core Programme: investing in the existing SkillForce programme that uses teams of instructors from military backgrounds to work with disadvantaged young people, helping them gain qualifications. Over a year, the charity will support 340 additional young people from parts of the country with high unemployment and deprivation. Part of this will include elements of the Zero Exclusion pilot

These schemes are part of the government’s broader drive to encourage armed forces leavers to use their talents to help raise standards in schools. The move is inspired by a similar, highly successful programme in the United States.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said:

There is a huge opportunity for those people who have served their country in uniform to serve their country in our schools. They have many of the virtues that parents across the country feel have disappeared from our schools and need to be restored: self-discipline, a sense of purpose and a belief in the importance of working as a team.

That is why I want to offer people leaving our armed forces an opportunity to enter the classroom, and I am delighted to support SkillForce in doing so. Ex-Service personnel will act as inspiring role models for the next generation. They will help to instil in young people, often from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds, discipline, self-respect and a sense of purpose.

Peter Cross, Chief Executive of SkillForce, said:

SkillForce is delighted to be asked to expand its work with disadvantaged young people. Our programmes effect positive and permanent change in their lives as evidenced by 60 per cent on free school meals going into further education compared with 9 per cent nationally. The use of former military mentors enables them to serve their communities following a first career of service to their country.

Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence said:

The men and women who have served in Britain’s armed forces have a great deal to offer their local communities. The SkillForce programme is a great example of Big Society in action and will allow former service personnel to make a real difference to young peoples’ lives. At the core of our armed forces are the values central to a successful society such as loyalty, self discipline and motivation. I am certain that the nation’s children will thrive under the mentorship of these courageous individuals.

Ross Emery, who served in the army for over ten years including Bosnia, Cyprus, Kuwait and Iraq, and now a mentor at SkillForce, said:

I applied for SkillForce because I enjoyed working with young people from my previous career. This was the right option, I have loved every minute and still continue to do so. I walk away with a sense of achievement and reward from the turnaround of my students and what they have accomplished and achieved through their own hard work and with my guidance. I aim to continue this for many years to come.

Alec, 17, who has been mentored through the SkillForce programme said:

I was always getting into trouble at school, skipping classes, and talking back to teachers. SkillForce showed me another way. They showed me how to look at things differently, and whatever I want to do, I can do. They showed me that if I worked hard, if I disciplined myself I could get out of my situation and become something. I gained qualifications and learned the communication skills that got me successfully through my engineering apprenticeship interview. SkillForce really changed my life.

The recent schools white paper, ‘The importance of teaching’, announced that armed forces leavers would be encouraged and sponsored to become teachers through a ‘Troops to Teachers’ programme. This is based on a similar programme in the United States. Overwhelming evidence has shown that across America, ex-troops are proving to be excellent teachers, and are making a particularly positive contribution in high-poverty schools.

The full ‘Troops to Teachers’ package in England will include a variety of different forms of support for Service leavers wishing to enter the classroom. The coalition government will introduce financial subsidies and a new fast-tracked undergraduate route into teaching for those who have the relevant experience and skills but may lack degree level qualifications.

Notes for editors

  1. A national study of the US ‘Troops to Teachers’ programme, also known as ‘T3’, found that:
    • Over 90% of headteachers reported that T3 teachers are more effective in the classroom and with discipline, and have a more positive impact on student achievement than traditionally prepared teachers.
    • T3 recruits teach in high-demand subjects such as special education, mathematics and science.
    • Despite the drop in pay when becoming a teacher, retention is very high: 88% of those who qualified in 2002 were still teaching three years later. Traditionally prepared teachers have an attrition rate of almost 50% after 5 years. The contrast is even more striking given that the attrition rate in high poverty schools is 55% higher than in low poverty schools.
    • Most T3 teachers are male (82%) compared to traditionally trained teachers of which only 18% are male.
    • T3 participants are well qualified: nearly two-thirds (62%) of troops teachers hold a master’s degree or higher degree; 37% of have a bachelor’s degree as their highest qualification.
  2. SkillForce is a dynamic education charity that delivers inspiring programmes that increase the numbers of young people entering education, employment and training on leaving school. It helps young people earn vocational qualifications, and develop life skills through appropriate and structured classroom and outdoor activities. Instruction and mentoring is provided mainly by ex-armed forces personnel, who develop a close working relationship with their students and help to instil a culture of respect and mutual support.

  3. Endeavour provides challenge and inspiration to young people excluded from society across the UK. Through a range of targeted programmes it helps them take control of their future, to set and achieve their goals. Endeavour believes every young person can have a worthwhile future, whatever their past. It provides that missing support and challenges young people to conquer their fears, and helps them build self confidence and self esteem. Young people learn how to express themselves and how to trust and respect others.

  4. Knowsley Skills Academy is a registered charity, committed to providing young people with ‘a step in the right direction’ allowing individuals to discover their best inner and natural abilities. Through a rigorous set of physical activities, team building and work-related learning – conducted within a military style environment and guided by professional ex-military personnel – the academy is committed to ensuring each student realises their true potential whilst striving to gain a recognised qualification.

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Published 28 February 2011