Military Schools: Don’t be surprised by Labour’s grim education policy

This post was written by Reuben on July 26, 2012
Posted Under: Uncategorized

This a guest post by London teacher Jo Bardsley who tweets at

It isn’t exactly surprising that Labour wants to create military schools in order to ‘raise aspirations’ in deprived areas. This is the latest in a long line of educational disasters from both sides of the party line. Never mind the train wreck of Gove’s hate campaign, I mean, educational policy; Labour has also carved its own swathe of destruction through the educational landscape.

Academies were a Labour brain bastard, where pupils are judged not by the content of their character but by the length of their tie. Labour is also responsible for Teach First, which runs on the idea that public school is a natural preparation for excellence, so training is redundant. It didn’t work in the trenches and it certainly doesn’t work in education, yet every year a bunch of posh kids are given 6 weeks training and then turfed into the classroom.

I must admit that military schools did seem like a new low, but then on reflection, they are the natural progression from academies. They are just meaner, more repressive and possibly armed. What’s the harm in that?

The ideas behind academies and military schools spurt from the same mucky source; a deep seated fear of difference. In deprived areas, especially urban ones, the kids are all different colours. That is scary. The answer is to make them all look as uniform as possible. Make sure that their ties and skirts are the right length and maybe we can disguise the fact that they aren’t all white. Even better, put them all in camouflage and then we won’t see them at all. Especially if they are standing in a really straight line. Because the ability to stand in really a straight line and wear a tie that dangles below your nipples is a vital component in the acquisition of skills that will prepare you to pass exams.

It is too obvious to say that behind the military school idea is some wheezing ex-military bod. Education policy was ever thus; Gove is trying to turn every school in the country into a clone of his prep. I’m constantly surprised that he hasn’t imposed mandatory rice pudding with mandatory jam on Tuesdays. Blunkett’s memories of mean boys and low expectations led to the demolition of specialist provision for all students with special educational needs and so on.

The problem is that everyone has been to school, so everyone thinks that they are an expert on education. Applying that logic, we were all born, so we all ought to be skilled gynaecologists.

What would be truly revolutionary would be educational policy based on understanding rather than political point scoring or fear of diversity. But to do that we would have to do the unthinkable – we would have to consult people who are trained and experienced in education. We would have to ask the teachers.

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Reader Comments


I’m all for encouraging kids to aspire to join the military. And for those from deprived backgrounds, a career you can start at 16, with a pension, 3 square meals a day (4 in some phases of training), physical exercise, paid training, education support, character development, leadership training, sports time during work hours, and a clear set of career options open to you, is a great option they should aspire to. The ethos of team-work, working for the common good, taking responsibility and making decisions, self-discipline and hard-work are ones that would benefit people from all walks of life, and I think it’s great when the public engage with the military in a positive way, and vice-versa.

Written By Owain on July 26th, 2012 @ 11:54 am

Does expert opinion on pedagogy and school structure not count as expert unless you agree with it? Would it be worth my finishing this comment with a chain of links to research that shows the importance of discipline in schools, or would all the authors be silenced because of their privilege or false-consciousness or class-treachery or what-have-you?

Come off it. If you want to disparage education policy because it is not evidence-based or expert enough for you, you need to write about the comparative evidence and try to explain why some experts disagree with you about these issues. It’s not enough to simply state that the government’s (and Labour’s) education policy is insufficiently evidence-based or expert before you go looking for its ‘real’ reactionary causes.

Written By Hugh on August 2nd, 2012 @ 3:20 am

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