SOMETHING CAN BE DONE – Troops in our schools will do more than troops on our streets

Our inner cities need troops in the classrooms, write Tom Burkard and Captain AK Burki (a British Army Officer) in ‘Something Can Be Done’. This Centre for Policy Studies report outlines how their ‘Troops for Teachers’ proposal could soon become reality in Greater Manchester. It urges action to bring forward proposals for a Phoenix free school model, to be staffed entirely by ex-military personnel.  Lord Guthrie, the former Chief of Defence Staff, has promised his support.

To be located in an inner city location in the Greater Manchester area, the first Phoenix Free School will differ from ordinary comprehensive schools in the following ways:

  • No moral relativism: high standards of behaviour expected from all students
  • Discipline with consent: zero-tolerance with swift and fair responses
  • Literacy: a rigorous synthetic phonics programme to eliminate reading and spelling deficits within one year
  • Sport and outdoor activities: a competitive sport programme in conjunction with other local sports clubs
  • Academic goals: once skills deficits are remedied, courses leading to IGCSEs
  • Competition: a competitive house system, and streaming of students in lessons by ability
  • Parents and the community: local members of the community encouraged to learn and teach skills in after-school clubs
  • Honest achievement: when young people leave school with an inflated sense of self-worth, the consequences are seldom to their advantage

In view of the urgency of the effort against urban gangs, the report concludes that the Phoenix model would be able to make a positive contribution to bringing about a solution, if it were exempted from the sclerotic timetable which are currently compulsory in Free School applications.  This could enable the first school to open in 12 months.

Lord Guthrie, the former Chief of Defence staff, comments: “This would be no sticking plaster for the social problems our country faces. Rather, it would help to address deep-seated problems which are now increasingly apparent. If this school is a success, then it should serve as a model for a chain of hundreds of schools across the country. That is why I was honoured to be invited to be the Patron of the first Phoenix School. And it is why we must hope that Coalition Ministers do all they can to expedite this extraordinary and significant initiative.”

Tim Knox, director of the CPS, comments: “Putting troops onto our streets may control the symptoms of social breakdown. But putting troops into our schools would do far more to address the underlying problems. In particular, ex-servicemen and women can provide the role models and sense of discipline that is so often lacking in inner city schools. The government should do all it can to help get the first Phoenix Free School off the ground as quickly as possible.”

Tom Burkard, author and CPS research fellow, comments: “No one gets promoted in the armed forces unless they have already demonstrated the ability to inspire and train young men and women to perform complex duties under the most demanding conditions.  Their experience is sorely needed in England’s classrooms.”

A copy of the pamphlet is available from here.

Tom Burkard is available for comment and/or interview.

For more information, or to receive a hard copy of the publication, please contact Ryan Bourne at the Centre for Policy Studies (0207 222 44 88).


  1. Something can be done by Tom Burkard and AK Burki is published by the Centre for Policy Studies on Friday 2nd September 2011. It follows up the original CPS paper ‘From Troops to Teachers’ by Tom Burkard in 2008.
  2. Tom Burkard is the co-author of the Sound Foundations reading and spelling programmes, which are rapidly gaining recognition as the most cost-effective means of preventing reading failure. He is also the author of Inside the Secret Garden: the progressive decay of liberal education (University of Buckingham Press, 2007). He has written nine CPS reports, and many of his proposals are now official policy. He is a Visiting Fellow and a doctoral candidate at the University of Buckingham, and has recently accepted an offer of a Visiting Professorship at the University of Derby.
  3. Tom Burkard is available for interview and/or comment. For queries, please call Ryan Bourne (CPS economic researcher) on 020 7222 4488 (office). Alternatively, contact Tom directly via e-mail: [email protected] or on 01603 881158.

Date Added: Friday 2nd September 2011