HEP Talks: What the Army can teach us, with Richard Watts

The British Army isn’t necessarily associated with education, but in this episode of HEP Talks, Richard Watts, Director of Educational and Regional Marketing for the Recruiting Partnership Project at British Army and Capita, explains that actually, the Army is an educational provider. On top of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, the Army has also developed the BASE – British Army Supporting Education – Programme, which provides free digital resources in multiple subjects for class teachers to use, and opportunities for pupils to learn a little bit more about the Army in the meantime.

Richard Watts is a qualified teacher with over 10 years’ experience in the classroom. He has an MA in Education from the University of Winchester. Richard has worked in several school roles, including Head of Faculty. He left the classroom in 2018 because he didn’t feel supported by the Department for Education, and found teaching could be inflexible. Often, he could be assigned to teach about topics on which he had little expertise. He took these feelings to BASE, which created lessons to help teachers talk more knowledgably about topics they don’t know much about, including subjects like PSHE and citizenship, music, design tech, well-being, and even character building.

An immersive playground

The lesson library can be accessed here, and it includes 31 lessons that cover a range of 14 subjects. You can find the story of ‘Polar Preet’, an Army Officer who became the first woman of colour to reach the South Pole in an on-foot solo mission. Or check out the ‘LGBTQ+ VOICES’ resource, which aims to “challenge perceptions, linking modern day inclusion efforts with the exclusion of the LGBTQ+ community throughout history.” That lesson won ‘best free resource’ in the 2021 Teach Secondary Awards.

Regardless of the subject, each lesson includes examples of a job in the Army that addresses real world problems. Richard said that he wanted to ensure that the resources came from a place where the Army has credibility, and so his team selected case studies that showcase a variety of real issues that the Army deals with, from cyber attacks to creating water filtration systems.

Richard hopes that these lessons will raise awareness about what the modern British Army does, as well as address misconceptions about it. He wants people to see the Army as both an education provider and a viable career choice.

Pedagogy first, technology second

Of course, the Army does face criticism when it comes to engaging with schools and young people. When I asked Richard about this, he acknowledged it, and mentioned that as the reason why these lessons are mostly aimed at older children. However, he also said, “People don’t do what they don’t know”, which is why the Army wants people to learn about and be aware of the opportunities they offer.

Listen to the full episode to hear more about Richard’s experience, the lessons BASE offers, and the potential criticisms of the Army being involved in education.

Listen to the full interview on HEP Talks

As always, we hope you enjoy listening to the full interview on HEP Talks, which can be found on AppleSpotifyGoogle, or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you have a topic that you’re interested in or want to talk about on our podcast, please send an email to luke.kemper@haringeyeducationpartnership.co.uk and you might get featured on an upcoming episode. Stay tuned to HEP Talks!

About the Author:

Luke Kemper

Luke Kemper is Insight and Intelligence Lead at HEP. He recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Education, Globalisation and International Development. Before that, he worked for seven years as a university lecturer and high school teacher in China and Poland.

HEP Talks Podcast

The voice of Haringey Education Partnership. A weekly briefing on the latest stories in education news, deep diving into developments and interviews with leading voices in Education.

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