UK

Woolwich Attack: Toby Young Says Military Schools In Oldham Could Prevent Radicalisation

24/05/2013 12:42 BST | Updated 24/05/2013 12:57 BST

Schools staffed entirely by soldiers could help prevent a repeat of the Woolwich attack, according to an ally of the Education Secretary.

Toby Young said the pilot project in Oldham would be a "good start" in preventing young people from being radicalised and should be supported by everyone in light of the brutal murder of soldier Lee Rigby in South East London on Wednesday.

Young, a right-wing columnist who has been at the forefront of the controversial free schools movement, was criticised on Twitter for using the attack to garner support for the education reforms.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has championed the idea of setting up military academies in the most deprived parts of Britain, saying students would benefit from the Armed Forces' "unique technical and vocational expertise".

But teaching unions have rubbished the plans.

When the Oldham school was first mooted in 2011, Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "The idea that you can simply take the skills and abilities you have learned in war or on the parade ground or through army manoeuvres, and those can be translated and digested into teaching without any further training is ridiculous."

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Young said the idea of the military schools had been conceived in the aftermath of the London riots of 2011.

He wrote: "There's every reason to think that a school with a traditional, military ethos will discourage young Muslim boys from becoming radicalised as well."

Proposals for the Phoenix Free School in Oldham were initially rejected by the Department for Education, but the decision was overturned this week.

Its headmaster will be Affan Burki, who is a Muslim and a serving army captain.

Young said students would be more likely to respect the army than the Woolwich suspects.

Free schools operate independently of local education authorities and have greater freedom over what they teach.

They are being opened by groups of parents, religious groups and charities.

Critics say they are being built in disproportionately middle-class areas, and have raised fears over the freedom given to faith groups as well as the lack of formal teaching qualifications of staff.

Bousted told The Huffington Post UK: "We have no problem with former soldiers, hairdressers, lawyers, bankers, or even journalists becoming teachers provided they have been trained to teach children.

“To be effective as teachers, people need to understand the wide range of ways in which different children learn and develop so that they can tailor how they teach to the children in their class and help children with all levels of ability."