Tom Burkard is a Visiting Professor of Education Policy at the University of Derby and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies. He 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. In a speech delivered at St Stephen’s Club on 5 November 2009, Michael Gove acknowledged that “Tom Burkard has done more than anyone living in the fight against illiteracy in this country.”
Since 1997 Prof Burkard has been writing about education for the Centre for Policy Studies, and his reports have played a significant role in shaping policy. His practical experience in education include a 3-year stint teaching basic literacy skills in a Norwich comprehensive and 9 years as an instructor in the Territorial Army. Prof Burkard found the latter to be far more effective at motivating and socialising young people—and also much more in tune with his libertarian instincts.
With Capt Affan Burki he will be opening the Phoenix Free School in Oldham in September 2014. It will be the first school in Britain (and possibly the world) where all teachers are veterans of the Armed Forces. This has attracted intense media attention, mostly for the wrong reasons: Capt Burki and Prof Burkard have no intention of starting a ‘military academy’ where pupils are subject to the harsh discipline that was abandoned half a century ago when National Service was abolished. Rather, the military devolves authority and responsibility to a degree that is almost inconceivable in education, where teachers’ careers depend upon slavish adherence to the latest fads. At Phoenix, teachers will have unparalleled freedom to teach as they see fit.
Inside the Secret Garden: the progressive decay of liberal education (University of Buckingham Press, 2007)