A British Army tutor was given an education award after helping thousands of soldiers improve their literacy and numeracy skills…

Kay Whitehouse was recognised for her work with troops – including Gurkhas – at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) in Catterick. Kay, who delivers training in maths and English for around 250 infantrymen a year, was named Northern Region Inspirational Tutor of the Year. The award, presented by the Learning and Work Institute, as part of their Festival of Learning, recognises 16 years of working in functional skills for the Ministry of Defence.

Many of the soldiers Kay works with have left school without achieving any qualifications – and she has helped some of them to read a book for the first time.

Kay, the ITC Functional Skills Development Manager, said: “I am continually inspired and motivated to see that learning and acquiring new skills, knowledge and understanding, builds our soldiers’ confidence. It enables them to assimilate their military training while contributing to their own personal growth.”

Kay, who is married to a British Army officer, credits her success to the “wonderful, inspiring education,” she received at school. When she started working with the Army in 2000 she was surprised how many recruits were arriving with reading and writing levels below national standards.

Kay, of Bedale, said: “The last thing they wanted was to return to the classroom. This inspired me to ensure my lessons were more relevant and based around the recruit’s intrinsic desire to join the Army.”

Kay developed a programme of contextualised learning, teaching English and maths using exercises that the soldiers could relate to, such as map reading and weapon handling. She has also developed special programmes for Foreign and Commonwealth soldiers who sometimes struggle with the accents and colloquialisms used by Army training staff.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Tingey, Deputy Commandant at ITC, said: “The importance of functional skills at the ITC must not be underestimated. Recruits arrive at the ITC with a range of educational start standards, many coming from very underprivileged backgrounds and disillusioned with education prior to arriving in Catterick.

"Kay’s passion for learning and experience in the functional skills area, both in terms of management and delivery of education, has inspired countless recruits to rediscover, or in some cases discover for the first time, a thirst for knowledge.”

Kay, who has worked at the ITC for the past nine years, plans the delivery, teaching and learning for 23 three-week courses every year. She is responsible for the largest number of British Army recruits with functional skills needs in any single location. Kay contacts every individual with potential functional skills needs prior to their arrival at the ITC – where all the Army’s infantrymen are trained – and organises for one-to-one support where necessary.

All learners who receive either individual support from Kay, or who attend a designated functional skills course at the ITC, achieve a 100 per cent pass rate at entry level three (EL3).

Lt Col Tingey added: “The success rates that are achieved are simply outstanding and are directly linked to the emphasis and effort that Kay continues to put into functional skills for recruits. It is not just the attainment of educational standards that is impressive, it is also the enthusiasm for learning that is engendered in every recruit that passes through.”

Kay was presented with her award in the ITC officers’ mess, at a ceremony which was attended by soldiers currently undergoing functional skills training and class teachers from Darlington College.

Kay receives support from Darlington College which has a unique satellite college in Catterick Garrison assisting with the educational needs of the Army and surrounding communities.