The history of learning how to perform one's duties in the Royal Navy, which was officially formed as Britain's maritime defence force in 1660 with earlier roots back to the Tudor period of Henry VIII, can be broadly separated into 'training' and 'education', and trainee type: ratings, artificers (who became Engineering Technicians, ET's, in 2010) officers, and the children of RN personnel attending Royal Naval Schools oversees.

Naval Instructors and Schoolmasters, as separate teaching branches of the Royal Navy, were amalgamated in 1946, which is almost certainly the reason for Instructor Officers to become known as 'Schoolies'. They also undertook a wide range of specialist appointments in Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC), Resettlement, Information Systems (IS), Management Training, and many other areas. Instructor Officers joined the branch via multiple pathways, including transferring from other branches, but Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) Dartmouth, Royal Naval College (RNC) Greenwich, HMS Drake and HMS Victory were the most common entry colleges/establishments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Naval Instructor specialisation was reformed by the Order in Council of 8 November, 1918, as follows: Chief Naval Instructor became Instructor Captain; Naval Instructor of 15 years' seniority became Instructor Commander; Naval Instructor of eight years' seniority became Instructor Lieutenant Commander; Naval Instructor of six years' seniority became Instructor Lieutenant. It was also possible to join in the rank of Sub Lieutenant.

To distinguish different branches from the General List (GL) of Executive Officers, who had no coloured cloth between their stripes, various colours had been introduced after 1863: Surgeons (scarlet); Instructors (light blue); Paymasters (white), Ordnance (blue); Engineers (purple), Electrical (green). The Royal Navy finally abolished coloured stripes in May 1955, except for those who needed to be clearly recognisable as non-combatant under the Geneva Convention. These included medical and dental officers and civilian officers required to wear uniform.

The education received by Instructor officers while under training at BRNC consisted of classes in Naval History, Service Writing and Wardroom Etiquette. Specialist teacher training consisted of classes covering speaking in public and giving lectures, and seniority was based on previous education; for example a 1st class honours degree would result in a higher seniority in the rank, as would a teacher training certificate. From the 1960s a small number of Chief Petty Officer Artificers with Higher National Certificate (HNC) qualifications and Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), gained at a civilian college, were promoted. In the following we summarise and expand on these categorisations in conjunction with the role of Instructor Officers from the perspective of education and training, and in doing so we make use of our own experience as RNIOs, and other reliable sources.

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