Ex-soldiers to be brought into schools to help give troubled pupils discipline

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Former soldiers will be sent into classrooms to instil discipline and help raise results among troubled youngsters.

Under a new £1.9m initiative, four projects will be set up to pass on values taught in the military to children who have been excluded from school, Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced.

Ex-servicemen will be employed to help instil teamwork, discipline and leadership skills through mentoring, outward bound activities and other group exercises such as military-style obstacle courses.

Ministers hope the schemes will raise standards among pupils in alternative provision – those who have been excluded from mainstream education – who often lag behind other children.

Last year, only 1.5 per cent of pupils in alternative provision achieved at least five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and maths – about 40 times worse than their peers in mainstream education, according to Department for Education (DfE) figures.

“Every child can benefit from the values of a military ethos,” Mr Gove said. “Self-discipline and teamwork are at the heart of what makes our Armed Forces the best in the world – and are exactly what all young people need to succeed.

“Exclusion from school should never mean exclusion from education.”

About £600,000 is going to Commando Joes’ in Cheshire; £700,000 to Challenger Troop in Tunbridge Wells, Kent; £400,000 to Knowsley Skills Academy in Prescot, Merseyside; and £200,000 to Newcastle-based SkillForce.

All four use activities including one-to-one mentoring, military-style obstacle courses and team-building exercises, to help re-integrate pupils and prepare them for post-16 courses or jobs, as well as helping primary school children in their move to secondary school.

Headteachers working with all four projects getting cash have already reported an improvement in “difficult to reach pupils”.

The boost is part of a wider aim to bring military ethos into the education system, including expansion of the school-based cadets; developing the Troops to Teachers programme; and a rise in the Service Children Premium for Service Children.

Former bomb disposal expert Mike Hamilton, director of Commando Joes’, said the £600,000 will let him train 30 more instructors to expand the company nationwide.

The 32-year-old, who served in the Royal Engineers for eight years, formed the company after leaving the army.

Starting Commando Joes’ as an after-school activity in Manchester in 2009, he has slowly expanded, recruiting extra instructors to teach military-style fitness and one-to-one mentoring, as well as tailor-made team-building exercises and activities.

“We teach children the skills we learned in the army. Not everyone wants to be a soldier, but the skills we learn in the military are brilliant and I think anybody can use them in any job,” he said.

Commando Joes’ also gives work to ex-servicemen and women.

Mr Hamilton said: “The Government funding has probably fast-tracked us by about five or 10 years.”