7 Dec 2012

Military-style education gets new government funds

Former soldiers will help give troubled children a sense of discipline and self-worth, according to the government, which is launching a new £1.9m initiative to pass on military values.

Soldiers marching past (getty)

Education Secretary Michael Gove announced four projects which aim to help children who have been excluded from school learn more discipline and get better results.

The new schemes will send former servicemen and women into schools to build teamwork and leadership skills, through a combination of mentoring, outward bound activities and various group exercises.

Pupils who land in alternative provision, because they have been excluded from mainstream schools, lag far behind other children in terms of educational achievement.

The Department for Education estimates that last year only 1.5 per cent of excluded pupils managed to get five GCSEs at grade C or above, which is about 40 times worse than those in regular education.

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Mr Gove said he believed every child could benefit from military style values.

“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,” he said.

Projects nationwide

Four projects around the country will be sharing the new funds: Commando Joes in Cheshire will get £600,000, Challenger Troop in Kent will be given £700,000, with £400,000 going to Knowsley Skills Academy in Merseyside and £200,000 to SkillForce in Newcastle.

The chosen schemes are also designed to help children to prepare for jobs and courses after they leave school at 16, and work with younger pupils about to move up into secondary school.

When we go to a school playground, children hang on every word. Mike Hamilton, Commando Joes

Mike Hamilton, who runs Commando Joes, served with the British Army for eight years as a physical training instructor, and went through two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While working with a bomb disposal squad, he helped to clear a minefield in Iraq, so that children living in the village could play safely.

He said children would be taught the same skills he had been taught in the army, and were inspired by what they learned.

“The instructors are all ex-military personnel – they are role models and kids look up to and aspire to be like them,” he said.

“When we go to a school playground, children hang on every word.”

Mr Hamilton said his organisation wanted to make sure every young person was motivated to learn, and to be involved again, as part of their community.

Head teachers who have worked with all four projects have reported improvements in pupils who have been hard to reach, and say it could make them less likely to be excluded.