Press release

Ex-military personnel to drive up standards among disengaged pupils

Details about new projects which will employ former armed forces personnel to inspire disengaged pupils.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Education Secretary Michael Gove today announced £1.9 million funding for 4 projects which employ former armed forces personnel to improve educational achievement among pupils disengaged with education.

He said that the 4 organisations would support the government’s commitment to improve education for all pupils.

They will instill teamwork, discipline and leadership in pupils through mentoring, outward bound activities and other group exercises, and therefore improve their self-belief, attainment and behaviour, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Evidence shows that the attainment of pupils in alternative provision lags far behind that of other children.

Figures from the Department for Education show that last year, only 1.5% of pupils in alternative provision managed 5 or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths - about 40 times worse than their peers in mainstream education.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

Every child can benefit from the values of a military ethos. 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.

The 4 projects are: Commando Joe’s in Cheshire; Challenger Troop in Tunbridge Wells, Kent; SkillForce in Newcastle; and Knowsley Skills Academy in Prescot which are already helping pupils from some of the UK’s most deprived areas.

Trainers work closely with teachers, schools and parents to develop and use activities aimed at improving engagement with education and attainment.

Activities include:

  • One-to-one mentoring skills to help address potential behaviour issues and keep pupils committed to their education.
  • Military-style obstacle courses to engage and motivate hard-to-reach pupils and help them understand how to transfer the elements which helped them succeed into the classroom.
  • A mix of indoor and outdoor team-building exercises with an educational focus to encourage discipline, leadership, teamwork and good behaviour.
  • Working with schools and other agencies to re-integrate pupils who are not in education, employment or training and prepare them for post-16 courses or jobs.
  • Helping primary school children in their transition to secondary school through building their self-confidence.

Tony Hollingsworth, Director of Knowsley Skills Academy said:

Knowsley Skills Academy has been working with some very disadvantaged young children for 4 years. We are very excited and welcome the opportunity to work with the Department for Education to help them take advantage of the benefits of a military ethos and in so doing, help them achieve an excellent education.

Peter Cross OBE, Chief Executive Officer of SkillForce, said:

Our vision is that every young person, whatever their background or ability, is given the chance to fulfil their true potential and become a valued member of their community. We are working with the Department for Education to promote the benefits of a military ethos in school to support young people.

Mike Hamilton, Director of Commando Joe’s, said:

We have been working with disadvantaged, vulnerable pupils and young people at risk of exclusion for several years now and our aim has always been to provide them with the best opportunities and strategies to cope and engage in everyday situations - situations that they often find difficult and challenging.

Being able to team up with the Department for Education is fantastic and we are looking forward to being able to work alongside teachers in schools to roll-out the Commando Joe’s military ethos. We hope to give many more pupils the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits thus helping them to achieve an excellent education.

Simon Dean, founder and chief executive of Challenger Troop CIC, said:

We are delighted to be given this opportunity to help a greater number of young people. We see first-hand how our programmes make a positive impact on a young person’s attitude, equipping with them with the skills to make a positive contribution to themselves and their community.

Many headteachers working with the projects are already reporting that some of the hardest-to-reach pupils are engaging in lessons, including literacy and maths, and are now less likely to be excluded.

Keith Marden, former, headteacher of Sherwood Primary School, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said:

Challenger Troop provided a wealth of stimulating and motivational activities for all 24 children taking part in the six-week programme. Many of the children suffer emotional and behavioural difficulties which makes school very demanding for them. However, the excitement, engagement and enjoyment of the programme was inspirational and led to much improved attitude and behaviour at home and at school.

Kate Constant, acting principal of Stanley Grove Primary Academy, in Manchester, said:

The work that Commando Joe’s has done in our school has not only motivated pupils to engage in the classroom, but has encouraged a greater sense of team work, tolerance and a willingness to challenge themselves, enabling them to reach their full potential. The sessions are loved by the pupils and staff alike.

Mark Midgley, deputy headteacher of South Shields Community School in Tyne and Wear, said:

SkillForce has had a major contribution to the learning, progress, achievement and inclusion for all of the students that they have worked with across the key stage 3, 4 and 5 within South Shields Community School. The partnership work they have developed has had a significant impact whilst enriching the learning journey of many students through raised aspiration and self esteem programmes of study.

Notes to editors:

  1. A total of £1.9 million was awarded to 4 new grants supporting a military ethos in schools from September 2012: * Commando Joe’s has been awarded £600,000 to provide trained mentors to pupils in schools in the most deprived and hard-to-reach areas of the UK. * Challenger Troop has been awarded £700,000 to provide leadership and engagement programmes for vulnerable or disengaged pupils aged 8 to 16 in two counties, which will include particularly challenging urban areas. * Knowsley Skills Academy has been awarded £400,000 to provide young people with a programme of physical activities, team building and work-related learning with particular focus on re-engaging young people identified as NEET, and preparing them for post-16 education, training or employment. * SkillForce has been awarded £200,000 to provide a programme of challenges in the outdoor environment, integrated to support literacy and numeracy, working with secondary and their feeder primary schools to support pupils’ transition from primary to secondary education.

  2. We are already working to bring military ethos into our education system to help raise standards and tackle issues such as behaviour. This includes:

  • Expansion of the school-based cadets to create around 100 more units by 2015. In June, the Prime Minister announced £10.85 million funding for this.
  • Developing the Troops to Teachers programme, which aims to increase the number of Service Leavers making the transition to teaching. This is a new Initial Teacher Training (ITT) programme designed to target and train a select group of service leavers with the greatest potential to become outstanding teachers and leaders.
  • Exploring how academies and free schools can use their freedoms to foster a military ethos and raise standards.

DfE enquiries

Central newsdesk - for journalists 020 7783 8300

General enquiries - for members of the public 0370 000 2288

Published 7 December 2012