Former soldiers take on pupils
Miles Jermy TROOPS turned teachers are bringing some military-style inspiration into the classroom helping pupils march to progress.A group of 40 students at Great Yarmouth High School are among those benefiting from the work of educational charity Skillforce, which employs ex-servicemen as tutors.
TROOPS turned teachers are bringing some military-style inspiration into the classroom helping pupils march to progress.
A group of 40 students at Great Yarmouth High School are among those benefiting from the work of educational charity Skillforce, which employs ex-servicemen as tutors.
The programme, which started at the school six years ago, has helped transform pupils' pros-pects.
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The emphasis is on combining coursework with practical and extra-curricula activities developing teamwork, personal responsibility and leadership skills.
Tutors such as Simon Knights have taken the expertise acquired serving with armed forces into the classroom.
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A former warrant officer with the Royal Anglian Regiment Simon, 47, combines a natural authority along with a sense of fun that enables him to form a bond with the group of 15 and 16-year-olds.
In a lesson last week Simon and fellow tutor Paul Crabtree were supervising a debate about the death penalty, looking at the countries that have capital punishment and encourag-ing the class to share their views about the issue.
“It is a controversial topic and a good way for the students to get their views across in a structured way,” he said. “They are a great group and all love coming to lessons, I have seen their confidence grow massively. The skills they learn are a great preparation for things like job interviews and preparing CVs.
“The course makes them into more rounded individuals, provides greater awareness of life outside school and a sense of empathy and team skills.
“I did some teaching in the army and always had a lot of empathy with young people and many see us as role models. It is very rewarding and enjoyable, each day is different and this is the best job I have ever done.”
In the two-year course Year 10 and 11 pupils complete the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award and achieve a GCSE equivalent qualification.
The students also enjoy mountain biking in Thetford Forest and a summer camp near Norwich.
Jordan Reed, 15, from Great Yarmouth, said: “I thought this was a good qualification and the skills I learned would be useful because I want to be a policeman. It has improved my communication skills and given me a lot more confidence and self-control.
“The teachers are not too strict and when we go out on trips we really relate to them.”
Both Lloyd Jones and Leon Barker are hoping to join the armed services when they leave school and believe the course has helped prepare them for their future career.
“I have learned skills like map reading and first aid, the tutors are really nice and a bit different to our other teachers,” explained 15-year-old Lloyd.
Leon, 16, who is aiming to join the Royal Military Police, added: “I have gained a lot from the course and have much more confidence. The teachers do a superb job and give us all the support we need.”
East Norfolk Skillforce Team leader Ian Williams is in charge of the instructors at Yarmouth and Lynn Grove High schools.
A former RAF engineer, he believes many of the experiences and skills of ex-service personnel have real benefits in the classroom.
“The students take ownership of their success and failure and it is that sort of personal respons-ibility you learn in the military,” he said.
“A lot of parents comment on how their children have changed at home - they are able to speak with more confidence and express their views. They get to learn many positive life skills and we invest a lot of trust in them. When they go off on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions they are given responsibility to behave and solve problems.
“It has in many cases had a big impact on students and changed their whole attitude to school.
“There is a work hard, play hard ethos and I see this job as being like a Scout leader with attitude producing academic results.”