Problem pupils to be enrol at soldier 'boot camps'


Under government plans, disruptive pupils could be sent to boot camps run by former soldiers to receive a military-style education.

Former army officers who fought in Afghanistan will keep the youngsters under close supervision while teaching them teamwork and basic skills.

There will be a strong emphasis on physical exercise including assault courses and training similar to the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme.

Children will be taught maths skills by learning how to use a map in a forest. They will also be expected to volunteer in their community.

Michael Gove paved the way for the measures in his Education Bill, which focuses on boosting standards and improving behaviour in schools.

There are currently 16,000 youngsters under the age of 16 who are outside the school system, often because they have been excluded and no school will take them in. At present they are taught in one of more than 400 Pupil Referral Units which local authorities are obliged to provide.

Mr Gove said most local authority-run referral units expressed his desire for them to be closed and reopened as academies.

He said he envisaged that they would be run by and modelled on charities such as Skill Force, which trains and hires veterans to teach disadvantaged and disruptive young children.

Peter Cross, OBE, head of Skill Force, has discussed with ministers the possibility of running alternative referral units based on the current Skill Force courses.

Skill Force already teaches 4,000 pupils a year on its once-a-week, two-year course. These pupils, often on the brink of expulsion, are selected by schools to attend the courses.

Mr Cross said the charity has incredible success rates which he attributes to providing the pupils, many of whom are from single families, with a strong male role model.

He said: "Many of the veterans have served in Afghanistan. They are used to solving problems. And they have all been given military-style training. They adapt this for the youngsters and they treat them like adults."

Mr Cross said the charity had also placed injured war veterans alongside their teachers with dramatic effects.

"It teaches them about responsibility, compassion and courage."

January 2011

School Leadership Today