Monday, December 10, 2012

Problem British pupils to be given military-style training by ex-soldiers

Badly behaved pupils face being given military-style boot camp training under Government plans to draft former soldiers into schools, it was revealed today

Ex-servicemen will be employed to help instil teamwork, discipline and leadership skills among children expelled from mainstream education, it was announced.

Four projects - drawing on the expertise of former members of the Armed Forces - will be given taxpayer funding as part of a œ1.9 million programme designed to raise standards among difficult pupils.

The Government said it would lead to the use of "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 in the classroom".

Ex-servicemen will also take part in one-to-one mentoring to help pupils address behaviour issues, run a range of indoor and outdoor team-building exercises and build confidence among primary schoolchildren about to make the step into secondary education.

It is the latest in a series of moves designed to bolster links between the Armed Forces and schools.  Ministers have already expanded the number of school-based cadet forces and pledged almost œ11m to train former members of the Army, Navy and RAF as teachers.

Teachers' leaders have criticised the deployment of ex-servicemen in the classroom, suggesting that schools risk being used as recruitment grounds for the Armed Forces.  But Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said pupils - particularly those expelled from mainstream school - could benefit from the "values of a military ethos".

It comes amid fears over a gulf in standards between excluded pupils and their peers. Last year, only 1.5 per cent of pupils in alternative education achieved at least five good GCSE including English and maths - about 40 times worse than children in mainstream schooling.

Mr 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.   "Exclusion from school should never mean exclusion from education.

"These projects are helping pupils in alternative provision reach their full potential and are helping to close the attainment gap."

According to the Government, some œ600,000 of funding will go to Cheshire-based Commando Joes', an organisation providing trained mentors for pupils in schools in the most deprived parts of Britain.

Another œ700,000 has been awarded to Challenger Troop in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, to provide leadership training for "disengaged pupils" aged eight to 16.

Knowsley Skills Academy has received œ400,000 to provide pupils with a programme of physical activities, team-building and work-related tuition to prepare them for post-16 education or employment.   Newcastle-based SkillForce was awarded œ200,000 to provide a programme of outdoor challenges, focusing on secondary schools and feeder primaries.

Mike Hamilton, a former bomb disposal expert and director of Commando Joes', said: "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 added: "The instructors are all ex-military personnel - they are role models and kids look up to and aspire to be like them.

"When we go to a school playground children hang on every word. "In some of the  deprived areas we work in, young people have not got grassy areas or anywhere to go. When they come to our sessions they get a chance to socialise in a different way, to be part of a team."


Excluded British pupils find few opportunities outside mainstream state school

Thousands of pupils excluded from state schools are being deprived of the opportunity to gain qualifications that would help them build a future, according to children's campaigners.

Permanent exclusion has always been the ultimate sanction for headteachers, subject to a final appeals process. Last year, there were 5,080 permanent exclusions from state schools. Since September, however, new legislation has made it much harder for parents and carers of excluded children to reverse a school's decision or get it removed from a child's records.

Many schools are reluctant to offer a place to a child who has been excluded from a nearby school as they have a duty to protect pupils from others who may be disruptive. Most excluded children are sent to local-authority-run Pupil Referral Units (PRU), where places cost upwards of œ16,000 a year, compared with around œ4,500 for a place at a mainstream school. In spite of the high cost, PRU pupils are only able to take a limited range of courses.

The units provide a limited careers service and no sixth-form facilities. Despite supportive teachers, bad behaviour is often the norm and vulnerable children are free to mix with other disruptive pupils.

A study by the independent thinktank, Demos, found that only 1% of excluded children received the equivalent of five A* to C grades at GCSE level, compared with 70% of pupils who remained in school. According to the Department of Education, pupils with special educational needs are around nine times more likely to be excluded permanently. Children who are eligible for free school meals are almost four times more likely.

Scout Pedley, 15, was expelled last month from Swakeleys School, Uxbridge, for persistent breaches of the school behaviour code, which included, she says, wearing non-regulation trousers, swearing at a teacher and banging a school door violently. She had been on track to get 13 GCSEs and was in the top 20% of her year group. Her appeal has been rejected and she is now at a Pupil Referral Unit.

This means that, just months before sitting her GCSEs, she has run into a major roadblock. "I am taking Maths, English - trying to get a science - ICT, art and that's it. It's gone from 13 GCSEs to four or five. I have a lot more free time and they don't give out homework. I still want to be an accountant. It's just going to be harder."

Sarah Hannett, the director of the City University/Matrix School Exclusion Project, which provides free legal representation to parents of children who have been excluded, says: "It's a scandal. A disproportionate number of excluded pupils have special needs, or are in care. Plus, kids simply can't get a new place that gives them full access to the curriculum."

Scout says she "wasn't an angel" but says "doesn't deserve to be put in this situation". Her mother, Mandie, says: "She just wants to go back to school, finish her exams and leave at end of year 11, go to college and carry on. Obviously, that's been blown out of the window. You only get one shot at it."


Australia: Students drop old uniforms to conform to political correctness

SCHOOLS are abandoning skirts and tunics for girls in favour of unisex shorts and skorts as part of an overhaul of the traditional student uniform.

The Parents and Citizens Association claims the move is being driven by Gen X and Y parents who want to remove gender bias from the playground.

The Department of Education claims the change is due to teachers wanting girls to be able to play freely in the playground.

However, not all parents are happy with the proposed new look with the many wanting schools to retain a uniform for girls.

A survey of schools by The Sunday Telegraph has found scores of schools preparing to adopt a unisex uniform in the next two years, with some having already made the changeover.

The majority are state public schools, with independent and Catholic schools sticking with the traditional attire.

Parents of students at Winston Hills Public School are being asked to comment on the proposed new look, which the school plans to make mandatory by 2014.

The proposed new uniform to be worn during the warmer months features a polo shirt and shorts for both sexes.

Sussex Inlet Public School on the south coast has also gone unisex with girls wearing culottes and skorts while Kanwal Public School and Wyong Public School are also offering alternate uniforms. The shift was being driven by parents who wanted to remove gender bias from the classroom P and C regional spokeswoman Sharryn Brownlee said.

"It is an incredibly divisive issue. Some parents still believe little girls should look like little girls," she said.


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