Former soldiers will be drafted into schools to help build pupils’ character

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan wants ex-armed services personnel to develop values such as self-confidence, respect and leadership in schoolchildren

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The Independent Online

Former soldiers are to be drafted into schools to help build character and resilience amongst today’s disadvantaged schoolchildren.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is calling on ex-armed services personnel to develop values such as self-confidence, respect and leadership amongst the next generation of young people.

The former troops will attend both schools and pupil referral units for disruptive pupils excluded from school to instil a military-style ethos amongst pupils, under a £4.8m expansion of pilot projects first initiated under her predecessor Michael Gove.

“For pupils who may have faced challenges or difficulties in their personal life, these initiatives run by former armed services personnel can offer a sense of greater aspiration and can help build the skills and confidence they need to go on to good jobs and successful futures,” Ms Morgan said.

Her boost for the projects comes as her Labour rival, shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, moves to evoke memories of Winston Churchill by today calling on schools to promote more of the “British spirit” in the classroom. He is expected to tell a conference run by the think-tank Demos: “Winston Churchill was bang on when he said failure is not fatal and it is the courage to continue that counts. The great British spirit comes from our ability to overcome adversity and setbacks... Because we learn best from the knockbacks that we receive, that is the message schools must send to pupils. I want to see the great British spirit in all our classrooms.”

Nicky Morgan wants ex-soldiers to inspire children

The decision by the two politicians to urge schools to concentrate more on character building stems from a growing realisation that running schools like “exam factories” – concentrating solely on grades – is not producing the type of young person needed to compete in a globalised economy.  The CBI first drew attention to the need to produce more “rounded and grounded” human beings.

A review of the pilot projects sending ex-military personnel into schools, published yesterday, said teachers, parents and pupils all believed they had a “positive impact on the confidence, self-esteem, self-respect and inter-personnel skills of those involved”.

The projects deliver what they call “an  A, B, C, D building blocks of character” model into schools. This involves teaching altruism and volunteering, learning from mistakes to overcome failure and try again, “Comfort Zone Busting” to try out new activities in unfamiliar environments, establishing high aspirations and achieving skills and qualifications beyond the classroom.

Simon Read, founder and chief executive of Challenger Troop CICV, one of the projects involved, said the extra funding “will enable us to reach even more young people and improve their learning outcomes and life chances”.  Under the pilot, the scheme reached 52,000 pupils in a total of 460 schools.

Meanwhile, Ms Morgan sought to distance herself from her predecessor Michael Gove’s regime in an interview with The Observer yesterday by saying it had been “unhelpful and created a false impression of ministers’ real attitude to teachers” to refer to opponents of government reforms as “the Blob”. The term, which refers to a man-eating amoeba in a 1950s US sci-fi movie, was used by both Mr Gove and his supporters to paint a picture of an obstructive teaching establishment that was resistant to reform.