Former soldiers armed to teach

South Shore Academy pupils take part in an army assault course.  Michael Todd and Dave Aston with pupils Robert Markillie, Joshua Errington and Marcus Sergeant.
South Shore Academy pupils take part in an army assault course. Michael Todd and Dave Aston with pupils Robert Markillie, Joshua Errington and Marcus Sergeant.
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Military men have been drafted in to improve behaviour, attendance, attainment and morale at a Blackpool secondary school.

South Shore Academy has brought in the former war heroes as part of a £40,000 plan to improve pupil behaviour.

The school is the first on the Fylde coast to bring in Commando Joe’s, a company which recruits former military personell to work with children in challenging areas.

The trio do one-on-one work, physical acitivities or remove disruptive pupils from classes in their roles as associate members of staff at the St Annes Road school for the 39-week project.

And they’ve already been given the thumbs up by children and teenagers, who say they have immediate respect for the camo-wearing workers.

Year Seven pupil Jake Heathwaite said: “They’re scary if you’re badly behaved but people are better behaved in the classes they’re in.

“If someone’s bad in lessons then they’ll take us out so the teacher can get on for the rest of the class.”

Dave Aston, 51, was in the Royal Marines for 30 years, serving everywhere from Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo to Northern Ireland, and now works with Year 11 boys on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Michael Todd, 24, was a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy for four years, working under the Official Secrets Act, and now works with all Year Seven pupils on Mondays and Fridays.

Becky Turner works with Year 11 girls on Monday mornings.

The trio do not teach lessons but work with groups alongside teachers and run out of class activities as rewards.

12-year-old Jake added: “We respect them because they’re here to help us, not just to teach us.”

Mr Todd said: “Some children think teachers are just there to hassle them, we can work with them from a different angle but they see we’re here to work alongside the teachers.”

Vice principal Graham Gerrard said: “The idea is to motivate students, we’re just hoping they’re someone else who can create that spark in young people to ensure they can succeed.

“They’re working to improve health and wellbeing as well as attendance and punctuality.”

When Palatine Sports College, the school before it converted to academy status in January, was visited by Ofsted inspectors in they noted pupil behaviour required improvement and the achievement of pupils was inadequate.

They also reported:

> A small minority of students’ poor attendance prevents them from being as successful as they could be

> A small minority of students lose interest in their education as they get older

> Not enough allowance is made for the different learning needs of students

> But, the majority of students behaved well and worked hard

While South Shore Academy is now a new school, part of the chain Bright Futures Educational Trust, bosses have said they are keen to tackle teenager’s issues to “overcome barriers to learning”.

Mr Todd said: “We’re trying to instill in them some respect, for school and for other people, those things that children don’t necessarily get these days.”

Year 11 pupil Robert Markillie, 15, said: “We look up to them because they’ve been in the military, they’ve got a different status.

“I’d say they’re well worth the cost.”

Classmate Hamza Shah, also 15, added: “We respect them. When they’re sitting next to you in class you feel like you have to do your work, you know someone’s looking out for you.”