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£1m boost for military-style schools project

A company that enlists former military personnel to help inspire and motivate pupils is in line for a £1 million government grant to extend its work.

The Department for Education is this week expected to announce the funding of Commando Joe’s as part of a package of support for projects working with schools.

Commando Joe’s was set up by Mike Hamilton, a former bomb-disposal expert who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He originally pitched his idea on BBC Two programme Dragons' Den; although he failed to secure support from the Dragons he subsequently went on to win a £600,000 grant from the DfE in 2012 and a further £1 million last year.

Such projects are not the only attempt to inject military values into education. The government’s Troops to Teachers programme provides a fast-track route into education for former army personnel.

The £2 million scheme had aimed to attract 180 service leavers into teaching over two years, but earlier this year it emerged that just 102 had joined the first two cohorts, the majority non-graduates.

Originally based in north-west England, Commando Joe’s has now expanded to work with more than 200 schools across the country, providing both military-style fitness training and activities and one-to-one coaching and mentoring to improve pupils’ resilience, self-discipline and self-confidence.

A study by Swansea University academics found that 56 per cent of pupils taking part in the scheme improved their maths grades, 46 per cent improved their reading grades and 70 per cent showed improvement in writing.

Mr Hamilton said the extra funding would enable Commando Joe’s to work with more schools. “We’re focusing on fostering altruism, bounce-back, comfort-zone busting and determination in schoolchildren, all of which ultimately boost attendance and attainment,” he said.

Commando Joe’s is one of a series of projects run by former armed forces personnel that have received funding from the DfE in recent years. Others include Challenger Troop and SkillForce, which were awarded £1 million and £967,000 respectively last year.

Related stories: 

Troops to Teachers programme recruits just 41 trainees – 11 July 2014

'Military' free school approval withdrawn after it fails to pass muster – 4 March 2014

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