Bury Times: Schoolchildren learning lessons in adventure and survival with Commando Joe’s British Army veteran
COMMANDO skills are on the curriculum for one Bury school this term, as pupils from Springside Primary embark on lessons in adventure and survival.
Head teacher Gill Thornicroft has enlisted the help of armed forces veterans Commando Joe’s to help pupils aged from as young as four years-old to build character and resilience with a series of adrenaline-filled lessons.
The school’s newest ‘recruit’ is former Royal Logistic Corps driver Gary Smith, who uses mental and physical tasks to help pupils build strength of character in the face of challenging situations.
Commando Joe’s is a team of veterans from across the armed forces who have retrained to work in schools all over the country offering mentoring and classroom support.
As resident ‘Commando Joe’ at Springside, in Springside Road, Gary works with pupils every Tuesday.
Using cargo nets, barrels and a host of other equipment, with tasks including shelter-building and camouflage, Gary delivers sessions with all pupils from reception through to year six.
Head teacher Gill Thornicroft said she witnessed the work of Commando Joe’s in her previous role at another school and knew she wanted to bring them into Springside.
“They provide another side to education that teachers can find difficult,” she said.
“They have such a fresh approach and different ways of teaching problem-solving.
“Our teachers have been able to learn from Gary too, using some of his exercises in their own classes.”
Ms Thornicroft described Gary as “fabulous”, working with small groups of children, focusing on their social and emotional development.
The emotional impact of what he does for pupils is huge, she said, highlighting the confidence he manages to build in the school’s special needs pupils.
Ms Thornicroft added: “Some children need extra help to develop listening and leadership skills, but thanks to Gary they’re coming on leaps and bounds.”
Before joining Commando Joe’s five years ago, Gary spent three years in the army working as a driver in the Royal Logistic Corps.
He took part in military exercises in Germany, Canada and Kenya – and has also lived in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Fiji.
He now hopes to instil some of his expertise into Bury’s youngsters by branching out to offer his services to more schools in the borough.
Gary said: “I encourage pupils to bounce back from any challenges they face.
“My main focus is on developing their character, with some unique team-building activities designed to get them supporting one another and showing respect, self-awareness and determination.”
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