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New research reveals military veterans working in schools boost grades and behaviour.

A year-long study by academics at Swansea University unveiled this morning offers the first concrete independent evidence that veterans can make a real difference in some of the most challenging schools in the country. The first study to be published into this kind of work – funded over the past few years by the Department for Education’s “military ethos” scheme – the paper found veterans working as instructors from Commando Joe’s in Leigh had a “significant” impact on pupils’ behaviour and results.

Commando Joe’s retrains veterans leaving the army, navy and air force with new skills to teach team-building and character in primary and secondary schools. Providing veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq with new career paths and also giving pupils the chance to learn resilience and courage from personnel who have had their strength of character tested to the limit on duty.

In fact the report, published in Archives of Exercise in Health and Disease, says that, compared to schools without intervention, pupils in schools employing Commando Joe’s instructors showed these improvements after just three months:

  • Higher Maths and English scores
  • Greater improvements in positive behaviour
  • Greater reductions in hyperactive and irritable behaviour.
  • After six months, results showed improved attendance.

It’s a massive boost to the Leigh-based firm, founded by former Commando and bomb disposal expert Mike Hamilton in 2009 from his bedroom. The company went on to secure £3.18m in grant funding from the Department for Education over four years and has placed veterans in over 300 UK schools.

Although the government’s “military ethos” funding programme caused a sensation when it was launched, Commando Joe’s has now become the first company to produce independent data showing their work as a success.

“We know from the reaction we get at school gates every day that Commando Joe’s instructors are having a massive impact on pupils across the country,” says company director Mike Hamilton. “We work in some of the most deprived areas of the UK and we speak to head teachers every week who are amazed at the turn-around we help some pupils achieve.

“This study provides real analysis of what we do in schools and proves that we achieve amazing results. We’re the only company to adopt a whole school approach and work with every child regardless of ability – this is the only acceleration programme of its kind in the UK. Yes, we help boost academic scores – but it also proves we help transform behaviour. To me that character-building is at the heart of what we do when we say No Child Left Behind.”

From one-to-one mentoring in the classroom, to team-building exercises and a friendly face at the school gate, Commando Joe’s instructors pride themselves on bringing the best of their service backgrounds to teach pupils about positivity under pressure and resilience in the face of whatever life throws at them.

Indeed, one of the major findings of this report, which focused on 451 pupils across 12 schools, was the extent to which instructors made a difference to attainment by providing a “positive role model”.

The report concluded that Commando Joe’s “significantly improved the educational attainment and engagement of primary and secondary school children over a six month period. Furthermore, the intervention was associated with significant improvements in both positive social and problem behaviours across an academic year. Importantly, this intervention was effective irrespective of school level or sex.”

For MD Mike, the research proves his instructors are top of the class: “We understand the massive pressures that schools are under these days – and our veterans are there to be a support to teachers in whatever way they need us. We firmly believe that the team-building and character-forming skills our veterans can pass on help children from whatever background realize their potential. Now we have the results to prove it we hope that even more head teachers will enlist our help.”

Read Report here.