Mike Hamilton OBE spent nine years in the army, serving in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s had a multitude of roles from bomb disposal, physical training instructor, training and mentoring, to delivering the army’s recruiting programme in schools. Whilst working in education Mike realised that there was a lack of funding for schools and a real shortage of role models in primary schools, specifically male teachers. He founded Commando Joe’s in 2009 and has supported more than 3,000 schools across the UK with developing behaviour change and character education. Army&You caught up with Mike to find out more…
“We utilise the expertise of former service personnel by using the core values associated with military such as self-discipline, confidence and teamwork, to help improve educational outcomes for pupils,” explains Mike.
WHOLE SCHOOL APPROACH
Using its ethos ‘no child left behind’, Commando Joe’s provides early intervention for those disengaged with their education, alongside pupils who excel academically.
Mike adds: “A contributing factor to our success is that our programme is a whole school approach and supports all staff, pupils and parents in any educational setting.”
The programme has been developed through evidence-based research and has been endorsed and part funded by the Department for Education.
The head teacher of Kingsland C of E Primary says: “Commando Joe’s is having a very positive impact on pupils’ attendance and punctuality.
“Pupils, particularly boys, are keen and enthusiastic to get into school before the start of the day because they see Commando Joe as a positive role model.”
SERVICE PUPIL SUPPORT
Although programmes are designed for all pupils, Mike recognises that service children sometimes have extra challenges.
“Having a parent away and moving every couple of years can have a huge impact. An operational tour can bring another set of challenges,” he explained.
“To have someone in school who has experienced these challenges and can reassure them that everything will be okay and that they understand, is a massive benefit to the young person.”
Commando Joe’s involves the whole school so that young people don’t feel like they have been targeted or singled out.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
“To have someone in school who can reassure [service children] that everything will be okay and that they understand, is a massive benefit to the young person.”
However, Mike says: “We may ask a service child to be the team leader or take a role that we know would support their self-esteem and confidence.
“We can mentor a number of young people and get them to talk about how they feel and any anxieties they may have.
“It may be as simple as placing pins on a map where they have travelled in the forces or helping them write a letter or email to mum or dad who is away.”
The programme includes an online portal for teachers to access the resources and enable them to map and assess character traits such as resilience, empathy and self-awareness. Mike varies the activities for the different age groups and has been supported by many explorers and adventurers including Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Ed Stafford and recently Levison Wood.
Pupil Mohammed (10) loved taking part: “Our work has been really fun. We have learnt about lots of brave people. Ernest Shackleton never gave up – even when he failed, he would try again. That inspires us!”
Mike has designed a series of top-secret missions for schools to take part in.
“One of our topics for Year 5 is Tim Peake and the pupils follow in his footsteps to be a fully, fledged astronaut,” he says.
“In our secondary school programme students have to survive for 24-hours in school, because there has been a catastrophic cyber attack on the UK’s national grid.”
A secondary school parent has seen the benefits for her son: “I never get anything out of Craig about his day at school, but he got a postcard about his curriculum work and how he has improved his resilience. That’s exactly what I want for my child.”
During the coronavirus crisis, Commando Joe’s has continued to support schools and key worker children. Find out more at commandojoes.co.uk