A Preston school which has been ordered to improve by Ofsted has come up with a novel solution – bringing in the army.
Fulwood Academy is working with UK Military School to improve their pupils’ behaviour, after the school was criticised by Ofsted.
And the ex military man brought in to help out is former pupil Greg Dunnings, once Preston’s strongest man.
He has been working one-to-one with some of the students whose behaviour has the potential to ruin their future.
Greg has taken Year 10 student Bradley Walch under his wing after the 14-year-old admitted to having a rough start to his secondary school life.
“I was really quite bad when I started school and got bored very easily,” Bradley said.
“My grades weren’t going very high and I had to keep going away from class because I was being bad.
“But since I’ve been working with Greg, I found being bad boring. I didn’t want to try and beat the system anymore.”
Bradley is one of around 30 students Greg is working with and explains why Principal Stephen Henry brought him in.
“It’s about setting targets and goals with the children and helping them work towards those,” Greg said.
“We work with lots of schools across Merseyside and Lancashire and we approached Fulwood Academy about bringing us in.
“It sees me work with around 30 children but I’m available to anyone who wants to speak to me.
“They wanted a male role model and as an ex-pupil someone to show where some positive life choices can take you.”
Greg almost lost his leg serving in Afghanistan seven years ago after his sergeant stepped on bomb.
The blast saw shrapnel rip through Greg’s leg but after multiple operations, the 26-year-old has almost made a full recovery.
Now a military mentor, Greg says he’s had some really positive results since he began working at the Academy 10 weeks ago.
“I’m working with children who have behavioural issues,” he said.
“It’s about finding the reasons why children behave like they do.
“For Bradley it was that he didn’t have a release. We agreed that if he hits his grades, attendance and behaviour targets, I’d ‘beast’ him in the gym for an hour every Friday.
“It’s been really positive with not just Bradley but lots of children. Their behaviour and grades have dramatically improved.
“I’ll be here as long as the school wants me too, but it’s definitely been a success so far.”
The military school works with 39 organisations in Lancashire and Merseyside but the Academy is the first in Preston, Greg says.
The military group usually goes into schools and offers 12 week programmes.
After showing students the moral, social and physical values of the military, they would normally perform a ‘passing out’ in front of parents.
But the alternative arrangement at the Academy, which has an Ofsted rating of ‘requires improvement’, is one of several at the school which aims to improve students’ long term goals.
When inspectors visited the school in October 2016, they said ‘The school works hard to promote pupils’ personal development through its key values of ‘aim high, work hard, be nice and no excuses’.
But inspectors also said: “Teaching is not yet consistently strong enough across all subjects to ensure that all groups of pupils make good progress.”
Inspectors also noted: “Outcomes for pupils require improvement because not enough pupils are making good progress in English and mathematics.
“There are instances of unacceptable behaviour but these are reducing rapidly because of effective behaviour management strategies.”
Principal Stephen Henry said: “The Academy runs several mentoring programmes, one with Manchester Metropolitan University and the latest with UK Military School and we have previously worked with Skillforce.
“All these programmes aim to develop pupils aspirations for a place at university or future careers and develop their character.
“Overall we’ve seen a real improvement in behaviour and in their classwork.”
The school also offers a Brilliant club, a debating society and a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) club among others.
The Brilliant Club sees students achieving the top grades take on university level takes before being graded at degree level.
The STEM Club sees those interested in one or more of the four topics compete in competitions with students from the school recently being awarded Best Newcomer at the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) Robotics Challenge.
And the Debating Club sees students research a topic before discussing it in front of their peers, which Stephen says had dramatically improved the confidence of those involved.
The club was recently awarded the Talk the Talk - Confident Communication for life award.