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Military ethos in school

(37 Posts)
littlemissbeth Sat 24-Jan-15 18:39:34

Hi all,
I'm new to mumsnet, so please bare with me if I do anything wrong!
I would like to know your opinions and experience of "Commando Joes".
This is a company where ex soldiers go into schools (including my daughters primary school" to be a positive role model for children.
I feel that a man calling himself 'Commando Joe', wearing a military style uniform working with young children. I do not want my child growing up with any military values. It has been argued that these guys are a positive role model. I question this.After all, a commando is a trained killer, who leads others into raids. His outfit glorifies war.
I am concerned that children's opinions may be restricted.
I don't understand what makes an armed forces veteran particularly qualified to develop and improve life chances of young children. The key words here being 'armed' and 'forces'.
The deputy head has argued that there us no military ethos, in that case, why is it a selling point on commando joes website? Why is he wearing military uniform and why is he called commando joe?
The school had a new head and deputy a year and half ago and since then about 80% of old staff have left and newly qualified teachers have come in.
it also appears that commando joe is being used as a punishment tool. If children are naughty they have to spend a portion of play time with commando joe.
last week a few children were messing about in a class. Commando joe came in and said the whole class would miss lunch time on the friday. The idea if punnishing a whole class for the behaviour of a few in this day and age is shocking. During their detention, commando joe got the children to write letters to their parents explaining they had been naughty. My daughter had done nothing wrong, but she felt forced to own up to it because if she didn't, she'd get another detention.
I spoke to the class teacher last week and she said she would get the head to call me. She didn't but the deputy head did, and insisted that some of the things my girl had told me were not true. I said I'd discuss it with her but made it clear that I didn't want my daughter growing up with military ethos. She insisted there was no military ethos, but I raised the points about his name and uniform.
My daughter came home crying that day, because before I'd spoken to the deputy, she'd called my daughter into the office and accused her of spreading rumours. She reduced her to tears then told her iff for crying.
my daughter was shocked and horrified when I told her that the deputy said her claims weren't true. She swears that they are true, and I believe her.
I'm absolutely stunned by all this and last night I was up with my daughter who'd had nightmares about monsters being in school.
I know her claims to be true, as another girl told her mum te exact same things. Trouble is, that mum won't say anything because she doesn't want to make things harder at school.
Anyone else had dealings with this type of thing? Would appreciate your views on military ethos within schools.

nooka Sat 24-Jan-15 18:57:32

Not to comment on the 'Commander Joe' thing, but you absolutely have the right to raise concerns with school leadership, and regardless of whether your dd was reporting completely truthfully they should not have taken their irritation out on her, I'd see that as an bigger issue than anything else. To be honest I'd be looking for a different school.

littlemissbeth Sat 24-Jan-15 19:10:03

Yes, I agree completely, that has overtaken the comnando joe issue. Taking out their irritation on her is exactly what has happened.
I discussed the idea of changing schools with her this morning. It was very upsetting for her; worries about loosing friends etc. We discussed the idea that if she stays where she is, there's a possibility that she will have to face more if this over the next two year, which is a very long time for an eight year old. If she were to move, she'd have the initial upheaval of the move, but she would settle and make new friends quickly.
she was so tired and upset I decided to leave the convo for another time.
I think moving could be the best thing, but then I do have the worry that she could face a bad time at another school.
I will wait until I've had the meeting with the head on Monday and see what the outcome is.

AuntieStella Sat 24-Jan-15 19:17:25

No provider can force their way into a school.

Your school invited this company in.

They provide sports training and the sort of 'leadership' training that comes from group challenges.

If your DD us talking about a behaviour guru (ripping off an established fitness company's name) coming in to issue behaviour sanctions, then she is also describing a school that has really lost the plot.

elfonshelf Sat 24-Jan-15 19:36:28

Having looked at their website, personally I wouldn't have a problem at all with the company or think it inappropriate - I went to a school with a strong military ethos and don't see any issues. Team-building, leadership skills and activities that build confidence, improve discipline and are also fun are all very important in education and if ex-service personnel can provide it then that is great. It's not going to make children violent or make them join the army.

The issues with the new HT and DHT seem to be the real problem and what would worry me.

footallsock Sat 24-Jan-15 19:39:11

Can't add much other than I am really shocked by this. I am generally laid back about school stuff. I would not want this type of thing but bringing an 8 year old into an adult discussion / debate is not acceptable

elfonshelf Sat 24-Jan-15 19:40:03

I also wouldn't say that their activities or even ethos are exclusively military - my schools, we wore military uniform and ran around with guns every Wednesday and were encouraged to eventually join the Forces. This is more outward bound kind of stuff, despite the name.

littlemissbeth Sat 24-Jan-15 20:02:50

Thanks for your comments.
Elfonshelf, Would you not agree that team building, leadership skills and confidence building are all things that can be taught without having a military style role model?
I know it won't make my child violent, but there really are plenty of other providers far better qualified to install the above.
It clearly is intended to glorify the army to impressionable children. Eight year olds?!
I do not agree with the methods that are used by Commando Joe to try and install these values.
As an ex teacher of boys with severe behaviours and a good knowledge of child psychology, I really don't see any good in this.
What, exactly makes them qualified to be dealing with young people?
schools are not a place for an unbalanced consideration of issues; on the contrary, education should equip young people with the ability to question all issues and inform themselves with a balance of input in order to form
well-rounded views.

I am in total agreement that my daughter's punishment by the deputy head is my main issue, but from my experiences and my families help, it is something that I can deal with. It was unquestionably wrong and unacceptable.

My interest here however is other parents views of military style role models for primary school children.

littlemissbeth Sat 24-Jan-15 20:06:00

How can you say there isn't an entirely military ethos? The army uniform, for example; why is he wearing it if there's no military ethos?
The oxford dictionary of the word 'Commando' is a soldier that leads other military into a raid.
Oh, then there's the fact that they describe themselves as having a 'soft military approach' on their website. How can it even be disputed?

AuntieStella Sat 24-Jan-15 20:22:11

None of which changes the basic point that it is the school that chose to invite them in. Any organisation can offer whatever it wants. But they won't be inside a school unless the staff want them there.

Your issue is with the school.

If you find its ethos intolerably in conflict with your own, then you have little option than to seek another that you believe is more closely aligned to what you want.

littlemissbeth Sat 24-Jan-15 20:41:47

Yes, the organisation can offer what it wants, but I believe with my DDs best interests, it would be far easier for the school to adjust his timetable so he isn't working with her, they do have a duty of care, and need to consider this. Its going to cause upheaval to make her move her away from her friends, which I will do if it comes to that.
The government review on this doesn't really show enough evidence to say that this approach works, and having worked in many schools myself, I don't know many teachers who would approve of this.
Its the fact that they're using him as a disciplinarian thats a very big concern. Why are children being sent to him when they're in trouble and not the head (I know my daughter was sent to the deputy, but that was only so she could take out her frustrations on her).
Its gone from my daughter being a very confident, happy girl at school, to her not wanting to go in and feeling constantly sick. Its clearly having the opposite effect on her.
I agree completely that the problem is with the school, and although I do not think its a good idea for the military to be involved in children's education anyway, the problem here is that they're not even using him in to do the job that Commando Joe is supposed to do.
According to the site, its all about installing confidence, team building etc, but the school are just using this guy as a force of discipline, to a point that my daughter is having nightmares and becoming poorly. To force her to own up to things she's not done is just shocking.
I am meeting with the head teacher on Monday, firstly to raise my concern that my daughter was accused of spreading rumours by the deputy, and secondly, to voice my views on Commando Joe. I do not expect him to be taken out of the school; they will have a contract with him, but I see no reason why he can't be taken out of my daughter's class.
There are two other parents who's daughter's have had the same problems and have gone home crying because of these group punishments, and, as you said, Auntie Stella, if the school thinks that this is ok, they have gone to pot. And I really think they have!

Its really been hard on all of us. Its heartbreaking to see my confident, lively little girl to be reduced to this, and in an ideal world, I would move her tomorrow. She is just so stressed and low at the moment, I don't feel she would handle it very well.

littlemissbeth Sat 24-Jan-15 20:45:30

Also, Its only the head that needs to want them there. If the staff aren't happy, they can raise an objection, but unless they go to the board of govenours, its down to the head and no one else. Almost all of the old teaching staff left between three and six months after the new head started. These have been gradually replaced by nqts and instructors from outside agencies. The nqts won't will be reluctant to speak out in their first teaching post.

level3at6months Sat 24-Jan-15 23:01:51

It sounds horrible. The school should be confident enough to have its own staff as a positive role model for the children. I wouldn't be happy to have military uniforms in my DCs school, and most certainly not to have them used as a form of discipline. The judgement of the Leadership Team has to be questioned.

littlemissbeth Sun 25-Jan-15 17:32:21

Thanks for your comments about this, everyone. I'm still interested to hear what other people think, whether you agree or disagree :-)

admission Sun 25-Jan-15 17:46:55

As a chair of governors I would be concerned by what role these people are playing in the school.
If it was for out-door pursuit activities, forest school and general building up of self-esteem and back bone etc then I would have no problem with them at all.
However your description is actually one of them being the behavior and discipline authority in the school and that sends really bad messages for me. The person responsible for discipline in the school is the head teacher. If they cannot exercise that responsibility then they should not be head teacher. The current situation is likely to get out of control and I would worry that the discipline situation will get out of control, such that this organisation is imposing its discipline regime on the school rather than what is in the school's behaviour policy.
If the school staff is mainly NQTs then the issue is probably around experience of classroom management and handling low level disorder. Getting in a bogey man is not the way to solve this, appropriate training is the way forward.
I would be asking for a copy of the school's behaviour policy and where in it it says that all class punishments are appropriate to start with and then get onto the subject of why the deputy head believes that pupils saying what has happened at school is inappropriate.

CecilyP Sun 25-Jan-15 18:03:17

The school has chosen to employ Commando Joes in the school, and it is not something you can really seek to influence or change. If you really are against it, then it might make the decision to make the change to another school easier.

The issue here, which you have every right to really angry about, is how your complaint was dealt with. You spoke to the class teacher who said she would get the head to contact you.

'My daughter came home crying that day, because before I'd spoken to the deputy, she'd called my daughter into the office and accused her of spreading rumours. She reduced her to tears then told her iff for crying.'

This is an absolutely appalling way for a teacher to behave; really shocking. The issue should have been dealt with by a meeting between the adults; yourself and the head or deputy. It would have been up to them to tell you their side of the story. It was not up to them to tell your DD off for basically telling her mother about something that upset her at school. This is not something that an 8 yearl old should have to deal with; it is just so wrong.

It has put your DD in a horrible position, you would like to move her, she would probably be happier somewhere else, but she obviously has fears about changing schools and missing her friends. Though if other parents are equally hacked off, maybe some her friends will be moving soon or might have done so already.

But, honestly, Commando Joes are the least of your problems.

littlemissbeth Sun 25-Jan-15 20:37:14

Thanks, all.. yes I agree totally that Commando Joe is the last priority here.
As I said in an earlier post, I was a teacher myself for several years, my mum was an early years specialist and school governor for 25 years. My dad was a deputy head and my brother is also a teacher (as is my best friend, and many other friends) I also have a lot of child psychology training from my previous post as a teacher of children with severe behaviours, and I helped set up a pupil referral unit.
There is no question that what the deputy head did was unacceptable, and that is my priority. However, that issue is something I am confident I can deal with. I know exactly what I want to ask when I see the head teacher tomorrow, what policies I need to see, and to contact governors, lea and ofsted if I am not satisfied.
The reason I've asked about Commando Joe, is because that is something I have never delt with. Having worked twelve years in education, a 'military ethos' is something I've never come across.
Thank you for all your supportive words, as I said, I am confident at dealing with the deputy head, but its always nice to be reassured. smile

nooka Mon 26-Jan-15 01:32:16

To me it's a bit like the time when my children's school had very very close connections with a local vicar (community school). It came as a bit of a surprise to us, but there was nothing we could do about it. Then the head retired and a new one was appointed. The vicar no longer visited (I assume that there was a personal connection of some sort) and the ethos of the school changed. We were pretty happy about that, but again nothing we could really do to influence things. Heads have a lot of influence at primary level, parents not so much (as I'm sure you know!).

Lots of children change schools and do really well. Why not start looking around at alternatives so you know what the options are? Ask how they would help her settle and get a feel for the ethos. Some schools do taster days which can help the transition too.

Coyoacan Mon 26-Jan-15 04:14:20

I am appalled by the idea of men in combat uniform promoting a military ethos in any school, let alone a primary school.

The UK really is becoming more and more like the USA every day.

claraschu Mon 26-Jan-15 04:31:29

Coyoacan, how is this military crap like the USA? I have never seen a military uniform in a US elementary school, and in fact schools in the US tend to be much more casual and friendly than in the UK There is no tradition of boys Public Schools and all the rest of it, no uniforms, no Head Boys and Girls, no Prefects, much less hierarchy than you have over here.

It has made me angry to see the US blamed for this unpleasantness.

Hurr1cane Mon 26-Jan-15 05:49:42

No. The U.S., although do tend to glorify war, doesn't let things like this into its schools. They don't even allow religion in schools.

From my own religious point of view I would not like war glorified like this to my child. Although I've never used my religion to keep him out of other school activities (it's my religion, not my childs as we believe they have to be able to choose for themselves) this would be a step too far for me and I would refuse DSs participation on religious grounds.

I assume that I would be allowed to do this seeing as I've taught Jehovah's Witness children who I've been very careful about talking about easter and christmas around on the request of their parents.

Quitethewoodsman Mon 26-Jan-15 06:28:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EveDallasRetd Mon 26-Jan-15 06:29:49

I have no issue with the promotion of a military ethos - teamwork, comradeship, discipline, pride, effort=reward.

I have no issue with the wearing of combat trousers - you can buy them from H&M if you so wish - they even come in pink!

I doubt very much that these people would be 'glorifying war' - how exactly do you think they would do that to a class of 8 year olds?

I have no issue with the name - there are toys in Argos with 'commando' in their title.

I don't like group punishments - I think it's lazy, but schools all over the country do it (incl my DDs primary) so it's not particular to this outfit.

I would certainly have issue with the DHead speaking to my DD before I'd had a chance to see the Head, and I wouldn't be happy with the DHead calling my DD a liar before they even knew what the outcome of the meeting would be. There are far worse problems in your DDs school than commando joes.

sanam2010 Mon 26-Jan-15 09:51:37

OMG, this sounds like a terrible school, I would be horrified in your case, for the same reasons you mention. Is there any chance you can change schools?

Coyoacan Mon 26-Jan-15 13:15:37

Maybe not literally the military in a primary school in the USA (though some schools there call the police for cases of misbehavior by small children, which is even worse), but the worship and promotion of all things military is rife in the USA and now in the UK.

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