EX-Army and air force bosses have been drafted in to mentor troubled children in a bid to stop them getting their marching orders.
Seven former military personnel have been carefully selected as part of the first wave of a five-year £3million pilot project – the first in the country – to boost attendance and performance in Lancashire.
High schools in Hyndburn and Pendle will launch the first stage of the programme, and each have a nominated mentor to help those pupils aged 14-16 with attendance and attainment issues, facing possible exclusion, to reach their potential.
The schools include Norden High School, The Hollins, Mount Carmel, and Rhyddings Business and Enterprise School in Hyndburn, and Colne Primet, John Fisher and Pendle Vale in Pendle – which have been identified as places where some pupils need extra one-to-one attention.
The mentors will be employed by Lancashire County Council on a 12-month contract and it will be up to the school to select the pupils requiring the extra support and the amount of time spent with each pupil.
It is hoped that each mentor could help up to 30 children a year and at the end of their contract it is hoped the school will employ them directly, or LCC will help them to find work utilising their new skills.
Roland Hill, 63, from Whitewell Bottom, hopes to use his experience as a retired army major to help instill self-discipline.
The Fearns school governor, who will be working with Rhyddings in Oswaldtwistle, said: “My aspiration is to get kids from whatever background working and playing together.
“It’s about getting kids to school, on time, with the right attitude to learning.
“If we can get them to have a bit of self-discipline it’ll be a big step forwards.”
Mentor Emma Bint, from Burscough, left the army in 2000 to start a family. She will be working at Norden High School in Rishton and is the only female in the initial mentor line-up.
She said: “I was in the Royal Logistics for seven years and I plan to encourage motivation and be a role model for the pupils.
“There’s always a reason why people aren’t reaching their potential, and it is my job to find out why and resolve the issue.”
County councillor Mike France, armed forces and military veteran champion, said: “These personnel have excellent transferable skills such as discipline, pride and conflict management.
“If we can inspire these kids that are on the edge to change direction and turn over a new leaf then the project will have been a success.”
Th council has said the initiative will not involve any recruiting.
In March another 20 mentors will begin training and begin their 12-month contracts at another 12 high schools across Lancashire.