Veterans of the Armed Forces mentor students at Lowry Academy.

The Re-engage programme delivered and created by Major Chris Chudleigh, Infantry RL Chairman, is designed to connect with marginalised youngsters, prevent school exclusion, and reduce criminal exploitation. The programme is also designed to work alongside Veterans of the Armed Forces Community who will provide mentoring to students.

The Re-Engage programme has begun with Armed Forces Veterans from the Northwest now proudly coming forward as volunteers to mentor students at the Lowry Academy in Little Hulton, Manchester. These Veterans and Chris will run the programme for the next 12 weeks, every Thursday and Friday, 9.30 am-2.30 pm, to motivate both students and teachers with sports as the focus.

The Lowry Academy is in the middle of a massive cultural shift.

The Lowry Academy is in the middle of a massive cultural shift as United Learning Trust has taken over the school. United Learning has taken on the challenge to change the culture in the school, and it is no small task; the Re-Engage programme is at the forefront of this change.

Major Chris Chudleigh and Veterans of the Armed Forces run Re-Engage programme for those students at risk of permanent exclusion due to ‘unacceptable behaviour’.

Many schools have tolerated unacceptable behaviour for years, and teachers and staff are at breaking point. Also, after two years of lockdown, many young people have stayed indoors and lost social skills by playing online games and have returned to school. Subsequently, their unacceptable behaviour escalated. The Trust has called time and decided that they will no longer tolerate unacceptable behaviour. The Re-Engage programme with Veterans of the Armed Forces has led the way forward.

Chris Chudleigh understands the problems young people face.

Major Chris Chudleigh is a former youth engagement strategist within the British Army, emphasising STEM and Sports. Chris’s career in the Armed Forces has enabled him to connect with young people with sports. Also, Chris knows of the positive influence many Armed Forces personnel have on young people. Chris Chudleigh has seen Armed Forces Veterans become mentors to young people and become the guide they needed to overcome barriers throughout his career.

Many Armed Forces Veterans have a wealth of life skills and an inherent empathy for others. Also, mentoring young people; sharing skills and experiences in life is, for many Armed Forces Veterans, a way they can give something back.

“Re-Engage” is a programme developed by the training architect of the Sky Sports TV Show “School of Hard Knocks.” The knowledge and experiences learned from Chris’s involvement in making the School of Hard Knocks and his intervention programmes within prisons, schools, and simply urban spaces are the basis of the Re-Engage framework.

Chris identified that those Armed Forces Veterans successfully mentor students who often create pathways. Furthermore, these pathways often lead to a significant reduction of young people becoming vulnerable; more importantly, they prevent the possible exploitation of young people by criminal gangs.

Many Armed Forces Veterans themselves have taken the wrong path in life.

Many Armed Forces Veterans have fallen on hard times, especially in the transition to civvy streets, and the information they need isn’t available.

Sadly, many Armed Forces Veterans have run into brick walls themselves and went down paths they could have avoided. However, either by the tenacity of spirit, or desperation and frustration, brick walls are knocked down. Some get the help they need, others are not so lucky, and they need a helping hand from those that know. These Armed Forces Veterans often had mentors to guide them when they needed it most, just as these kids do today.

Therefore, sharing experiences with young people by Armed Forces Veterans stops young people from going down the wrong path. And, for the Veterans, if they can prevent a young person from falling, they have achieved a purpose.

Their wisdom built by life experiences often fought with demons and eventually won; enables Veterans to share these experiences. It creates self-worth; more importantly, it is a way they can ‘give something back.’

Students are moved to alternative education facilities because schools and teachers can’t cope with their behaviour. Staff don’t have time to educate young people about behaviour; they teach English and Maths. Re-Engage is a programme to meet the school’s needs, pupils, and teaching staff with behavioural strategies. However, the aim is to reduce the number of young people excluded from school and reduce the risk of exploitation from criminal gangs.

Re-Engage aims to prevent and repair relationships through sport.

The programme at The Lowry Academy, Little Hulton, Manchester, runs every Thursday and Friday, from 09.30 am till 2.30 pm. Re-Engage aims to repair damaged relationships between kids in school and the teachers whilst positively addressing challenging behaviour through sports.

However, Chris Chudleigh needs more volunteers. Chris said, ‘we need volunteers who can ideally commit themselves to the two days to mentor the students.’

‘These kids need consistency and familiarity to form relationships with the Veterans as mentors. The programme is about building trust, and this is something many young people will find hard to build if faces keep changing all the time.’

‘There’s no point in flitting in a day here and a day there. It doesn’t enable students to feel the programme’s benefit, and it endorses what kids felt before. For these young people to connect, they have to build relationships. Also, many students feel a cultural shift when faced with authority, creating conflict. More importantly, if we don’t address this conflict at the start, it leads to young people becoming excluded from school and exploitation by criminal gangs.’

‘Furthermore, when a young person moves to an alternative education provider, it costs the school £12000.00. Therefore, we need to reduce this by keeping young people in mainstream education.’

How do I volunteer?

If you are an Armed Forces Veteran and interested in becoming a mentor in the Re-Engage programme, please, get in touch on the contact form. All we ask is that you can commit to the two days, Thursday, and Friday, for the next 12 weeks between 9.30 am- 2.30 pm, and we will cover all expenses.

Young people today face many challenges, and the biggest challenge is understanding their future is designed by their choices. However, to make these choices, they need mentors who understand the paths young people need to become successful; more importantly, as mentors, Armed Forces Veterans guide them away from the wrong directions. Together, we will make a difference in these young people’s lives. Can you help?

If you want to find out more, send your details on the form or email Major Chris Chudleigh at [email protected], and we will get back to you. Thank you.

Guest post by Verve Recruitment CIC

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