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Major Chris Chudleigh talking

Armed Forces Veterans ‘Re-Engage’ students as mentors in local schools.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes


Armed Forces Veteran Major Chris Chudleigh, Infantry RL Chairman, aims to Re-Engage students with other Veterans as mentors for students at The Lowry Academy in Greater Manchester.

The Re-Engage programme aims to connect with marginalised young people and prevent school exclusion. This intervention will reduce possible criminal exploitation and encourage students to re-engage with a focus on sports, which include rugby and boxing.

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

The Lowry Academy in Little Hulton, Salford, is in the middle of a massive cultural shift. The United Learning Trust has recently taken over the school; they have also taken on the challenge of changing the culture; it is no small task. As a result, the Re-engage programme and Veterans of the Armed Forces, who now mentor at-risk students, are at the forefront of this change.

The Re-Engage programme aims to support students at risk of permanent exclusion due to ‘unacceptable behaviour’. Previously, unacceptable behaviour was tolerated; but Teachers and Schools are now at a breaking point.

After two years of lockdown, many young people lost vital social skills whilst playing online games. Subsequently, as school life resumed, many students previously disengaged in education returned, and their previous unacceptable behaviour escalated. Two years of seclusion and isolation from others meant that behaviour had become toxic for many young people.

United Learning Trust has called time. They have decided to tolerate unacceptable behaviour no longer. However, they must prevent school exclusions and reduce the likelihood of exploitation by criminal gangs. Also, they needed to keep students within mainstream education and reduce the need for expensive Alternative Education providers.

Major Chris Chudleigh runs the Re-Engage project at Lowry Academy, Little Hulton, Manchester. The aim is to engage students with positive peer mentors from Armed Forces Veterans to guide and support them.

Armed Forces Veterans are positive peer role models to young people.

Major Chris Chudleigh is a former youth engagement strategist within the British Army who emphasises STEM and Sports. Chris’s career in the Armed Forces enabled him to connect with many young people in sports. He is also aware of many Armed Forces personnel’s positive influences on young people. Chris Chudleigh has witnessed many Armed Forces Veterans who mentored young people and guided them to overcome barriers and challenges.

He also knows Armed Forces Veterans have a wealth of life skills and, often, an inherent empathy for others. For these Veterans, mentoring young people by sharing their life skills and experiences is a way for them to give back to society and prevent wrong choices as they guide by experience.

“Re-Engage” was developed by Chris Chudleigh and Training Architects of the Sky TV programme; “School of Hard Knocks.” Their knowledge and experiences learned in making ‘School of Hard Knocks’, together with intervention programmes used within prisons, schools, and urban spaces, was the foundation of the Re-Engage framework.

Chris identified that Armed Forces Veterans who successfully mentor students led to a significant reduction in young people becoming vulnerable. More importantly, strong mentorship from Armed Forces Veterans prevents the exploitation of young people by criminal gangs who silently skulk around.

Armed Forces Veterans often take the wrong path; they lead by example.

Many Armed Forces Veterans have fallen through tough times, especially in transitioning to civvy streets. Often, this is due to a lack of information or guidance from knowledgeable others. Had this been available, the transition to civilian life would have been positive. Sadly, many Armed Forces Veterans felt they were running into brick walls that they could have avoided with support.

‘Many of them had the tenacity of spirit to get by; others got through by sheer desperation and frustration. Thankfully, many Veterans of the Armed Forces found the support they needed; others were not so lucky. Their frustrations: compounded by demons caught from Armed Forces life, led to significant mental health problems. Sadly, many Veterans have PTSD; often, they feel there was support available to them. They needed a helping hand from knowledgeable others and fell.

Armed Forces Veterans needed mentors to guide them. Subsequently, once received, the comfort it brings means they have immense empathy for many young people who face similar barriers and challenges. They understand how it feels to be vulnerable. They also know they can be strong and positive mentors to guide young people. More importantly, they understand and know if they can prevent just one young person from falling or venturing down the wrong path, they have achieved their purpose.

Also, many Armed Forces Veterans with life experiences gained whilst fighting demons and eventually winning; helping others gives a feeling of self-worth. It is a way they can ‘give something back; whilst kicking demons away permanently.’

Re-Engage is a Behavioural Strategy Programme.

Students move into Alternative Education facilities when Schools and Teachers decide they can no longer cope with their disruptive behaviour. Many teachers say they don’t have time to educate young people about behaviour. They teach English and Maths; they are not behavioural specialists; they get paid to teach.

Re-Engage is a Behavioural Strategy Programme to meet Schools, Students and Teachers’ needs by creating positive Behavioral strategies through sport. The purpose of re-engaging is to reduce the number of school exclusions and the use of expensive Alternative Education Providers. More importantly, the Re-Engage Programme significantly reduces the risk of exploitation of young people by criminal gangs.

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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. The Re-Engage programme aims to repair damaged relationships between students, Schools, and Teachers; whilst positively addressing challenging behaviour through sports.

Chris Chudleigh needs more volunteers to support him on the Re-Engage programme. Chris said, ‘I need Armed Forces Veterans who can ideally commit themselves to two days a week and mentor students.’

‘It is important that Students have consistency and familiarity and form relationships with Veterans as their mentors. Re-engage is about building trust; however, trust is hard to find if faces keep changing.’

We can’t fit into these kids’ lives by doing a day here and there. Doing this means that students won’t feel the programme’s benefit. It also endorses what they felt before; they didn’t feel important. For these young people to connect, they must build meaningful relationships with mentors they respect.’

‘I know many students who feel a strong cultural shift when faced with authority; this shift creates conflict. If we don’t address this conflict at the start, it can quickly escalate to school exclusions, increasing the risk of exploitation by criminal gangs.’

‘Also, when Schools remove students and place them with Alternative Education providers, the school must pay £12000.00. Alternative Education Providers are expensive for Local Authorities; we need to reduce this provision and keep Students in mainstream education.’

Re-Engage needs Armed Forces Veterans to volunteer as mentors.

Armed Forces Veterans are needed to help run the Re-Engage programme. Please get in touch with us on the form below if you can commit to every Thursday and Friday for the next 12 weeks between 9.30 am- 2.30 pm.

Today’s young people face many challenges. The main challenge for many students is understanding their future is designed by their choices. However, to make successful choices, they need mentors who understand their paths. More importantly, they need positive peer role models to mentor them, and I know that Armed Forces Veterans are these role models. They have the experience, empathy, and determination to steer young people in the right direction to avoid criminal exploitation and transition into achieving successful and positive lives.


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