Dalston schoolboys train with Royal Marines in teacher’s ‘gang’

A Hackney teacher was so concerned his male pupils might join a gang he has set up his own to show them a more positive way of life.

On Tuesday, the young members of his club, known as the Engaging Boys Project, enjoyed being put through their paces by the Royal Marines on Hackney Downs.

“We didn’t set it up solely due to gangs,” said Andrew Robinson, assistant head teacher at Petchey Academy, who launched the project in October. “It’s about helping the boys academically too.

“I was given the role of improving target groups this year, and looking at the data it seemed to me boys were our main target because they’re falling behind girls when it comes to their grades and they sometimes have outside pressures on them.

“I got the idea for the project because I wanted to do something that affects every part of the boys’ lives.”

Mr Robinson, who also teaches science at the school, in Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, approached a number of businesses and organisations asking them for help.

Many of them, including the Royal Marines, Arsenal Football Club, Saracens Rugby Club and Hackney Council agreed, and Mr Robinson is working with them to offer the club’s members fun and stimulating activities.

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About 40 boys aged 13 to 15 have been invited to join so far and will be undertaking the bronze award of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, working for the Community Service Volunteers (CSV) charity, getting involved in sports and improving literacy.

But working with the Marines for an hour seemed to strike a chord.

“They were walking a bit taller afterwards,” said Mr Robinson, who used to be a Royal Marine Reserve.

Student Chinonso Ude, 14, said: “It was good. It pushed us to our limits and brought out another side to me.”

Mr Robinson wants the scheme available to all male pupils in the future. Teachers are working on ideas to engage girls too, he added.