NO ORDINARY SCHOOL DAY
OVER the last two months, four schools from across Wiltshire and Somerset have spent a day at RNAS Yeovilton to see first hand how the skills they are learning on their DfE-funded CVQO Schools Partnership Project course relate to ‘real life’.
From riveting and drilling on a Lynx helicopter to a flight in a Commando Helicopter Force Sea King Mk4 helicopter, the students saw how the core values and standards of the Armed Forces cross over into every day life, and especially into school life.
The CVQO Schools Partnership Project delivers a ‘Military Ethos in Schools’ training programme for young people who may need a different way of studying in order to achieve more from the school experience. Their aim is to reconnect with and motivate students who may be at risk of disengagement from education, boosting confidence and communication skills.
Over the course of 12 weeks, and in addition to the school’s curriculum, CVQO delivers a Level 1 BTEC qualification course to participating students, who learn a variety of skills and competencies including teamwork, communication, volunteering, discipline and self reliance. All skills that are essential, not only for the Armed Forces, but for any career the students choose to follow.
Devizes School was the first to experience ‘A Day in the Life of RNAS Yeovilton’ with visits to 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and 825 Naval Air Squadron. At 815 NAS. The students were given a short presentation on the roles and capabilities of the Squadron and the Lynx Mk8, followed by a chance to climb inside the Lynx. After lunch in the crewroom the students were shown how to rivet and then given the opportunity to give riveting a try. Keen to get more involved, the students were soon drilling, sanding and indenting. Some natural talent was identified in the students, and a number of them expressed an interest in engineering and a career in the Royal Navy.
Over at 825 NAS, the students were shown the hardware of the Navy’s Wildcat HMA Mk2, followed by a tour of the new AgustaWestland Wildcat simulator training facility. This allowed the students to learn about the capabilities of the Wildcat, both for the Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm, and also how the personnel that support the airframes and Squadrons will be trained in future.
Ian Peaple, CVQO Schools Partnership Project Instructor explained why the visits were so important for the students,
“Each visit has been very different but they all proved to the students how important the Military ethos skills are and that they are also valuable life skills. They have learnt how important teamwork and communication are. All the students have a better understanding of the different environments of the military work in and the different services they provide. The visits have proved invaluable for these students.”
A visit to the Royal Navy Historic Flight was the first stop for the students from Nailsea School, Bristol, which gave an insight into the Fleet Air Arms history and heritage, with the Fairey Swordfish proving particularly popular.
Royal Marines from the Commando Helicopter Force Military Training Unit put the students through their paces on an obstacle course which required the students to work together to get a ‘casualty’ to the finish point, expending plenty of energy and building up an appetite for their 24 hour ration pack lunch. The visit concluded with a tour of the 847 NAS Wildcat AH Mk1 where the students were given the opportunity to see first hand the modern technology of the FAA’s newest helicopter.
For the students of Wellington Academy, the highlight of their visit was a flight in a Commando Helicopter Force Sea King Mk4 helicopter courtesy of 845 NAS. On arrival in the 845 NAS crewroom, the students were given a flight safety brief, including safe entry and exit from the aircraft and emergency drills by Lt David Houghton.
The students were shown a video from the Squadron’s involvement in the disaster relief operations in the Philippines, before getting into their flying coveralls and helmets. The aircrafts crew conducted their pre-flight brief with the students. It was then out onto the dispersal and onboard the Sea King. After a rolling takeoff the aircraft headed towards Tidworth, then over Glastonbury, before returning to RNAS Yeovilton.
Lt Col Lenny Brown, Deputy Commander Commando Helicopter Force, said.
“The weather was good and we were able to show the students how the Squadron works together to get the helicopters flying, and offer them a familiarisation flight to give an experience that will be beneficial to them. We do a lot of community engagement, especially with local schools and cadet units, and what we’re trying to demonstrate to them is all the skills they learn in the classroom; leadership, discipline and communication, relate to the work place and into everyday life.”
The final visit was by John Bentley School, Calne with a tour of the Underwater Escape Training Unit first on the programme. After a look around the facilities, and some jokes about going for a swim, the students jumped inside the aircraft mock-ups and were given dry training on helicopter ditching drills.
Breathing a sigh of relief that the drills were conducted out of the pool, the students made their way to the Commando Helicopter Force’s Combat Support Squadron where they were given a presentation of the weapons used by the Royal Marines and a talk about discipline being one of the key skills that translates across to every day life. A 24 hour ration pack lunch followed with a chance to see the contents of the Arctic ration packs, the 24 hour ration packs and the 10 man ration packs, along with ‘dits’ from the older members who remembered the ration packs of years gone by. The verdict from the students on food in the Armed Forces was a big thumbs up!
Last stop of the day for the students was a visit to 652 (Wildcat Fielding) Squadron Army Air Corps where the students were given a short presentation about the new Wildcat AH1 and a tour of the Operations Room where they were shown the Mission Planning System and how the pilots will plan their flights. Eager to see the Wildcat, the students were taken to the hangar where they were given the opportunity to try out the camera system.
WO1 Tony Cooke, 652 (WF) Sqn, said,
“The CVQO visit to 652 Squadron went very well. The children asked some very intelligent questions and were keen to understand how the squadron is working together to bring a new aircraft in to service. Visits like this allow the children to relate to real time teamwork and shows them that working together, even at school, is vital.”
With the final visit over, the success of the CVQO programme and the RNAS Yeovilton visits can be seen in the renewed enthusiasm the students have in their education. With some looking at a career within the Armed Forces, and even one future nuclear physicist, the skills the students have learnt during their time with CVQO and seen first hand at Yeovilton, will set them in good stead for the future.