School based cadet units: What’s the best approach?

The MOD and Department for Education have announced that they are to put £10.85 million towards opening 100 new cadet units across state-funded schools in England by 2015. As many of you know, I am the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Administrator at a school in Manchester and have been an Officer in the CCF for the last 6 years.

I’m well aware that during my career as a CCF Officer I have flown up the ranks and achieved things that I just couldn’t have done had I stayed in the Army Cadet Force (ACF) way back in 2006. I started my cadetting career with Lancashire ACF but moved to the CCF when I got a teaching post in a school that had a CCF. I thought that combining my job with my hobby would be a good move. I was wrong. In many ways I wish that I had remained with the ACF from the start.

I don’t like to regret anything, for without the actions we do we would not be the people we are. You will never hear me saying that I regret jumping ship to the CCF, for had it not been for that move I would not have achieved half of what I have. There are some outstanding CCF units and they are to be applauded but in my experience, many of them are badly run and are potentially a liability. Understaffed and far too autonomous, they often struggle to meet the demands of Army Policy. In my opinion this could be improved by following a model broadly based on the ACF in that several CCF contingents are grouped together under the central command of a HQ. This would enable pooling of resources, both of manpower and equipment. No man is an island, yet CCFs operate in isolation struggling with too few qualified staff to enable training. It often seems that one Officer will hold all of the toys (qualifications) and obviously one person cannot be everywhere at once. A more collaborative approach to training can only be a good thing and one that is long overdue.

Greater Manchester ACF rolled out some school based detachments back in 2009 and they appear to have been a great success. This is another way of offering cadets within a school environment – CCFs are not the only way to bring cadets inside the school yard. My concern is that this latest initiative from the MOD and DfE will see them desperate to open new CCFs when actually the ACF may be a better organisation to sponsor these new units. Fingers crossed they get it right.

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