Williamson plans £1.1m expansion of cadet units in schools

cadets schools

The education secretary Gavin Williamson wants to expand cadet units in schools, allocating £1.1 million in funding to increase the number of pupils taking part.

The funding will go directly to schools with existing “combined cadet force” units to employ more school staff instructors to help run them.

Williamson, a former defence secretary, has been vociferous in his pursuit of a military ethos in schools, even commissioning a report in 2018 to look at how military values could benefit pupils.

The combined cadet force programme began in 2012 and aims to offer school pupils a range of “challenging, exciting, adventurous and educational activities”.

Each unit is a partnership between a school and the Ministry of Defence, and units may include Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army or Royal Air Force sections.

In 2015, then chancellor George Osborne announced a £50 million expansion and target for 500 school cadet units. The government announced in late 2019 that it has met the target.

DfE wants 60,000 cadets in school units

Today’s funding announcement is not aimed at increasing the number of cadet units, but boosting the number of pupils in existing units. The government has said its ambition is to have “60,000 cadets in school units”.

As of April 2020, there were 45,020 cadets in combined cadet forces.

Williamson said today that the “values of our armed forces – those of resilience, perseverance, and teamwork – are the same that we want to instil in all our young people”.

cadet units schools
Ben Wallace

“As we move out of national lockdown and back to normality, we want to make sure that children have a balance between academic and extra-curricular activities to set them back on track towards excellent futures.”

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said the expansion was “about giving pupils the opportunity to develop a range of  important skills beyond academic learning, teaching resilience, leadership and working as a team”.

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  1. Geoff

    Combined Cadet Forces are often, but not exclusively, at private schools. It would be a shame if all that money went to schools that already had a lot of money and if it only benefitted the children of already affluent middle class families.
    Also, historical note- CCFs did not start in 2012…I was in one in the 1980s! The great public schools had cadet units as early as the late 1700s. The Army Cadet Force (ie separate to school units) is said to have been created in 1860 (I participated in the Cadet 150 celebrations in 2010). A unit still in existence was started in Southwark by social reformer Octavia Hill who herself saw the benefits of military training in developing citizens. Her unit was part of an upswell of militarism and patriotism in late Victorian/Edwardian England that included the Boys’ Brigade, the church lads’ brigade and Baden-Powell’s scout movement.

  2. Janet Downs

    The DfE treats community cadet forces as if they don’t exist. There were more
    cadets (85, 290) in the Sea Cadet Corps, Volunteer Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps than in school-based CCF yet the DfE doesn’t promote membership of these (April 2020 figures). A cynic might say school-based CCF, often found in private schools, forms future officers while community cadet forces provides future squaddies hence the apparent DfE bias towards school-based CCF.