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Cadet Units in Schools

Volume 758: debated on Thursday 15 January 2015

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to promote more cadet units in schools.

My Lords, will Members making speeches limited to four minutes please sit down as soon as the Clock reads four, and preferably a few seconds before. Thank you.

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as the chairman of a charity, CVQO, the Cadet Vocational Qualification Organisation, an appointment in which I was proud to succeed Admiral West—the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead. The Combined Cadet Force has a long and honourable history. It finds its roots in the rifle volunteer battalions for home defence which, in the early 1860s, acquired some school units. They numbered 90 by the beginning of the Great War. By 1938, that number had doubled. During the Second World War, Royal Navy and RAF sections were added, and shortly after the war they were combined into the Combined Cadet Force. Her Majesty the Queen became its Captain General early in her reign. Today, we have about 46,000 cadets in 260 schools and there are about 2,800 adult instructors and officers

In 2008, I and other supporters of cadets—I was an honorary colonel at the time—were very pleased indeed when Gordon Brown revealed his plans to increase the number of cadet units in state secondary schools. In May last year, David Cameron announced the cadet expansion programme, which was planned to deliver another 100 cadet school units by September this year. It was with dismay, therefore, that we received the news in July that the MoD proposed that funding as it currently happens should cease and that, indeed—presumably to pay for those new units to be created—the cadet grant should end next September; that the year after that, remuneration for cadet officers and other adults should end; and that the year after that, a government charge of £75 per cadet should be made and should double the year after that.

The consultation which followed suggested that about 60% of schools with cadet corps would not be able to continue them, leading to a loss of probably half to two-thirds of the current number of cadets. It was clear that the department had failed to take into account the fact that schools already contribute considerable resources to cadets and that further funds from their general expenditure would not be possible. That was not where the Prime Minister’s initiative was meant to lead.

It was with pleasure, therefore, that I received a letter on 10 December from the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, from the MoD, which said that those proposals would not go forward and that funding as currently conceived would continue and would extend to the new school cadets. That was very good news indeed, as was the news that I heard later that the schools expansion programme was on time and back on track and that we have about 60 new schools ready to open their cadet corps in September, with another 50-odd in the pipeline. That was good news, as was the cadet bursary fund, of which I know that the Minister is himself a great supporter. That is meant to support the expansion of cadets, and to raise £8 million over the next four years. I would be grateful if the Minister would indicate, when he replies, where that fund is and the prognosis for the future.

If last July’s proposals were indeed misconceived, the MoD was right to subject cadet funding to some scrutiny. That was absolutely proper. Cadets cost annually about £160 million, of which £28 million is spent on school cadets, with the rest going on cadets in the community—the Army Cadet Force, the Air Training Corps and the Sea Cadets. We have to ask ourselves: are they worth it? Are those sums of money justified? In my view, they certainly are.

Not very long ago, I was speaking at a national competition to a young man from one of our northern cities. He was badged as a guardsman and dressed in the scarlet of a drum major. It became clear during our conversation that he had left school with just one poor GCSE and had had a little intermittent work since, cleaning cars. It was also clear that his cadet unit—with its regular attendance, discipline, uniform, and its opportunity for leadership skills and for taking BTEC and other qualifications, which he had started to do—was the only way that he could show any self-worth at all and gain any self-esteem. He said to me, “If it hadn’t been for the cadets, it would be drugs and trouble for me”, and he was beginning to do well.

Stories such as that are legion, and they tend to suggest that every penny we spend on cadets is worth while and could save money in other areas of public expenditure. My own organisation, the CVQO, puts thousands of cadets each year through BTECs and other similar diplomas. They acquire at the same time those life competences of punctuality and a can-do attitude. They are most likely then to go into work and on to higher vocational qualifications. They are less likely to be NEETs or benefit claimants, or indeed to encounter the youth justice system. It is also not too far-fetched to say that the NHS saves money from cadets, because they tend to be healthier, fitter and less obese. Certainly, they make good recruits to the Armed Forces, in both the Regular Forces and the Reserve Forces. There is also some indication that in later lives they are more inclined towards volunteering in their communities. However, all that is anecdotal. We seriously require a study of the social impact of cadets and of their value for money. I very much hope that the Minister will indicate whether such a study might be possible.

Finally, I mention another excellent government scheme, the military ethos in schools programme, in which my own organisation, among many others, takes part. Typically, some dozen young pupils are selected in each school. They tend to be those who are having problems with discipline and have low achievement. They benefit enormously from the cadet-type work that they do, supervised by cadet instructors, which is usually part-time. Their schools are hugely supportive of this and report better attendance among those pupils, improved self-worth and an increase in levels of literacy and numeracy.

Finally, cadets were created some 150 years ago with the object of making better soldiers. Today, the object is to make them better citizens, and long may they be enabled to do so.

My Lords, in a very long public life, most of it in these two Houses, I have not encountered better provision for youth than that proffered by the nation’s cadet force associations. From my own observations, I can say that what is done by the Army for young women and men is magnificent. They are provided with excellent opportunities, facilities, training and mentoring. There are many successes and Wales is a determined partner in this success. I attend cadet camps throughout the length and breadth of England and see these achievements. The Committee owes the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, a debt of gratitude for securing this debate. I sincerely support him wholeheartedly. He has made the case for cadet units in our schools and defended them. I thank him for his insightful, loyal and committed remarks.

I also acknowledge the professionalism of Brigadier David Short, the ACFA chief executive officer, for his élan, vigour, experience and enthusiasm. I do not say that for nothing, as he commanded Apache attack helicopters in British squadrons. We are in good hands.

I declare my interests as president of the Army Cadet Forces Association Wales, as president of the training ship “Tuscan”, and my very long-standing association with 2247 Squadron ATC, both of the latter in Flintshire. I have seen a lot of them.

In Wales we have a leadership team dedicated to the best interests of the cadets. I offer praise to Colonel Commandant AV Jones in Clwyd and Gwynedd, covering the communities of the Snowdonian massif and industrial north-east Wales. I also praise Colonel Commandant David Hammond, a very distinguished professional soldier, who leads over the seascapes of Dyfed and the city of Swansea, and Colonel Commandant Rob Hughes, who copes with the vast interior of Powys and the eastern valleys of Gwent. Our splendid chairman is Colonel John Brunt, himself a former commandant. The colonel of cadets is the ubiquitous Colonel Mike Mullis. We recently welcomed our new secretary, Colonel Naysmith, saying goodbye to a wonderful secretary of 10 years—Major John Carter, to whom I owe a great deal. This team faces up very boldly to the constant challenges of distance, climate and topography. We are a very varied people in Wales with distinctive approaches, but I think that the movement is a splendid success in my homeland.

I place on record my thanks to the right honourable Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith for receiving my deputation concerning the outreach programme. He also commanded his civil service unit to be present. Outreach is a generous gift from the Army. It reaches out to the young underprivileged and offers a way forward to boys and girls in our high schools, who, for example, may have encountered the police and the magistrates’ youth court. They then do very well on the course. Time is of the essence, so I shall sit down.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Lingfield on securing this debate and for the wholehearted support he gives to the cadets. I also thank my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever for his great support for the cadets.

Life is full of coincidences. I was up on Dartmoor last Saturday. I spend a great deal of time there; not, I hasten to add, in the prison, though I have been there a few times—I made guest appearances only. While up on Dartmoor I came across 60 cadets who were learning to do a six mile or so advance to contact in hostile conditions, on hostile terrain and in hostile weather. It was raining and very cold. They were in cold-weather clothing, though their instructor, I am proud to say, Corporal Credicott of the Royal Marines, was in shirt-sleeve order: noble Lords must remember that it was not quite freezing. Corporal Credicott had come up from Commando Training Centre Royal Marines to instruct the cadets.

These 60 or so cadets were from Tavistock and two other units. They need not have come; they were all volunteers, all dedicated and enthusiastic. They were giving up their free time to learn leadership skills, how to work together in adversity and many other lessons, including initiative and self-discipline. I was immensely impressed and proud of them. I believe, as my noble friend Lord Lingfield said, that other departments of state should contribute to the cost of the cadets.

It is a shame that we have only four minutes in which to speak, but I also want to thank Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fulton, a former commandant-general of the Royal Marines, a corps in which I had the honour to serve, for briefing me. I congratulate the Ministry of Defence and our Secretary of State on recognising the importance of the cadets. He saw them at first hand when the Royal Marines Cadets were at Buckingham Palace last summer. The year 2014 was the 350th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Marines. Due to the tireless work and commitment of many, particularly Colonel Cautley of the Royal Marines Reserve, Her Majesty the Queen last year instructed that henceforth all cadets who are entitled to wear the Royal Marine uniform will be called Royal Marines Cadets. Some 500 or so Royal Marines Cadets and instructors marched behind the band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines from Horse Guards to the gardens of Buckingham Palace, where his Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, took the salute. I shall end by reading an excerpt from his Royal Highness’s address. He said of the Royal Marines Cadets:

“They have a very special reputation of their own which reflects the reputation and achievement of Her Majesty’s Corps of Royal Marines”.

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Lingfield, I am a very strong supporter of the cadet forces. We need more cadet units and I am very grateful for and appreciative of the efforts taken by the Ministry of Defence and, in particular, by my noble friend Lord Astor to ensure that we are on an upward and, I hope, sustainable track in supporting more cadet units. My experience, like that of many of your Lordships, was at school, having served in the Combined Cadet Force. Then it was compulsory. I am not in favour of compulsion, but everyone was in full uniform and received weapon training. That is very expensive, partly because of the cost of provision of armouries, let alone safety; those were the days. Today there are many fewer combined cadet forces and, clearly, cost is a factor. So I ally myself behind those, and with those, who call for a further expansion and I am delighted at the support that has been given.

I will very briefly mention one initiative which I am associated with: the military ethos in schools programme. That involves former military personnel—who I am told are already in 460 schools throughout the United Kingdom—explaining the ethos of the military and explaining and using the discipline and determination that is expressed so well by many in our Armed Forces, helping to improve not only the self-discipline but the ambitions of more than 16,000 children. I thank Her Majesty’s Government for their continuing support for that programme.

Finally, I will touch on the connection I have, partly because I have served as president of the Council of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association. At the time I served in that association it had 50,000 reservists. Today we have an ambition to get back to something like 30,000, which is a very tall order. I hope that increasing the activities and numbers of school cadet forces will feed through to participation in our Reserve Forces in later life. It is vital that we have 30,000 reservists as soon as possible, because our Regular Forces are being reduced significantly. Initiatives taken at school, and school cadet forces, can help.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, and thank him for obtaining this debate. I also congratulate him on his leadership of the CVQO, which I know is much appreciated.

I make no apologies for diverting slightly, but the noble Lord mentioned the youth justice system. Recently the Secretary of State for Justice announced that he wants to put education at the heart of the youth justice system. I therefore feel that there is a connection between the subject of this debate and what is wanted in the youth justice system. I will explain some of the things that have happened in the past which give me encouragement to speak like this. Before I do so, I join the salute to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, for all he has done, and say how welcome that letter was. I cannot believe that it resulted from anything other than a great deal of work on his behalf, so I thank him for that.

When I took over as Chief Inspector of Prisons in 1995, very soon afterwards the then Home Secretary told me that he wanted to impose what he called a “boot camp regime” based on what he had seen in America. He thought that the only place where he might find that was in the military prison at Colchester. I told him that that military prison was not a prison—it was the Military Corrective Training Centre and that it had two parts: one was a sort of resettlement prison, returning people to civilian life, and the other gave a second start to people who had made a bad start in their careers. They therefore did basic training again, which resulted in an 84% success rate. Indeed, the MCTC counts 11 regimental sergeant majors among its successes.

One of the very interesting facts about the population of the MCTC was that virtually none of the people who came through that programme had ever been in the cadets. Having been in a regiment which strongly supported the cadets and indeed welcomed people with cadet experience because they had had, as it were, a flying start to their regimental career, I was very interested in that. Therefore one of the things I hoped was that, as a result of the experience of sending young offenders to the MCTC—where they grew up amazingly and responded to military discipline in a way which was immediately recognised by their parents, quite apart from their instructors—perhaps a cadet force might be formed in a young offender institution. Indeed, one was started at Feltham. It has not taken off as well as it might, but I suspect that that is as much because of lack of encouragement rather than lack of opportunity.

Recently, there was the idea of setting up, for instance, a secure foundation, which is a local area responsibility in a one-hour radius by public transport for young offenders. Incidentally, all the local councils, in seeking what the place should do, all wished a cadet force to be part of the curriculum because of what it offered the young people. Therefore, my plea to the Minister is that he should contact his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice, commend to them that the military ethos in schools programme should be extended to young offender institutions, because it clearly works, and do all that he can to encourage this. You never know, out of the youth justice system we might rescue some people for the Armed Forces, quite apart from anything else, and nothing has a better track record of dealing with young people and building up their self-esteem than the cadet force.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to my noble friend for giving us this opportunity to debate this important issue. First, I want to declare an interest as my son is chairman of the West Midlands Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association.

When I was at school I was a Sea Ranger, which was odd as I lived in the centre of England as far away from the coast as you could be. We were instructed by a retired naval officer who was a great believer in the power of marching and all its intricate moves. I loved it and could see that we all gained from working together with great precision. We were the best and proudest of anyone as we marched along The Mall for the then Princess Elizabeth. Noble Lords may question what this has got to do with the subject. All I know is that I benefited from it and it was all that was on offer at the time. We had to spend two hours each day in some form of sporting activity. Children do not have that chance today but now they have this splendid opportunity through membership of a cadet detachment to combine active involvement while developing important life skills. I believe in today’s hazardous world it is really important that young people learn more about the military and voluntary ethos. The cadet expansion scheme gives that opportunity to learn about self-discipline, teamwork, punctuality and self-confidence—all so useful throughout life.

The cadet movement has always been part of life in independent schools, so I was delighted when last year the Government agreed, at last, to fund a scheme with £1 million added to the £10 million already pledged to help state schools cover the setting-up and running costs of 100 new cadet units within a year. The sum is being matched by the private sector. I understand that the initiative is going well and I agree with my noble friend that it would be good to have an update from the Minister. It seems to me that this would be a principled cause to motivate charities and philanthropists in generous donations as well as then following up with interest. Of course, in any exercise of this kind so much must depend on head teachers. They are the ones who must first excite the students and the parents on the benefits of the cadet experience and then drive the project forward. They must explain what will be gained by being part of a team, developing particularly self-confidence and self-discipline. This will be important as the students face all the new challenges that this will offer them. They will be able to go on expeditions, do activities such as sailing, and develop skills in advanced first aid and, most importantly, leadership. Other critical individuals are the adult volunteers who, I understand, are coming forward in encouraging numbers. Perhaps the Minister could update us on this also.

I believe that, whether participation in the scheme leads to a life in the services or not, these young people will enter adulthood as well rounded citizens. They will have had invaluable experience to test themselves in many ways and will emerge more self-confident and, I believe, more understanding, ready to take their place in society. I am sure we all wish we could have had the opportunity in our own school days.

My Lords, through my involvement in politics and with a personal interest, I have had the good fortune to spend time with the men and women of our Armed Forces. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, is especially pleased that some of that time was spent with his Royal Marines. I have had the privilege of watching the modern Army at work. As an honorary colonel of a signals regiment, I have come to greatly admire the character of those who serve. I have listened to many tales from serving soldiers about what the Army has done for them—how it shaped and moulded their character and gave them the skills to fulfil their potential.

George Washington said:

“Discipline is the soul of an army”,

and that one of its outworkings was “esteem for all”. Words such as “discipline” and “respect” have formed a common refrain in this debate and that is as it should be. While the Army Cadet Force is very deliberately a youth organisation, and not some junior version of the Army Reserve, it does share some common genes with military service—genes which we would do well to encourage throughout society.

People like to complain about the young. It is the natural order of things and has been ever thus. Every generation has shaken its head disdainfully at the prevailing trends of youth culture. Punks, mods, rockers and even the flappers of the 1920s have all been cited as evidence of moral rot. In the 21st century our terminology is less gracious and headline writers are never happier than when writing about the “feral youth” running amok across society.

Clearly, young people are not undermining the fabric of society but I do think that the very nature of modern society is helping to undermine the prevalence of characteristics that are for the common good. Today’s society is more atomised and less community-orientated than at any time I can recall. The ties of tradition, family and religion have loosened. We live in an instant age and are prone to live in the moment and for the moment. We are less patient, less thrifty, less structured, less active and more self-centred—and that applies to the not so young as well as to the young. We live in an era of dichotomy, where medical advances that would have seemed beyond possibility to the post-war generation are accompanied by the plague of obesity. In our relative culture of plenty we have all become concerned with rights rather than duties. We have never had more, but are we really more content or happier?

Frankly, “discipline” and “self-reliance” are not the watchwords of modern Britain’s zeitgeist. You could almost say that they are countercultural. That is why I have no hesitation in supporting the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, to encourage more cadet units in schools. In an age where virtuous and liberating characteristics, such as self-control, hard work, camaraderie and discipline are hard-pressed, we should encourage activities, especially among our youth, which help push back against the prevailing headwinds.

Cadet units build self-confidence, they prepare people for work, they teach respect for the self and for others, they encourage fitness, and, as has been mentioned, the financial cost of involvement is minimal. Sometimes you do not have to reinvent the wheel to solve a problem. School cadet units are an excellent outlet for 12 to 18 year-olds, and many more of them should have the opportunity to get involved.

My Lords, this is indeed a most valuable debate, for which we are indebted to my noble friend Lord Lingfield. Sadly, my career in the school cadet force long ago was an utterly inglorious episode, all details of which must be suppressed.

I have nothing but praise for the Government’s plans—now well advanced—to enable more maintained schools to establish cadet units. A number of those schools already have them but, like the excellent state boarding schools, they are among the nation’s best kept secrets. Their ranks should be swelled, and now they will be.

The increase in the number of cadet units is surely to be welcomed on two grounds above all. First, it will confer benefits on many more youngsters, assisting the shaping of responsible character and the provision of otherwise unattainable opportunities. Secondly, it will assist the national interest. Our defence in the years ahead will rest on the Territorial Army to a much greater extent than in the recent past. The expansion of cadet units will help furnish the recruits that the TA will need.

I have just one principal objective in this short debate: to advocate greater collaboration between independent and maintained schools. I should add that I have long been associated with the independent sector of education. Collaboration is already flourishing in a number of places. The head of an independent school in York wrote recently that it has,

“pupils from a neighbouring state school training alongside our cadets every week”.

Another head teacher in Cheltenham described how a contingent formed recently in a nearby academy has been developed in partnership with his school’s CCF,

“using our experience and resources, and they are bringing some superb talents to the team”.

I am sure that the Minister will agree that such partnership ventures should be encouraged throughout the country.

Of course, not all independent schools have attained the highest standards throughout their histories. One school magazine reported on 3 May 1888:

“The majority think it monstrous if they are obliged to attend twenty drills in the summer term. The consequence is that whenever the corps makes its appearance the drilling is bad, the marching is slovenly, and it becomes the laughing stock of the school”.

The school in question was Harrow, and its cadet force was about to secure a new recruit: Winston Churchill. He swiftly transformed it, making it what would today be called a model of good practice. It was therefore so very appropriate that contingents of cadets were prominent at his state funeral 50 years ago this month. We can be sure that he would have been much in favour of the expansion of the number of cadet units which is now taking place. He always said that the opportunities available to the few in public schools should be extended throughout the nation.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lingfield for introducing this Question for Short Debate about cadets. On the point about recruitment, I point out that the cadets are a youth movement, and the cadet force is worth while even if the Armed Forces get no recruits from it. We would just need to find another way of funding the cadets.

I started my military involvement with Stowe School CCF and, as I observed at Second Reading of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, in the mid-1970s I was allowed to do things as a cadet that would be absolutely out of the question now. For instance, I was allowed to go off on my own on a TA internal security exercise, and I took exactly the same physical risks as adult TA soldiers. Yes, risks were taken because military exercises are inherently hazardous, even though we try to reduce the risk as much as possible. I hope that the Committee will agree that it was worth taking those modest and controlled risks.

In my career, one thing led to another. Being a cadet led me to the TA, a point made by my noble friend, Lord Freeman. For me, the TA involved logistics and leadership, and that led me to running an NGO in Rwanda. That meant that I had utility to the regular army for peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and, of course, that I had utility to your Lordships’ House. Of course, this argument that one thing leads to another is not unique to someone with the privileged background which I have. It applies to everyone, no matter what their background.

There is one problem I would like to draw to the attention of the Committee and the Ministers. I understand that the maximum age of cadets was 18 and a half, but it has been reduced to 18. Apparently, the reason is that adults are not allowed to share accommodation with cadets, and I can understand the reason for that. Noble Lords might think that this is a small change, but an attractive activity for cadets is target rifle shooting, and competitions are held nationally and internationally. The problem is that other nations can field a team with cadets aged up to 19, and it is difficult for 18 year-olds to compete with a 19 year-old because at that age an extra year of maturity, concentration and everything else makes a significant difference. This is, of course, a matter for both Ministers—my noble friend Lord Nash for education, and my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever, who I am sure we are all grateful to see in his place. A touch of ministerial direction in order to allow cadets at the age of 18 and a half might be worth thinking about. It would be extremely beneficial with negligible risk attached.

When I was in the CCF in the 1970s, many teachers had military experience, and some had operational experience in the Second World War. Two challenges now arise: first, the lack of military experience of the instructors, which is not necessarily a huge problem; and secondly, an increasing requirement for adult instructors to be course trained. As ever, some of this is sensible. For instance, I would take my wife walking on Snowden but I would not take a group of cadets or adult soldiers there because I am not qualified by training or experience. Simply, I do not know what I am doing. However, an instructor may have a qualification but not the right one. In other words, he knows what he is doing but does not have the right piece of paper. I understand that the cadet movement is facing increased bureaucratic demands. I hope that the Ministers can have a look at that.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, on securing this debate. Even more important than that is securing the funding that he outlined, and I am therefore particularly glad to be able to congratulate him and his colleagues who have worked on this issue and secured the funding stream. In a moment, I should like to ask the Minister a few questions about how far the funding will reach.

First, however, I should say that it is encouraging that both Labour and Conservative Prime Ministers have given their personal backing to the cadet forces. It is also encouraging, as the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, outlined, that partnerships between schools are in place to help strengthen and expand the cadet forces. After all, the cadets, when one looks at what they actually do, are one of the most—possibly the most—fantastic youth service we have in this country. The service they provide is extraordinary. The skills and training on offer are second to none, and then there are all the other things being done—not just allowing young people to jump off mountains or use gliders, although I would have loved to have had that opportunity myself. In terms of promoting active citizenship, committed citizens with high self-esteem, mentoring, volunteering, fitness, personal and social development, and leadership skills—who would have thought that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, would have ended up in Rwanda?—all these extras that one gets from this funding makes it extremely well spent. In particular, the employment skills around punctuality, reliability and discipline are extremely important.

The other area that we should dwell on was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham—the youth justice system. I was struck by his comments. As my noble friend Lord Jones said, the cadet force is, above all else in some senses, an outreach programme that connects young people to the Army, although, as we have heard, it is not a formal Army organisation. I commend my noble friend and others who have spoken on their long association with the cadets and the military. It is really important for young people to have a positive experience of authority at an early age. I cannot underline enough how important that is for young people who come from areas such as the one in which I live in Tower Hamlets, for example. I know that the first words that a police officer said to me were very derogatory and included my skin colour. I remember thinking, “I’m not that black and, anyway, why is he saying that?”. The cadets offer the exact opposite approach and avenue for young people to come into contact with authority and we cannot underestimate how important that is.

I have a couple of questions. First, I understand that there are 3,280 cadet units across the UK, but only 10% of those are in state schools, which is why this programme seeks to increase the numbers. I assume that the 60 new cadet units that are to open this September are all in state schools. I would like clarification, although I believe that they are. Secondly, is the Department for Education encouraging schools to collaborate in a more concrete way, so that a relatively small network within the state sector can reach further? The Government’s website mentions that the cadets can promote social mobility. That is yet another reason to support cadets in schools, both now and in the future.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Lingfield for securing this important debate. I pay tribute to him in his role as chairman of the Cadet Vocational Qualification Organisation and the fine work that it does to ensure that the skills gained through cadet forces are recognised. I would also like to thank all noble Lords for their valuable contributions today.

As part of driving education reforms to address our slide down international league tables, we need to equip our young people with the character, grit and determination that they need to make their own way in life. We need to give them the opportunities to develop the leadership, team working and other social skills that are so vital to employers. As we have heard, many of our most respected independent and some state schools have for over 100 years looked to military-themed activities to give their pupils a sense of discipline, adventure and achievement.

Such life-changing experiences should not be the preserve only of the fortunate. It is young people in schools in the most disadvantaged communities who most need greater strength of character to cope with the challenge they face to succeed in life. Contrast the organisation, routine, structure and discipline that come from a service life with the chaotic home lives which, sadly, so many of our children and young people experience today, with no structure or routine and a background that is literally scatty, with poor eating and sleeping habits, and so on.

One of the charities I was actively involved in before I took this job looks after boys on the edge of exclusion. Virtually all of those would be in a single-parent situation. We surveyed these parents to ask whether any of them had systems or routines at home for times for eating, homework, television or sleeping, or times that they had to be in by. More than 80% of parents replied that they had none; but more than 80% also replied that they would love to hear about such a system if somebody could explain it to them. That shows the chaos in many of our homes today.

The other important thing that the forces can bring to schools is men. Of course, women forces personnel are extremely good role models, particularly for girls in schools; but sadly a large proportion of young people today are brought up in what we politely call single-parent households, which almost certainly normally means a single mother. Some 27% of primary schools have no male teachers in them at all; only 15% of primary school teachers are male, though there has been a 10% increase under this Government; and only 4% of teaching assistants in primary schools are male. This means that many children have a total absence of male role models in their lives, which can be just as damaging for girls as for boys. If a girl has never experienced the love of a man, the dangers that this can represent in her teenage years in terms of unsuitable relationships and teenage pregnancy are clear.

As an important strand of our work to raise standards for all in the English education system, this Government want to see as many pupils as possible benefiting from the same quality of life-changing military activity offered in many of the best independent and state schools in the country. That is why we have put in place such an ambitious programme to expand school-based cadet units. Starting from a base of 190 independent school units and 66 state school units, the MoD and DfE have been working closely together since 2012 towards our shared ambition of adding 100 new cadet units by this September. I am pleased to confirm that, despite pressures on funding, the Government have committed the necessary money. As a former police cadet myself, I am delighted that state schools across the country are eager to embrace this opportunity for their pupils. To date, 65 new units in state schools have already been approved and opened, and we are actively working with a further 54 schools towards approval over the next nine months. We have also had interest from a further 77 schools. Many head teachers can already give testimony to the positive impact of their cadet unit on attendance, behaviour and discipline, on educational engagement and attainment, and on the relationship between staff and students. As my noble friend Lady Seccombe has highlighted, head teachers have a vital role to play in exciting parents, pupils and staff about the benefits of a cadet unit.

The Government believe in the important societal benefits of cadet units as well as other military ethos programmes such as the excellent SkillForce, of which my noble friend Lord Freeman is chairman. I pay tribute to his work in this regard. These benefits are a significant driver for our continued investment in cadets. They have been clearly articulated today by my noble friends Lord Lingfield and Lady Seccombe, by the noble Lord, Lord Jones, and in studies undertaken by the University of Southampton. I hope that my noble friend Lord Lingfield will be pleased to hear that my department has commissioned research to further strengthen the evidence base for these benefits. When that work reports in May this year, my expectation is that it will support further expansion in the number of cadet units in schools by convincing more head teachers and others about the benefits. In addition, officials are currently considering the feasibility of a further in-depth cost-benefit analysis of the value for money of the cadet experience.

Despite the clear benefits, schools can face significant challenges and barriers to establishing and running a cadet unit, particularly in relation to financial and human resources. In June last year, the Prime Minister launched the cadet bursary fund, a charitable fund pump-primed with £1 million of funds from LIBOR fines to help schools with the cost of their new units. I am delighted to say that, so far, £3.1 million has been raised, which has enabled the fund to award £2 million to 46 schools. A further funding round may be launched later this spring. However, only £180,000 has been raised from private donors, so I would be grateful for any support noble Lords can give directly or indirectly in this regard. To support the long-term stability of the fund, my department continues to fund a professional fundraising activity. As my noble friend Lord Lingfield has mentioned, the MoD has recently announced that rather than proceed with the per-cadet charges schools were expected to pay, it will find efficiencies and absorb the costs of the first 100 units. This is excellent news because it levels up the playing field with schools that already have a cadet unit which are not being charged, thus reducing the financial barriers to new schools. I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Astor for everything he has done in this regard.

My noble friend Lady Seccombe is correct to say that adult volunteers are another critical factor in the success of a unit. This is why round 1 of the cadet bursary fund has had a specific focus on supporting the cost of specialised instructors, and offering incentives or supply cover for volunteers and staff. I record my thanks to all those schools with established cadet units which have partnered with a state school to enable them to offer the cadet experience to their pupils, to which my noble friend Lord Lexden referred. This is particularly valuable where new schools have no prior military experience and helps to transfer important skills. To date, 23 of the 65 state schools approved to establish cadet units under our cadet expansion programme are benefiting from such a partnership, and many existing units are willing to enter into such partnerships. Those who have grown up through the cadet force are themselves ideally placed to inspire and support cadet units and are those who become volunteers themselves when they reach the age of 18.

My noble friend Lord Attlee talked about the benefits of risk taking. I have a poem on the wall of my office which talks about just those benefits, but he did note some implications in the fact that young people can remain cadets only until their 18th birthday. While I acknowledge these points, child protection and safeguarding must be our highest priority, but I will look at this further and discuss it with my noble friend Lord Astor. I would like to see many more state schools including the running of their cadet unit within the employment contracts of their staff, but there is also an important role for adults from outside the school community. The MoD includes information on becoming a cadet force adult volunteer in its resettlement support for those leaving the services and is looking at how to encourage better integration between reservists and cadet units.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, referred to the youth justice system, on which he is of course a renowned expert, and I will contact colleagues in the MoJ and commend to them the military ethos programme being extended to youth offenders. The noble Lord, Lord Jones, president of the Army Cadet Force Association Wales, has already highlighted and thanked those involved in cadet units in Wales. I would like to give recognition and thanks to all those involved in running cadet units. They are delivering a truly life-changing experience to their pupils.

The Government’s cadet expansion programme is ensuring that 100 more state-funded schools have the opportunity to do the same. The Government welcome the engagement of forces and ex-forces personnel in the school system. We have demonstrated this not only in our considerable expansion of the cadet programme but through our engagement with organisations such as SkillForce, Challenger Troop and Commando Joe’s, and our Troops to Teachers programme. I firmly hope that in the coming years we can build on this success to give many more children the life chances they deserve. Again, I thank all noble Lords who participated in this debate.

Sitting suspended.