Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am so grateful to noble Lords who have given up their time to take part in this debate. I remind your Lordships that I am chairman of the charity CVQO—the Cadet Vocational Qualification Organisation.
During the last few weeks, some 2,000 cadets took part in the D-day commemoration events in France. This was an inspiring experience and gave an opportunity to reflect on the fact that many young men who fought and died had themselves been cadets not long before. Indeed, during that war cadets could join the Home Guard at the age of 16 and learn, among other skills, those of dealing with explosives—not part of today’s cadet programme.
Cadets had, of course, been part of national life for many years by 1944. Indeed, their roots were in the Rifle Volunteer battalions for home defence, within which some schools formed units in the 1860s. By World War II there were some 180 school cadet units attached to territorial regiments, and during the early 1940s Royal Navy and RAF sections were added in many schools. These all became the Combined Cadet Force in 1948.
In 2012, the Cadet Expansion Programme—the project to bring more CCF units to schools, especially in the state sector—was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron. It was given an extra boost by new funding arrangements in 2015, shortly after I last addressed your Lordships on cadet matters. A target of 500 new school cadet units by 2020 was set and Libor money was released to fund them.
How has that programme been doing? I must confess that I had some doubts about the likely efficiency of the scheme, involving as it did more than one government department. However, I must pay sincere tribute to officials from both the Department for Education and the Ministry of Defence for what can be described only as a real success so far. Recent statistics suggest that the 500-unit target will be reached next year, as there are currently some 460 schools with CCF units and a further 60 actively in the preparation stages. Currently, there are some 43,000 cadets in schools. All this deserves praise.
Starting a new cadet unit in a school that has no tradition of contact with the Armed Forces is a difficult task. Continuing it until it becomes a successful, integral and recognised part of the school’s offer to its young people is a formidable mission. The early support and enthusiasm of head teachers is vital, for they must be willing to encourage teaching staff to take part as adult volunteers. I was very pleased to read earlier this year that Ofsted is to build into its assessment of schools a category for character-building activities, such as cadets. I hope that Ofsted inspections will go further, to pay even closer attention to the presence of CCF units and give those schools that have good ones much credit. This will assist the culture change needed to get to the next stage for the cadet expansion scheme.
There is no doubt that for a school cadet unit to be successful, the majority of officers and instructors must also be established teachers in the school. This requires a flexibility of resources, and of timetabling, which is not easy in these times of many other calls on school funding. The MoD currently funds a school staff instructor for one paid day each week, but most fledgling cadets units need at least two paid days to be able to flourish. I hope that a tiny fraction of the £27 billion boost for education funding alleged to be pledged by the Prime Minister this month will be available for this extremely worthwhile provision. In the meantime, the admirable Army cadet training teams fill the gaps, but often have to do so at the expense of more mature units, which also need their regular attention.
What do CCFs bring to schools? The University of Northampton’s 2018 report confirmed what most of us have believed for a long time: young people participating in cadet training develop skills such as leadership, communication, confidence, self-discipline and teamwork. There were clear indications in the Northampton research that the cadet experience has a positive impact on GCSE attainment, school attendance and behaviour. This in turn can lead to an increased uptake in worthwhile vocational training and apprenticeships, and a greater likelihood of employment. Teachers, too, felt that work within the cadet corps enabled them to build pleasing contacts with pupils that benefited both parties back in the classroom.
The Cadet Vocational Qualification Organisation, which I am proud to chair, last year added particular value to cadet training in CCF detachments, and in community cadets: the Army Cadet Force, the Sea Cadet Corps, and the Air Training Corps—those which do not have a school base. Last year we enabled some 11,000 young people from all branches to pass level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications under the aegis of cadets, adding greatly to their employability. However, teenagers are not the only people to benefit from our training. There are about 26,000 adult volunteers in community cadets, some of whom are serving or ex-military personnel. Many have earned no real qualifications since leaving school and have hugely benefited from the CVQO’s programmes. Last year, more than 1,000 adults received our diplomas including 90 at first degree and master’s degree level. I am privileged to be able to confer their awards at Sandhurst each autumn. Cadet leaders tell me regularly of the great pleasure and fulfilment they receive from this important voluntary work. They give up much of their spare time to do it, including many weeks of training, so that they can do the best job for the young people they serve. This country is much in their debt.
As I am honorary colonel for cadet music, I ought to mention in passing the welcome proliferation of cadet bands. They are often trained by military musicians to an extraordinarily high standard. Indeed, as the number of regular service bands has diminished in the last years, their places at remembrance services and civic ceremonies, and on local bandstands, have been taken by our young players.
Last week, we read in the newspapers that regular enlistment, especially to the Army, continues to decline. The cadet forces are vibrant youth organisations and the main thrust of their work is as such, but there is clear evidence that they also provide valuable recruits for the Armed Forces. We should not be shy about asserting this. If the cadet expansion scheme has been a success story so far, how can we build on that? I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will confirm that once the 500 units have been achieved next year, there will be an ambitious new target for the scheme. At the present rate, it would take 10 years to double the numbers; we ought to try to do it in five. If we are to do so, more leaders and policymakers in our country’s education service must be made aware of the very real and positive effects that the cadet experience can have on school attainment and on the lives of the young, especially those pupils from areas of deprivation. The cadet forces were founded in Victorian times to make better soldiers. Today, in the 21st century, their task is to make better citizens and they deserve all the support that the Government can give them.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Lingfield on his excellent speech and on raising this important issue. I am absolutely delighted to join in this debate and completely support the cadet expansion programme, which started some years ago when I was working in the Ministry of Defence.
Shaun Bailey is the Conservative mayoral candidate for London, and he was brought up on a North Kensington council estate by a single mother. His mother made him join the Army Cadet Force at the age of 12, and he has said, “That really rescued me” from the culture of gangs and so on in which he might otherwise have been immersed. When I was working in the MoD, some eight years ago, I was asked by the charming MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, one Joan Walley, whether I would go to visit the air cadets there. I asked a boy of 12 or 13, “Why did you join the air cadets?”, and he said, “It keeps me off the street”. That might of course have been him quoting one of his parents, but it is also true.
This weekend in London, we have had three more murders—stabbings—and there is a knife crime epidemic, I regret to say. I point no fingers at anybody or any political party, but this tends to be among young people with nothing to do. They have no outlet for their energy or exuberance and little hope or aspiration. We need to understand their position: how they are pressured by their peers into joining gangs or even, as we discovered this weekend in Liverpool, paid to go and knife people they do not even know.
Sitting here, we—who are almost exclusively from pretty privileged backgrounds—should understand that there are things we can do to improve the lives of young people who do not have our start in life. I go back to Shaun Bailey and the young man in Stoke. There are of course other organisations. I pay tribute to other youth organisations that are a great help: youth clubs, the Scouts, sporting bodies—boxing, football and canoeing. As the local MP, I used to be president of the Blaby and Whetstone boys’ club—for those concerned, it took girls as well—which did excellent work. However, if the truth be known, the Scouts tend to appeal more to better-off, middle class people; that is not a criticism, it is just my observation. Among the cadet organisations, the Army Cadet Force certainly does not. I was a Scout and then in the Combined Cadet Force at my privileged day school. Both gave me outlets for my energy and introduced me to hillwalking and climbing through adventure training. Every spring, we would go climbing in the highlands of Scotland in the snow. I then joined the Armed Forces for 18 years and I still go hillwalking. Sometimes, I take my children and force them up the hills as well, although they are actually quite keen on doing it themselves.
From a less privileged position, from some of the sink estates in our inner cities, we should be giving them all a taste of the excitement, the adventure and the outdoors. This is not an original thought. When I was working in the Ministry of Defence, it was explained to me that Gordon Brown, when he became Prime Minister, wanted a CCF in every state secondary school, as we are now getting. I did not know that. David Cameron, with his National Citizen Service, was pursuing something not dissimilar in wanting to give everybody a taste of community service and outdoor adventure.
What do young people get from the cadets, be it the Combined Cadet Force, the Army Cadet Force or the others? It gets them off the streets. It gives them a sense of pride, often a sense of pride in their appearance. It gives them rules. It gives them discipline—self-discipline, as my noble friend referred to. It gives them a different, broader outlook on life. Dare I say it, it gives them aspiration, perhaps some action and adventure—things that all young people should have the opportunity to be exposed to but often, sadly, are not.
Of course, cadet organisations are not perfect in all ways, but this cadet expansion programme is giving more young people in state schools the chance that I had, and most will benefit from it, as I did. I never regretted the time that I spent in the CCF, although perhaps some of my peers with longer hair rather laughed at me. I never regretted joining the Army either. I shall digress slightly, because it is a similar case: I remember Sergeant Joe Farrell of the Scots Guards saying to me some 40 years ago that he had been offered a choice by a magistrate in Glasgow between joining the Army and going to jail. Wisely, he took the former course and it gave him the opportunity to get out of the Gorbals as it was then.
I want to touch on two issues, the first perhaps striking a discordant note. I recall watching a parade with the Prince of Wales, who was taking the salute, in the Mall in 2010—I think that it was Cadet 100, but I might have got it wrong. Hundreds of keen young people marched down the Mall with a sense of pride—pride in their uniform and in everything one would want. They were young people straining to use their excess energy—in drill, in sport, in adventure training and in military exercises. I heard what my noble friend said about adult volunteers, but I fear that not all the adult volunteers fulfilled the same position, in that they were straining to get in their uniforms and were not as good role models as they might have been. I am sure that they are all good people, but good adult volunteers to act as role models are essential. I witnessed one ACF adult volunteer trying to climb a rope net in front of his platoon. Frankly, it was embarrassing: his platoon were running up the net and he could not make it.
Secondly, I hope things may have changed and that I am out of date, but I recall being told that the last state school in Scotland to have a CCF had it closed down in about 2008 or 2009 because the head teacher believed it was militaristic and had no place in society. I hope teachers have learnt that a youth organisation such as the cadets is not just about wearing uniform; it is a great deal more than that.
To close, I will share a vignette from my first cadet council—I think that is what it was called—at which the reserve forces’ and cadets’ associations were all present. I had been in my job at the Ministry of Defence for two weeks and my civil servant told me that I was chairing the council, which rather surprised me. There had recently been a tragic death of a young person on adventure training. The senior civil servant who organised the council said to the assembled masses: “You must understand that our first priority is health and safety, our second priority is health and safety and our third priority is health and safety”. Sadly, all those gathered around nodded wisely. I said: “No it is not. Young people do not join the cadets for health and safety. They join for excitement, education, shooting, flying and outdoor activity. This must, and does, include risk”. They will not join if they do not get any of that.
Let us encourage all young people, as far as we can, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to participate in this different side of life, preparing them to be useful members of society. The cadets can offer young people another way. Once again, I cite the example of Shaun Bailey.
My Lords, I strongly agree with everything that the noble Lords, Lord Robathan and Lord Lingfield, have said in praise of cadets. They make a valuable contribution to our national life, to the Armed Forces and to providing a rounded, character-based education for young people. We need more of them—I say that without reservation. The task is to extend these opportunities to more young people. I was fortunate enough to be a cadet at school. I was not desperately good at taking on the enemy on Salisbury Plain or in the Brecon Beacons but I rose to a high level in my CCF because I was in control of all the logistics of getting people to and from camp. This gave me an encyclopaedic knowledge of railway timetables and the issuing of warrants, which was still done manually. Other skills developed from there.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, said about extending these opportunities. Nobody should be forced to do this at school, but they should have the opportunity. As it happened, in my school we had the choice of the scouts or the cadets. I did both and could give a speech on their strengths and weaknesses. The key issue which it would be good for this debate to attend to, and which I hope the noble Earl will say more about in his reply, is how we extend those opportunities, which are very inequitably distributed at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, referred to the target of 500. I was Gordon Brown’s Minister for Education and played a part in setting up the objective of every state secondary school having a combined cadet force. Alas, only a tiny fraction do now. The target is very welcome; I do not detract from it. I give credit where it is due to the former Prime Minister for setting it, but it is 500 as a total. At the moment, there are 194 CCFs in private schools. Even if the target is met, nearly half of cadet forces will be in private schools. There will be cadet forces in about 300 of the 3,300 state schools in England—a tiny fraction.
I will say this as diplomatically as I can: there was not wholehearted endorsement from the Ministry of Defence for making the investment required to put more cadet forces in state schools. There was an acute concern then—I hope it is less now—about taking resources away from existing cadet forces. That was couched in terms of not wanting to reduce the efficiency of existing cadet forces and the supply chain that they provide to the Armed Forces, but I am afraid that I could not escape from noting a desire to preserve the status quo in the MoD and not to weaken the links between CCFs and private schools, if that was to be the price paid for extending to state schools more widely.
What I would like to see happen is for the model of the exemplary CCFs we have in private schools to be replicated across the state system, but even if the target of 500 is met it will be replicated in only a tiny fraction of state schools. Teenagers who want to get involved in cadet forces in other schools, which will be the overwhelming majority of state schools, will either not have the opportunity or will have to enter cadet forces in the community. The ACFs also do a great job with great volunteers, but let us be absolutely frank; the opportunities are nowhere near as readily available to young people to take advantage of those forces, compared to those teenagers who actually have cadet forces in their schools.
To understand what this means in terms of follow-through, a freedom of information request which I think the noble Earl’s department has just granted shows that 49% of those who entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst this January came from fee-paying schools. I do not begrudge any of them their opportunity —we need the best people in our armed services and anyone who serves their Queen and country deserves our praise—but I want to see those opportunities extended more widely. I say as diplomatically as I can that I do not think the Ministry of Defence should regard it as the endpoint of our evolution as a society that half of all officer cadets should come from schools which serve 7% of the population. A substantial part of the reason that entry to Sandhurst is so socially and educationally restricted is that opportunities to become cadets are much greater in private schools.
It is not just what the raw figures suggest, with 194 private schools having CCFs compared to 205 state schools. Of course those 194 private schools, in addition to the support of the MoD, which I should say is a straightforward subsidy of those 194 private schools, also make a substantial contribution. The noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, referred to the one day a week, which is of course not remotely enough to be able to run a CCF. Most private schools will supplement that. They often supplement it very substantially, in terms of the resources and staff they provide. Also, of course, many teachers in those schools—I pay tribute to them—give of their time, or are expected to as part of their commitment to the school, well over and above that one day a week. That tends to happen much less in state schools, and it is not just because there is not the same ethos in state schools, although I think that is true in many of them. It takes time to build up support for a cadet force, but they are also much more stretched, to be frank, and have much less capacity to manage after-school activities. They tend not to be boarding schools—a high proportion of the private schools that have CCFs are boarding schools—so it is much harder to structure CCF activities. The truth is that they need more support if they are going to succeed in establishing and building up CCFs, and I think that that support should be available.
I have two questions for the noble Earl. Would it not be sensible and equitable if there was a redistribution of resources for cadet forces away from private schools and towards state schools? My view is that it is very hard to justify state subsidy to CCFs in private schools. It is not impossible to do so, because to some extent it is helping the process of recruitment into the Armed Forces, but it is hard. At any rate, I certainly do not think that state support for private schools should be in any way increased, whereas I think the case for increasing state support for state schools setting up CCFs—not only setting up new forces but providing more time and support for those state schools—is very strong. At the very least, I think there should be a two-tier system.
My second question echoes that of the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield. What happens after the 500 target has been met? My view, going back to the policy of now over a decade ago—alas, we did not make much progress in implementing it—is that every state secondary school should have the right to establish a CCF. This may require a new source of funding beyond existing MoD budgets, but it should be regarded as a significant source of opportunities and character development for young people and not just as a straight military operation.
The Minister will of course not be able to make a commitment of that kind from the Dispatch Box this evening, but I hope he will indicate a willingness to look ambitiously beyond the existing target of 500 once that is met.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, for introducing this debate on cadets and the great opportunities they provide for young people.
My late husband started the RAF section of the cadets at his school’s CCF, then gained a gliding licence and a pilot’s licence before he passed his driving test. For him, this was the precursor to a meteoric RAF career and he continued to be a very active champion of cadets all his life. He was president of the London and South East Region Air Training Corps for the last 10 years of his life and spent three years as president of all the CCF. The Army viewed this with great misgiving—it was not at all convinced that an airman was competent—but actually he coped extremely well.
I have followed this by being on the council of the Air League, which sets up scholarships and support for young people interested in the air. I also host an annual Youth in Aviation event here, which brings together a wide range of youth organisations connected in some way with aeroplanes, helicopters, gliders and all the engineering and support services that go with the air. Your Lordships are all invited to meet these young people at the event and see their enthusiasm and commitment. It is particularly heartening to see the disability programmes, with people in wheelchairs and with other mobility difficulties being given the opportunity to fly. One year we had a young man with muscular dystrophy and communication problems who explained through his difficulties the sheer exhilaration of being given the controls during a flight.
When I was master of my livery company, I set up a partnership with a south London air cadet unit from a deprived part of the city. The initial commanding officer set up the annual presentation of my award at a formal dinner at the RAF Club, where these amazing youngsters, many from very disadvantaged homes, host, read, speak and make conversation during the formalities of an RAF mess dinner, to which he adds traditions of the City such as a “loving cup”—all quite challenging and intimidating. They cope brilliantly, having had their confidence boosted by the challenges of cadet life, which also equips them with the social skills for events way outside the comfort zone of their home backgrounds. I have to say, they come very heavily briefed beforehand as well. The City traditions are highly relevant, as the lord mayor and the livery companies always support cadets; they feature in the lord mayor’s parade and they are on duty at formal Mansion House dinners.
It can be even more of an eye opener for their families, most of whom will have had no contact with the military, to see their sons and daughters develop skills and knowledge which they have not come across. They can be taken entirely by surprise to find a sudden passion for polishing shoes and pressing uniforms, which may not have been the activities of choice of their teenagers previously. The proud parents are often a real joy to behold.
As the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, set out, the Cadet Expansion Programme was launched in June 2012 during the coalition Government, when I, like the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, was also an MoD Whip and Minister. They were happy days. The aim was to deliver, as we have heard, 100 new cadet units in English state-funded schools by September 2015, with a commitment for an extra £50 million from Libor fines to further increase the number of cadet units across the UK to 500 by 2020. However, I entirely endorse the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that this will still touch only a fraction of the state schools where young people could benefit so enormously from exposure to cadet units.
The programme is part of the Government’s aim of promoting a military ethos in schools, instilling values to help cadets gain new skills and commitment to their communities and country. This means pupils developing qualities such as self-discipline, loyalty, respect, strong leadership, teamwork, resilience and self-confidence, which will help them achieve excellence and shape their future.
Combined Cadet Force units give pupils from state schools the chance to experience the life-enriching activities of military cadets, which have long been a part of many independent schools. All of this enhances their employability as well as increasing their value as good citizens. The cadet units are always adamant that they are not primarily recruiting agencies. Of course, some cadets will be attracted to the military life, but many more will appreciate the skills it provides while moving into civilian work. With such a reduced military as we have now, it is of great benefit that more citizens understand what the military stands for and what its work entails. As youngsters get involved, so parents and families increase their awareness of the military.
As the Minister has already been asked, what plans do the Government have to continue to expand the cadet programme, and what steps are they taking to ensure that there are enough suitably qualified adults so that all those young people who want to be cadets have access to a unit? The cadet forces owe so much to the dedication and sheer hard work of the adult volunteers, who deserve huge credit. The unit I am involved with now has a full-time police officer as its commanding officer. He is prepared to give up his time and expertise to serve the young cadets. Such people are like gold dust and deserve as much community support as we can muster. It is a hugely rewarding activity—but my goodness it requires dedication. You can see the pride in adults when they watch these young people grow, blossom and develop confidence and skills for future life.
When we watch the Trooping of the Colour or witness other events of national significance, whether military or on parade, we all feel a sense of immense pride that we have such hard-working and dedicated professional military personnel. These days, many if not most of them will have medals on their chest to bear witness to the active military service they have seen, where they have put their professionalism ahead of personal safety and been actively tested in the skills instilled in cadet forces. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, that health and safety should not be the primary concern of cadet forces. Make no mistake, many of those on parade will have started on their careers through the cadets.
I hope that this debate will demonstrate the support of your Lordships for the cadet forces and our appreciation of those who train and guide our young people into becoming the community-spirited citizens whom the country really needs.
My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Lingfield for bringing this debate to the House. At a time when, more than ever, young people need positive activities in their lives, the cadet forces provide opportunities for them. As he said, research on the social impact of cadet forces, most recently from the universities of Northampton and Southampton, clearly records that they deliver a number of positive outcomes for the young people concerned. First, there is belief in their abilities. Young people nowadays do not always believe that they are able. There is improved motivation, leading to improved school attendance, behaviour and attitudes. There is a reduced likelihood of becoming a NEET—not in education, employment or training. Involvement in cadet forces can lead to greater academic achievement, which in turn can contribute to increased social mobility. Importantly, it builds character in our young people and gives them self-confidence in so many ways, including teaching them to be good team workers. As normal cadet force involvement can last for up to five years, those interventions have proved much more likely to be effective than some other, very short-term interventions.
However, there is still resistance from schools, particularly state schools, to participation. Interest remains high but financial constraints, in particular—the lack of available funding from the Cadet Expansion Programme and the cost of establishing such units—can mean that schools, although interested, do not proceed. Quite rightly, the Cadet Expansion Programme is targeted at schools in the most deprived areas but that means that others miss out.
I come from a military county—Wiltshire. Even so, sadly, we have only one state school with a Combined Cadet Force. It was originally partnered with a private school in the area but has now successfully become independent through CEP funding. However, we must not forget that a lack of school opportunity is often provided by community cadet forces. In Wiltshire, these have been very successful. We have three Sea Cadet units, even though we are a landlocked county, 15 Air Force training corps and 23 Army cadet detachments. I look forward to seeing many of those young cadets in Salisbury on National Armed Forces Day at the end of this month.
I have talked to many cadets over the years. They speak positively about the experience of being part of the military cadet force and their opportunities for personal development and skills acquisition. Importantly, they also talk about the opportunities for excitement and having fun. We should also remember that they often say, “It looks very good on my university CV”. Some, but by no means all, of these young people will contemplate a career in the military, but all of them recognise the wider benefits.
However, the Government could do more. As the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said, more funding for CCF programmes now that Libor funding has ended could go some way to addressing the Army’s concerns that it is dominated by people who went to private schools. The Government could do more to encourage independent schools to partner state schools in establishing their own CCFs. Interestingly, the Sea Cadets are partnered with the National Citizen Service; is there scope to use NCS funding more creatively to support sustained, long-term cadet expansion? The DfE is a relatively new supporter of the Cadet Expansion Programme. Can that support be continued and encouraged? Can some DfE funding be ring-fenced to match MoD funding? It is also important that those schools which remove their support for CCFs at some point, due to a culture change, understand from the DfE and the MoD that their funding may have to be withdrawn to protect MoD investment in other schools.
Finally, the Combined Cadet Force has demonstrated great success stories over many years, providing role models for young people and instilling good behaviour, values and standards. The emphasis is on creating good citizens, not recruiting people for our Armed Forces. Evidence shows that schools and communities benefit from CCFs. Arguably, it is pupils from the state sector, particularly those who have grown up in disadvantaged circumstances, who have most to gain from the Cadet Expansion Programme. The Combined Cadet Force can act as a force for good.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, for initiating this timely debate, and I commend him for his excellent speech. I was unable to join the cadet force in Northern Ireland, as the grammar school that I attended did not offer it; nor did many schools in Northern Ireland.
The Cadet Expansion Programme is a Downing Street initiative to expose more schools across the whole of the UK to the benefits of the cadet experience. It is being implemented jointly by the Department for Education and the Ministry of Defence—but not in Northern Ireland, as the Northern Ireland Executive do not address MoD business. The aim was to create a total of 500 CCFs across the UK, increasing from an original total of 249. Northern Ireland joined the programme belatedly, with our school cadet expansion officer—employed by RFCA NI—delivering the programme direct to schools much as we deliver other MoD business where it involves regional authorities or stakeholders; that is, bottom up as Stormont does not do wider defence matters, even when it is sitting.
In the three years that the programme has been running in Northern Ireland, as opposed to the five years it has been running nationally, we have increased from five CCFs to 11, with potentially a further three in the pipeline. Apart from Northern Ireland having the highest percentage increase of any UK region, albeit from a low start, the delivery team remains confident that the appetite in Northern Ireland continues to grow and the region stands ready to deliver more schools, should vacancies arise. Most significantly, the new CCFs in Northern Ireland include cross-community schools and schools in less privileged areas that are facing more societal challenges than the more established CCF schools in Ulster.
Perhaps I may take this opportunity to highlight another extremely successful programme developed by RFCA NI—namely, its Pathway Adventure Activities courses. They deliver youth development experiences based on those used in the cadet movement and are to be found across all of Northern Ireland. In the past year to April, they were delivered to some 80,000 young people. This scheme is delivered in tandem with a wide range of community and church groups, other youth charities, the Prince’s Trust, local authorities and schools. It is now the largest single youth outreach programme, the governance of which involves the head of Children in NI. It is making an immeasurable contribution to local community and youth welfare throughout Northern Ireland. Truly, one must say that this initiative and the Cadet Expansion Programme in Northern Ireland have both been tremendous successes. Let us hope that the comments made in the debate today will aid further progress.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Lingfield on ensuring that we could have this debate and I pay tribute to the service that he has provided over many years to the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ associations comprising the many organisations that make up the group. He has achieved a great deal during his long service by engendering enthusiasm and determination on the part of schools, councils and government to make sure that schools and families encourage children to take up the opportunity of serving in the organisations which train cadets. They provide discipline and a sense of pride and determination to serve the community. Again, I pay tribute to what he has achieved. The noble Lord will probably remember that when I was serving in office with the organisation responsible for the recruitment of cadets, the University of Northampton produced a report entitled the Social Impact Resulting from Expenditure on Cadets. I agree strongly with the at least two other speakers in the debate who said that the social impact of the discipline involved in being trained and making a contribution to society is extremely important.
The social impact that cadet forces deliver is vastly greater than their annual cost. It is the responsibility of all noble Lords in this House who have a direct connection, either elected or unelected, with schools and local authorities to make sure that encouragement is given to those who wish to serve and train to enlist, take the opportunity to travel, be with their fellow students and see the great advantage of serving their country—indirectly, perhaps, but ultimately by joining the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces face a great challenge in making recruitment an attractive proposition. It can be not immediately attractive in terms of pay, opportunities or travel, but in my experience it has been a powerful and positive influence on the lives of the men and women who continue to serve after their school experience.
I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said about the wider attraction to state schools of recruiting students to take part in the activities, and about the approach of the teaching profession. Sometimes it has not been all that enthusiastic, but the ultimate gain of that experience easily outweighs the interruption, if you like, to a well-planned school organisation.
We must encourage leadership skills, which can increase proper job prospects. Those leadership skills are very often connected to service in the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces have a particular responsibility to encourage the young people who join the junior organisations to make their own decisions, encourage others and follow the leadership of those in command of that group.
My main concern is the limitation of capacity and the location of camps for young people going out to enjoy training—hopefully in decent surroundings and properly organised and controlled. That capacity is limited by the amount of money available from central government and the Ministry of Defence to support schools, but it is essential. That experience has fired enthusiasm for the Armed Forces among a great number of young people I have come across.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, for his initiative. When he was president I served with him, looking after the Reserve Forces and Cadets organisation between 1999 and 2001, which seems a long time ago. Vocational qualifications are important, and I pay tribute to his contribution.
My Lords, like other Members who have spoken this evening I welcome this debate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, for raising an important topic, but one not frequently discussed in your Lordships’ House or elsewhere. It is also unusual in that it appears to have brought all sides of your Lordships’ House together. The noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, told us a little about the history of the cadets and made clear why they matter, while my noble friend Lady Garden and the noble Lords, Lord Robathan and Lord Adonis, talked about the importance of having CCFs in state schools and, in some ways, claimed ownership of the policy.
It is quite unusual to have the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Benches all agreeing. I hope that is a good thing. When the Minister responds to the debate, it will probably make his job a little easier than it was in the days when Ministers had to keep batting away the brickbats of issues where we fundamentally disagreed with the Government Front Bench. So, this evening, I hope the Minister will be able to give lots of positive answers.
We have heard about the importance of cadet forces, CCFs and the Cadet Expansion Programme, but we have also heard about how it is funded. It was funded by Libor. That was a limited amount of funding and I will return to that point later because I have a series of questions for the Minister. So far this evening we have had very few questions and a lot of positive speeches, so I want to press the Minister on a few areas where there is agreement in the Chamber to see whether there is also agreement from the Ministry of Defence.
We heard from all sides of the House about the importance of giving young people, whatever their background, the opportunity to engage with cadet forces. It should not be the preserve of private schools. As a declaration of non-interest, my school did not have a CCF. The boys’ school along the road did but I was never invited to go along and join the boys’ CCF. When I was at school, it probably would not have occurred to me to engage in something that sounded military, but on reading up about the aims of the CCF and the Community Cadet Forces, it becomes clear what purpose they serve beyond the military. It is about engagement, service and creating skills and self-confidence. Those are the sort of attributes that every child and young person needs, whatever their background. Therefore, embedding CCFs more fully in state schools is something to which we should all aspire. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, pointed out that, even in Wiltshire there is only one CCF embedded in a state school, which is really surprising.
To what extent will the Government be ambitious? Will they take up the challenge of the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, and have more CCFs and Community Cadet Forces, but perhaps not in the way suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis? He seemed to suggest taking money from the private schools to give to state schools. My question would be: how can the overall programme be increased? If that means redistributing funding, that may be necessary, but my first question would be: is there an opportunity to expand programmes more generally?
In particular, I was reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, that in many ways the current scheme is a No. 10 initiative. It came from David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who are not necessarily figures prayed in aid very often in 2019. It was a good initiative, but it was from No. 10, so how far does the Ministry of Defence buy into the current scheme? Beyond the Libor funding, what commitment are the MoD, or the Government more generally, willing to make? Is the Chief of the General Staff as committed as Members of your Lordships’ House are, and as Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron were, to these schemes? Surely it needs leadership from the top. Can we be reassured that the Ministry of Defence is committed to this?
Is there ongoing commitment from the Department for Education? The other point reiterated this evening is that, while cadet forces might serve as a form of recruitment, that is not their intention. It is vital, therefore, that there is a real commitment from teachers and from the Department for Education. Several noble Lords mentioned that in private schools it is often the teachers themselves who have been committed to running CCFs, and that is what made them so effective. What are the Government doing to ensure that teachers in a variety of schools feel that it is worth while committing to creating CCFs or separate cadet forces?
It is not simply a question of money and personal remuneration for individual teachers. That is not the issue. Most teachers are committed to their jobs, and if they are running CCFs, they will do it with passion and commitment, but clearly there is a limit to everybody’s time, so it is important that there is real buy-in. What are the Government doing to ensure that teachers and schools are supported? In particular, what scope is there for going out to deal with the pent-up demand? The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, indicated that there is a lot of enthusiasm among young people to be part of cadet forces, but they are unable to join them because their schools do not provide them and, in some cases, there are no community forces either. What are the Government doing to ensure that there are more adult volunteers who can run Community Cadet Forces? What are they doing to encourage schools, beyond Ofsted, which can be a mixed blessing? What are the Government doing to encourage schools to feel that having cadet forces is a real benefit?
Here I shall make a slightly negative comment and then draw to a close. This evening we have all spoken pretty well with one voice. In the Library briefing was an article by Emma Sangster, who clearly has rather a different view of cadet forces. She points out that the research that has been done—the Ecorys report—seems slightly dated and of insufficient depth. It cannot show causality. It suggests that people involved in CCFs tend to be quite confident, to do their homework, to be very committed and to be socially aware, but it does not show causality. It is possible that people naturally prone to being good citizens are also enticed to join the cadet forces. What can be done to ensure that we have better data on recruitment?
I apologise—I know I have said “finally” once before, and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, the Whip, is looking at me—but I have a final point. One of the issues about recruitment to the Army is that the ranks are often recruited from estates yet senior officers come from private schools. It is less the case with the Navy and the Air Force. What can be done to expand the CCF programme so that a much broader range of people engage with the Army in particular? If we are looking at social mobility and key reasons to support this, this would be one way of actively being able to say that CCFs are good for society as a whole.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, for obtaining this debate. I particularly commend his praise of Ofsted and its renewed interest in and emphasis on the whole child. This wider emphasis on the whole child, in which the cadets can play such an important part, is really good for our society in the broader educational sense and in this sense.
The Cadet Expansion Programme was launched in June 2012 and aims to open 500 cadet units in state schools across the country. Labour strongly supports this work, as it continues to offer new horizons for young people. Children and teenagers often learn important skills such as teamwork, resilience, confidence and self-esteem which can prepare them for the future, whether or not they end up having careers in the forces.
According to the 2018 Ecorys report into the cadet experience, kids in cadet forces better engaged with peers, got stuck in to their school work and liked being at school. For example, 59% of cadets learnt new skills, and 69% of RAF cadets achieved high GCSE results when compared to other pupils.
The Cadet Expansion Programme allows schools to build better links with the local community. The same report found that the presence of cadets at community events such as Remembrance Day often provided a tangible way to raise the profile of the school within the surrounding area. One respondent added that the link with the local community was,
“much stronger, and mutually beneficial”.
We on this side of the House rightly recognise those benefits.
The report concluded with various recommendations, including increasing publicity about cadets, enabling schools to develop longer-term strategies for their units, and further research into the programme’s outcomes. Can the Minister update the House on any progress on these recommendations, as well as confirm that the Government are on course to meet the target of 500 units by March 2020? Will the Minister also consider introducing a review of awards for cadets and adult volunteers to make them equivalent to recognised skills and educational standards such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards?
According to government figures published in April, there were 14,540 Sea Cadets, 37,670 Army Cadets and 32,850 Air Cadets—over 85,000 in total. However, these figures sadly revealed an almost 2% decrease, as well as a decrease in the number of adult volunteers for the Combined Cadet Force of almost 7.5%. While we wish to express our enormous gratitude to adult volunteers who give up their precious time to take part, the fall in their overall number is concerning. Can the Minister explain why there has been such a large fall in the number of adult volunteers? We should ensure that these people are recognised in the honours system, as they believe they are often overlooked.
The figures also showed that female representation in the Community Cadet Forces has increased slightly from 30.8% in 2015 to 33.4% in 2019. However, the Government stated that,
“the rise in the proportion of female cadets can be partly attributed to the decrease in the number of male cadets.”
Can the Minister explain how the MoD is to encourage girls, as well as those from BAME backgrounds, to take part in cadets? Funding too remains a key constraint for many. While the MoD covers some costs, schools have to meet others costs of employing a co-ordinator for the cadet unit and providing cover for teachers who are acting as adult volunteers. Can the Minister confirm how much funding has been awarded to schools through the Cadet Bursary Fund?
To close, I reiterate Labour’s support for the cadet programme and the benefits young people can gain when they take part. I hope the Minister is able to answer my questions, and that the Government will take positive steps to encourage the growth of cadet units across the services and across the country.
My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Lingfield for securing this debate. I pay tribute to him in his role as a chairman of the Cadet Vocational Qualification Organisation and to the fine work it does to ensure that the skills gained through cadet forces are recognised and rewarded. I am particularly appreciative of his personal contribution in supporting Army Cadet Force musical activities. He will, I am sure, wish to join me in thanking other noble Lords for their valuable contributions to this debate.
Young people today are growing up in a complex world. We need to help them to develop the key skills, such as those mentioned by my noble friend Lord Robathan, the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and others: self-confidence, resilience and determination, which are qualities that they need to make their way in life. We need to give them opportunities to develop the leadership, teamworking and other social skills that are so vital to employers. Independent schools have for many years looked to military-themed activities to give their pupils a sense of discipline, adventure and achievement. But we believe such life-changing experiences should not be the preserve of the fortunate. It is young people in our most disadvantaged communities who most need help in developing greater strength of character to cope with the challenges they face.
This Government have sought to see as many pupils as possible benefiting from the same quality of life-changing military-themed youth activity offered in many of the best independent schools in the country. That is why we have delivered the most significant expansion ever of the number of school-based cadet units, starting from just over 250 independent and state school units. The Ministry of Defence and the Department for Education have been working closely together since 2012 on the Cadet Expansion Programme. This ambitious programme has a target of adding almost 250 new cadet units in state-funded schools, to bring the total number of cadet units parading in schools across the UK to 500 by next March.
I echo the comments of my noble friend Lord Freeman. The Government firmly believe in the important societal benefits and social mobility that cadet units can provide. Those are significant drivers for our continued investment in the cadet forces, both in school units and in the wider community. The Government have been able to put LIBOR fines to excellent use by committing £50 million to the Cadet Expansion Programme, with the priority being to set up units in areas of high deprivation. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, will be pleased, as am I, that the Cadet Expansion Programme is firmly on track to achieve the target of 500 cadet units parading in schools by March next year, with over 450 units currently parading.
The noble Lord spoke about a fall in the number of cadets. I am pleased to say that the number of cadets within the community has increased again in the publication of the cadet annual statistics. However, there has been a reported decrease in the numbers within the Combined Cadet Force, both for cadets and for adult volunteers. This is because CCF Army has approved its approach to accounting for cadet numbers this year, which makes comparisons with previous years less reliable. Some of the earlier data input was found to be incorrect.
I want to address an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about the split in numbers. At the start of the Cadet Expansion Programme, there was a split of approximately 75% CCFs in independent schools and 25% in state schools. The programme is focused on increasing the number of cadet units in state schools in areas of high deprivation, and that focus has meant that we currently have 40% of cadet units in independent schools and 60% in state schools. At the end of the programme—that is, March next year—we will have 37% in independent schools and 63% in state schools, so we have turned the majority of cadet units in schools from independent to state.
Can we improve on the number of 500? The advice that I have received is that the number of 500 school cadet units represents the upper limit of what the three armed services are capable of managing and overseeing, short of a marked growth in their own numbers. The key issue is not money; it is the capacity of the Armed Forces. Should there be additional demand beyond the 500, schools will be guided to channel their pupils to opportunities in local community units, a point rightly made by my noble friend Lady Scott.
My Lords, my noble friend was talking about the split between private and state schools. I applaud the intention to increase the state school CCFs, but would he not agree that one of the dangers of this, as has been suggested quite often, is that people damage and perhaps even destroy that which works—namely, the CCFs in private schools—and then in fact do not establish good CCFs in state schools? That is what we must beware of.
That is certainly a risk. It is one that we are alive to and determined to prevent.
Head teachers of all the new schools that have come forward have done so because of the benefits that they see for their pupils. Many head teachers can give testimony to the positive impact of their cadet unit on attendance, behaviour and discipline. Head teachers have commented, for instance, that, “the pupils are more confident and attendance has improved”, and that their cadet unit, “brings out self-discipline, team work, working together, ambition and wanting to be the best”. Head teachers also speak of how others look up to the cadets in their school and how their cadets provide excellent role models for other pupils.
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene and break up the harmony that had lasted until the Minister’s speech. He said a moment ago, rather to my concern, that his department is setting an upper limit to the number of state schools that will be able to have Combined Cadet Forces, and that the capacity of the Armed Forces to manage more than 500 units was not there. Is he aware that that will be greeted with widespread disappointment in the state-school world? Effectively, he is saying that private schools, most of which have CCFs, will maintain them and a relatively small number of state schools will get them—that is, the 300 or so that will get them as a result of the expansion programme—but the 3,000 state schools that do not have Combined Cadet Forces will have to make do with Community Cadet Forces because the MoD says it is not capable of taking on more responsibilities. Could he indicate to the House an open mind about keeping this issue under review? I can tell him that his remarks will be greeted with very serious disappointment in the state-school world.
My Lords, this is a time-limited debate and I have lots to say, but I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I am not saying that 500 is the absolute upper limit; of course, we keep that under review. We continue to push the envelope and would always want to do that in a geographical area where we have capacity to increase the number of cadet units in schools. I was simply pointing out that capacity is a challenge, which is why we are looking to increase numbers in the particular kinds of schools that we are targeting, but the figure of 500 is not fixed in stone. I hope that corrects any impression I gave earlier.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, mentioned the Ecorys report. It is several years old and we regard it as having been superseded by newer studies, such as that currently being undertaken by the University of Northampton. So far, this work has been published in two interim reports which clearly set out the benefits of the cadet experience. This research gives head teachers, who have a crucial role to play in enthusing parents, pupils and staff about the benefits of a cadet unit, the evidence to convince others of the value of having a cadet unit in their school.
However, despite the clear benefits, schools can face significant challenges and barriers to establishing and running a cadet unit, particularly in relation to funding and human resources. Unfortunately, along the way towards meeting our Cadet Expansion Programme target, a number of new units have not flourished and have had to close. These closures have occurred for a variety of reasons which neither the Ministry of Defence nor the Department for Education has the leverage to influence.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised a number of important points, but one I would like to pick up on is that the key to the success of a cadet unit is the enthusiasm of the head teacher. If a head teacher who is in favour of cadets is replaced by one who is not, there is a clear risk to the survivability of the unit. Head teachers must also be able to attract and retain sufficient capable and motivated individuals, either from the staffroom or beyond, to run the cadet units. Given the responsibilities and workload of teachers, this is not always easy—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. We also recognise that difficult decisions sometimes have to be made as head teachers balance priorities while needing to live within their budgets.
We are therefore continuing to support schools through the cadet bursary fund which provides additional money, where possible, to meet the costs of cover for teachers who are away on courses training to become adult volunteers, and helps schools afford to employ staff to administer their cadet units. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked how much money has been spent through this fund. As at 23 May, the figure I have for money paid out since December 2014 is just over £5,900,000.
One thing that has frustrated schools in the past has been the perceived lack of recognition that they receive, despite the significant commitment and effort involved in establishing a cadet unit. I am sure that head teachers will welcome Ofsted’s new framework, which places clear importance on personal development and positive attitudes. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the school staff, and others, who volunteer to support their cadet unit. We encourage school staff to take part in running the cadet unit so that it becomes an integral part of the school, but there is also an important role for adults from outside the school community.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked whether we could consider introducing a review of awards for cadets and adult volunteers to ensure they are recognised in the honours system, particularly the volunteers. Where possible, and in the majority of cases, cadet and adult volunteer courses already result in recognised national body awards, such as the Duke of Edinburgh, the Royal Yachting Association and St John Ambulance. This ensures that they are recognised outside of cadets and assists cadets with their CVs.
Adult volunteers are recognised through the honours system and are included in the military honours system. While there is no quota, when compared with regular and reserve Armed Forces personnel, cadet adult volunteers do well. Adult volunteers who do not wear uniform are recognised through the civilian honours. They also do well. Adults can receive recognition through various other awards, such as the lord-lieutenant awards or RFCA awards. The mechanisms are there; we just need to remind people that they should nominate deserving individuals.
I also thank all those schools with established cadet units that have partnered with a state school to enable them to offer the cadet experience to their pupils. This is of particular value where staff in schools setting up new units have no prior military experience and helps to transfer important skills. To date, of the schools that have established a new cadet unit under the expansion programme, over 70 are benefiting from such partnerships.
I hope noble Lords will allow me a little extra time, since we have some in hand, to finish my speech, bearing in mind the interventions we have had. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked how we encourage greater participation by young females and those from BAME backgrounds. We do not have targets for either category and the associated numbers are not measured. Any cadet unit, self-evidently, will be composed of young people who are representative of the local area. Having said that, areas with a high BAME population often correlate with areas of high deprivation.
My noble friend Lord Lingfield asked how we can build on what we have achieved, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and others. The Government’s ambition is to increase cadet numbers in school cadet units to 60,000 over the next five years. This can only be good for our young people, but as we work towards this ambition, we must ensure that legacy schools continue to thrive. We must also continue to support our 3,000 community cadet units across the UK and ensure that we keep the offer relevant, up to date and appealing to today’s young people. I am pleased that improvements to a number of cadet training facilities funded through the programme are also available to cadets from the community cadet forces. I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that the single services are committed to sustained funding of cadet units.
Cadet units have a vital role to play in building the character and resilience of young people. The Government remain committed to supporting all cadets and the adult volunteers, who are the lifeblood of the cadet units. I firmly hope that in the coming years, we can build on the success we have achieved to date and continue to give many more young people the life chances they deserve.
House adjourned at 6.27 pm.