The Combined Cadet Force is under threat

Posted on: 05 Sept 2014

In a letter to General Haigh, Assistant Head Youth and Cadets, of the Armed Forces, Simon Davies, Headmaster of Eastbourne College explains why the government proposals could be so damaging to CCF for children at whatever school they attend….

Dear Mr Haigh,

I write to express my dismay at the proposal that all schools are to be charged £150 per cadet and lose their current direct funding.

It is very clear to me that these proposals and the admirable ambition to extend the CCF to all schools, show a complete lack of comprehension of the real costs of running a CCF and a complete lack of comprehension of just what is involved in establishing a CCF in a maintained school. The upshot of the proposed changes will be catastrophic for the CCF.

It will lead to the demise of CCF contingents in the independent sector (because the cost becomes prohibitive and they will choose to deploy their resources – staff, plant, physical space, money – into their own service schemes).

But it will also fail to establish the CCF in maintained schools which will not have the wherewithal to meet the real needs of establishing, yet alone running, their own CCF units. It is very clear to us that the admirable ideal of rolling out the CCF for all has been allowed to ride roughshod over the impracticality of achieving this aim.

The success of CCF at Eastbourne College To set the context, Eastbourne College, is an independent co-educational day/boarding school of 630 pupils. We have had a thriving CCF in existence since 1895 and with an establishment of 335 cadets across the three service sections (the Army Section being the largest with 240 cadets), ours is now one of the largest contingents in the South East not including the Military Schools.

Our CCF is compulsory for all of our year 10 pupils (2nd year at College) and thereafter pupils may elect to stay on and develop in roles of leadership or may move into other community service based service opportunities.

  • We have produced 3 army scholars and a further 8 of our former pupils have entered or are currently training at RMAS.
  • 5 of our pupils joined the Reserves whilst in the final stages of their studies at the College
  • 13 of our pupils joined the OTC in their 1st year at university on the back of their CCF experiences.
  • We currently have 9 pupils on the books of our local Army Senior Careers Adviser (including three potential AMS candidates and a further army scholar) and of these all are currently serving in our CCF (aged 16-18).

We are hugely proud of the fact that one of our former pupils and Governors, Sir David Richards has been CDS, another old boy and former Chair of Governors, Sir Ian Forbes was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic and our current chair of governors Sir Kevin O’Donoghue retired as Chief of Defence Materiel – all of these individuals having had their first taster of military life in our CCF.

We also have a thriving partnership arrangement with a local state school. We are hugely proud of our CCF programme and what it has done for those many thousands of young people that have passed through it since inception. We recognise that the value of the cadet experience is not just measured by those who have gone on to pass through the gates of Sandhurst but also those of our pupils who would not have elected to have joined our CCF but who did so and along the way collected some wonderful life changing experiences, shaping their views of the military and awakening in them an understanding and appreciation of all of the core values and standards that underpin military service.

‘CCF in its current guise is under severe risk’ It is important to understand the aforementioned context not simply because I judge the future of our CCF in its current guise is under severe risk as a result of the ill-conceived policy on cadet charging being mooted in General Crackett’s letter.

I am concerned with the process or lack of process that has been applied in the conception of this policy as well as the implications of such a planned policy on the future of our own CCF and that of schools like us.

In the first instance, I am not aware of any form of detailed research undertaken to underpin this proposal.

Had schools with existing CCFs been carefully consulted then the MOD would have been aware that in almost all instances these schools (like Eastbourne College) are already saddled with significant overhead costs that they already bear to ensure the smooth running of existing units. I currently pay infrastructure overheads on a CCF building containing three classrooms, stores and office. This site is prime real estate in the heart of the College which would otherwise be developed for other purposes. Similarly I employ an SSI. His is a full time role where he is employed as Support Services Manager/SSI. I estimate that he devotes approximately 2/5ths of his time on average to his CCF function and he is directly supported by two of my porters who in turn devote approximately 30% of their time in support of the CCF. Without porter support my SSI would require even more time to CCF matters. All up I would estimate the wages bill of providing the correct level of administrative and logistical support to our CCF to be in the vicinity of £30k p.a. This does not include the 51 PTDs that my SSI claims to fulfil his role.

I am bemused to read that I shall lose the public grant funding that I receive. I currently receive direct grant support from the MOD to the tune of approximately £7k p.a. and I value this small but significant contribution. Careful analysis of how this is spent indicates:

  • SSI – 25% of public grant
  • Specialist activities – eg climbing, watersports, archery including staff support, extra female staff cover – 50%
  • Replacement kit and equipment – 25%.

I would point out that I already further subsidise the CCF with direct funding to the tune of £10k pa and this is used to cover insurance, purchase of further equipment to support rough camping associated with field days as well as other activities recognised and accepted by the MOD but not sanctioned within the rules for spending from the public account.

How the costs breakdown There is also an opportunity cost that I bear for my staff delivering the cadet experience which has not been fully understood. All of my internal staff could be employed in other functions. One of my Assistant Heads acts as contingent commander and he contributes on average 5 hours per week to CCF matters (not including the 1 afternoon per week of delivering cadet training). Similarly the other 8 CFAVs who are on my academic staff (of which one is another Assistant Head, two are housemasters, one is a head of an academic department) all have other crucial roles to play in delivering the College’s diverse curriculum and pastoral care.

Similarly, some wide ranging research by the MOD would have identified that a proportion of adult volunteers that support units like ours are not directly employed by the schools (on the teaching staff or support staff). Such staff are remunerated either by the school on a part time basis or by the current MOD pay structures to enable them to give up their time from their employment to support CCF activities. I am not talking of the weekly afternoon training sessions that they willingly give free of charge but for overnight exercises, courses or camps. At Eastbourne College no less than five of my 14 CFAVs fall into this category. In the last financial year they accrued in total 77 paid training days (PTDs) of my total contingent’s accrued tally of 186 PTDs.

You will note that they accounted for a greater proportion of PTDs as they are willing and able to contribute more time delivering the CCF experience than my own full time staff who have other commitments including pastoral and games and others as alluded to above. I value hugely the contribution of those external CFAVs as they all have past military service experience (in the RN or Army) that my own internal staff do not have and are critical to the delivery of specific subject matter skills (weapons handling, shooting, watermanship, AT) that even with the best will in the world, many of my staff would struggle to develop expertise in. Such support enhances the excellent cadet experience that we are justly proud of.

Am I to presume that should I wish to retain their services in future then I shall have to find funding from other means to enable this or reduce the cadet experience? ‘The projected uplift in costs due to this proposal would be prohibitive’ When all factors are considered, the bottom line is that I estimate it currently costs Eastbourne College approximately £60k per year above and beyond existing MOD support to deliver the cadet experience.

The implementation of the plan as outlined in General Crackett’s letter would result in a projected increase of £25k to my annual running costs. Furthermore, an introduction of a cadet charging regime of £150 per capita will add a further £50k to my annual bill. There is an implied assumption that my school can bear any extra costs as a consequence of this proposal or that the costs can be passed onto parents. Parents already contribute £40 as a joining fee and then pay extra to allow their sons and daughters to attend camps and courses. Do I need to remind you that these difficult economic times are being felt by families across the entire socio-economic spectrum?

The reality is that for Eastbourne College the projected uplift in costs due to this proposal would be prohibitive. As a consequence I would further project that we would have to consider the creation of an alternative educational experience, to reduce our CCF to one of a purely voluntary nature. The shame is that it would miss the cohort of young people that one could argue would most benefit the cadet experience – those that don’t know what is good for them and who elect not to join? This may result in its ultimate long term demise and only a small cohort of the keen and willing will remain (assuming the other options for our pupils at this time are not more palatable).

Successful partnership

Furthermore, you may be aware that in the last 18 months we entered into a partnership arrangement with one of our local state schools – Ratton School Academy. We have just successfully completed our first full year of this arrangement with 15 of their pupils training with our own CCF cadets each Monday afternoon and taking part in our overnight exercises. I was able to visit our own culminating exercise in June, accompanied by the Head teacher of Ratton Academy, the regional Schools Cadet Expansion Officer as well as an inspection team from our regional Brigade HQ and the three services. It was wonderful to see the outcome of this arrangement after year 1 and all of us felt that it was a model we wished to continue.

Tellingly, 14 of those 15 Ratton Academy pupils elected to join our own cohort of cadets on our voluntary annual summer camp which in turn was a resounding success for all concerned. What I would rather have welcomed at this point is a considered discussion on lessons learnt from the partnership experience, how we might be able to further expand on this model, to broaden the access to more young people to join us. We could combine resources as we are now (MOD and Eastbourne College) in order to provide some form of expanded CCF hub in our local area to allow pupils from other local schools to join us – perhaps joining us during our afternoon training as some form of afterschool club.

Alternatively we could explore how we might be able to extend our support and influence by exporting some of our capability into existing schools that may not be entitled or able to support and sustain their own CCF. This would achieve yours and the DfE’s stated aim of creating more opportunity to offer the cadet experience to our youth rather than the reality of this new proposal which I estimate will shrink the cadet experience for young people nationally and potentially destroy an existing model that has had a proven outcome but one that is little understood by the MOD or DfE.

If there is a genuine wish both to spread the availability of the CCF and to fund it properly, then we would suggest that efforts are invested in a model that enables schools such as Eastbourne that have the will, the experience and the wherewithal to make CCF a success, to establish an offshoot CCF which accommodates those from local schools who wish to take part and helps their staff members to set it up and make it work. The Eastbourne CCF and these units could go on exercise together etc. But then one asks oneself two questions: why not use the ATC and similar units which are much better resourced? And then why must they be so much better resourced than CCF units? Obviously because they are not deriving the majority of their funding from independent schools.

We are hugely proud of our CCF - what we have and continue to achieve with the thousands of young people that have passed through it over the last 119 years. From our own point of view it is clear from the proposed charging regime that the MOD has no real understanding of what it costs to deliver the cadet experience to 335 young people to the standard that was witnessed and reported on in our most recent biennial inspection report (dated July 2014) and where the formation HQ reported and I quote: “an excellent report on a CCF which consistently delivers the level and quality of cadet experience which all CCFs should aspire to.”

Assistant Head Youth and Cadets

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

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