Private school cadet forces ‘facing closure’ in funding shift

Telegraph, 05/09/14, private school headmasters warn that Combined Cadet Force units are facing closure because of changes to the funding system that will see pupils charged £150 to join. HMC Heads Thomas Garnier, head of Pangbourne College, who represents the CCF for HMC and Simon Davies, head of Eastbourne College are quoted.

Dozens of private school cadet forces are facing closure because of a “disastrous” cut in funding aimed at boosting representation in the state system, headmasters have warned.

New rules that would see pupils forced to pay £150 a year to join could spell the end of large numbers of Combined Cadet Force (CCF) units in independent schools, it was claimed.

One private school head told the Times Educational Supplement how the reforms – to be phased in from next year – would result in the cost of running his unit soaring from £60,000 to £100,000.

At present, 260 schools run cadet forces and receive more than £26 million a year to cover staff training, uniforms, rifles, facilities and volunteer expenses. Around 200 units are in private schools, often being seen as vital preparation for a career in the Armed Forces.

But the government has pledged to introduce 100 new cadet units in state schools by the end of 2015.

Earlier this year, it emerged that ministers had agreed to help fulfil the promise by sharing the funding enjoyed by existing CCFs with the new state school units.

It has now also emerged that an additional fee of £150 per cadet will be charged to existing pupils to help pay for the scheme from September 2018. Direct grants would be removed over a four-year period from 2015 in preparation for the change.

In a letter to head teachers, Major General John Crackett, Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, said new units would have to pay a contribution towards their own costs, adding: “This has thrown into sharp relief the disparity between new units, which contribute to the public costs of their CCF, and existing units, which do not.

“My aim is to achieve a funding and charging regime for the CCF that is both equitable and sustainable.”

But heads of private schools insisted the changes could spell the end of their own units, some of which have been running for more than a century. Concerns have been raised that CCF units in the state system can apply for support grants that are not available to their peers in the fee-paying sector.

Thomas Garnier, head of the independent Pangbourne College, Reading, who represents the CCF for the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said some schools would find it “difficult to justify” running a unit.

“There will be a net loss of cadets; schools will close units and do leadership and character training instead,” he said. It’s a disaster for the cadet movement.”

Simon Davies, the head of Eastbourne College, which runs a 335-strong unit formed in 1895, told how the reduction of a direct grant combined with the introduction of fees would almost double the costs of the CCF from £60,000 to £100,000 a year.

“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,” he said.

The Military of Defence insisted details of funding had not been finalised, with a consultation with heads currently ongoing.

“We want to expand the number of Combined Cadet Forces units across all schools so that more young people can develop important life skills such as leadership and confidence," a spokesman said. "To help do this we want to establish an improved, more sustainable funding structure which is fairer for schools and so many more children can benefit from the skills cadetship brings. We are working closely with schools to establish the best way forward.”

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor, The Telegraph.  Read the full article © Telegraph.