Public school cadet forces face closure as costs rise

The Times, 01/10/14, cadet forces in independent schools risk being scaled back or even shut down because of charges planned by the Ministry of Defence, headmasters have warned.

Schools that run combined cadet forces (CCFs) have been told that they face charges of £150 per pupil for uniforms, ammunition and rations. They will also lose smaller grants and payments for teachers who run camps or courses.

The changes, to be phased in between next year and 2018, have been proposed by the ministry to make good a government pledge to open 100 more cadet units in state schools.

Headmasters of leading private schools have accused the ministry of failing to understand the costs of running cadet forces and of putting at risk units that have operated for 100 years.

Some said that they would have to offer cheaper alternatives, such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or adventure activities, such as rock climbing. About 200 private schools have cadet forces.

Several heads attending the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) meeting in south Wales called on the ministry to withdraw the plan, saying that it would backfire. “Instead of the increase of 10,000 cadets, which they optimistically hope within five years to have, they could lose as many as 40,000,” Thomas Garnier, headmaster of Pangbourne College in Berkshire, said. “It’s potentially a catastrophic loss of cadets overall that could kill off the CCF movement.”

Mr Garnier said that his cadet unit at Pangbourne, which has a strong naval tradition, costs £50,000 but the extra charges would add £27,000 a year.

“I just can’t afford that,” he added. “We’re a small school, we live on the margins, all the profit we make — if there’s any — goes back into trying to support the operation of the school and I can’t accept an increase in the budget of CCF of that much.”

Richard Harman, headmaster of Uppingham School, in Rutland, and the HMC chairman, said: “What will probably happen in our schools is that many CCFs will shut down.

“That’s not an idle threat, it’s a fact, because we would either have to charge parents significant amounts more money to do it, or find extra funding from elsewhere, cut something else — and actually a better way of using those resources may be to expand other community service and Duke of Edinburgh, adventure training and do it ourselves.”

The plan to expand cadet units to 100 more state schools was announced by David Cameron and Nick Clegg two years ago to teach more teenagers teamwork, discipline, leadership and other skills.

The government pledged to meet the equipment and training costs of starting cadet units but they were told to pay their own running costs.

A defence ministry spokesman said: “We want to expand CCF units across all schools so that more young people can develop important life skills, such as leadership and confidence. We want to establish a sustainable funding structure which is fairer for schools.”

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