Department for Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi praises CCF

Posted on March 03, 2018

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At the 2018 CCF Headteachers’ Conference, Nadhim Zahawi MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, was our key note speaker.

In a speech delivered to more than 100 delegates in attendance, he said:

Good morning. I would like to begin by thanking you for inviting me to speak today. It is an honour to be here at such an important event and to be able to address you in such a wonderful venue.

I want to start by saying thank you – to all the schools who have joined in our initiative to offer the unique benefits of the cadet experience to as many children as possible. I would also like to thank all of you who are supporting them, including at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). We are delighted to continue working with you on this joint initiative. The MoD provides the critical infrastructure and huge commitment, including the vast amount of additional resources to support cadet units in schools and we are extremely grateful to you.

Cadet units play a key role in supporting one of our key departmental goals – to prepare young people for adult life and to develop the ‘life skills’ they need to thrive in their careers and in their personal lives. For too long there has been a false choice between academic standards and activities that build the life skills of young people, and as much as we want someone to be able to solve a quadratic equation, we also want them to be able to face up to all the challenges presented by life in modern Britain too.

Young people need more than academic qualifications to succeed in adult life. They also need what have often been referred to as ‘softer’ skills, character building or ‘life skills’ such as team working, resilience and motivation. Traits that ensure they are able to work well with their peers, can remain determined even after a setback, and are able to apply themselves to the achievement of longer-term goals.  We know that these qualities and skills not only underpin young people’s academic attainment, but are valued by employers and enable them to make a positive contribution to British society.

Military-based activities such as the cadets have, for the past century, largely been the preserve of the independent sector. In fact, it is arguable that pupils in the state sector – particularly those who have grown up with disadvantage - have the most to gain. Which is why this government is funding the biggest-ever expansion of school-based cadet units, with the aim of creating 500 Cadet Units in schools across the UK by 2020. Within the criteria for the programme, we are focussing on more disadvantaged areas so that those who would benefit most can access the unique opportunities provided by the cadets – the sense of discipline, adventure, achievement and service to others.

I, like the Secretary of State, and his predecessor before, see social mobility as key to having a fairer, more cohesive country, where all people have the chance to be able to succeed. It is important that we remove the barriers that individuals face, so that everybody, all over our country, regardless of background, can go as far as their talents can take them that they get the best and most stretching education or training, and make the transition into, and upwards through a great career. Programmes such as the Cadet Expansion Programme (CEP) can play a key role in helping deliver this objective.

Through the establishment of a Combined Cadet Force, a school can play an important part in improving the life chances of young people, irrespective of where they live, or whatever their background. It will provide young people with the opportunity for them to develop qualities such as loyalty and respect, self-confidence, teamwork and resilience – as well as a spirit of adventure, camaraderie and of fun. Being part of the cadet unit can raise aspirations and prepare them for the challenges and responsibilities of employment. It can give them the skills to help shape their own future.

A school also has much to gain from establishing a cadet unit. Those schools that have set up cadet units have seen significant benefits, not only for their young people, but also to the school and to the local wider community. They have seen improvement in attendance and behaviour, improvements in attainment and commitment, and improvement in relationships between staff and students. Head teachers have told us about the positive impact that their cadet unit has across the entire school and how the cadets can become role models to the other pupils.  

Of course cadet units would not be able to happen without the Cadet Force Adult Volunteers, who give their time, effort and energy to make these units a success. I know that many adult volunteers also speak about the benefits they get from the programme - through having the chance to undergo leadership training and development, as well as activity specific training with the Service they belong to. This enables them to gain nationally recognised qualifications in adventurous and skills based training.

However, you do not need me to tell you of this. Those of you with a cadet unit will know already the difference it has made to your school. For those considering a CCF, Professor Simon Denny and Dr Meanu Bajwa-Patel will provide further evidence of the benefits in the presentation on the findings of the research conducted by the University of Northampton on the impact of cadets, which follows later.

Whilst the benefits are clear, we cannot deny the fact, that to establish and sustain a CCF requires a major commitment. There is a need to understand this. In submitting an application, you are giving agreement to support the running of the cadet unit for a minimum of five years. This commitment should be unerring; including providing the financial support to ensure the CCF operates effectively. However, this needs to be taken in context to the financial contribution provided by the Ministry of Defence towards the running of the CCF; this will outweigh anything provided by the school.

We, at the Department for Education have also taken significant action to give schools the resources that they need. To support our determination to create an education system that offers opportunity to everyone, at every stage of their lives we are introducing the national funding formula. This will deliver on our promise to reform the previous unfair, opaque and outdated school and high needs funding systems. 

Through the national funding formula, we will be increasing the basic amount of funding every pupil will attract. We have recognised the challenges of the very lowest funded schools by introducing a minimum per pupil funding level. In, 2019-20 all secondary schools will attract at least £4,800 per pupil, and all primary schools will attract at least £3,500 per pupil. In 2018-19, as a step towards these minimum funding levels, secondary schools will attract at least £4,600, and primary schools £3,300.  The introduction of the national funding formulae is supported by significant extra investment of £1.3bn across 2018-19 and 2019-20.  This is over and above the budget announced at the 2015 spending review.  Core funding for schools and children and young people with SEN and disabilities (high needs) will rise from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £42.4 billion in 2018-19 and £43.5 billion in 2019-20.  The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that this means overall funding per pupil across the country will now be maintained in real terms up to 2020.

As important as the fair allocation of funding is, how that funding is used in practice is what really matters. We are committed to helping schools improve outcomes for pupils and promote social mobility by getting the best value from all of their resources.  We will continue to increase the support offered to schools and school leaders so they can ensure every pound is achieving the best outcome for pupils.

I of course recognise that a school will want to think carefully about resourcing its CCF unit. When a head teacher is accountable for every pound spent in the school, the decision to commit to or to continue with a CCF can be a significant decision.  But I view this as an investment. You are investing in the lives of young people.  The CCF unit will teach its cadets practical and technical skills, strong values and leadership, while instilling a feeling of worth and value, a feeling of belonging and an inner confidence. These are the character traits and personal attributes which will help pupils in their wider studies and participation in the school, improve their prospects for further education and employment, and serve them throughout their adult life.  Beyond this, you are investing in the future improvement of your school, reaping the rewards I have referred to previously. It is a big step, but one that I am sure you will not regret taking. 

In closing, I would like to return to that central mission of increasing the opportunity for social mobility for our children and young people. If we are to see genuine long-term social mobility, it is essential that we provide the opportunities for all young people, whatever their background to develop the life skills needed to succeed. We know that the Cadet experience can provide these opportunities.  That is why I would like to thank you once again for your continued support for the Cadet Expansion Programme. The Programme’s continued success is dependent on those like you. Leaders who can see how a Cadet Unit can act as the catalyst to bring about improvement and benefits for your pupils, staff, school and wider community.

I wish you every continued success in the future. You should all take pride from the tremendous work you are doing in preparing our young people to thrive.

Thank you.