Independents' cadet force funds to be handed to state schools

Private school leaders condemn government proposals to confiscate cash from worst performing units

Irena Barker

Independent school leaders have hit out against government plans which will mean funding for Combined Cadet Force units in some private schools is taken away to fund similar units in state schools.

New proposals from the Government this week say that every two years the five "worst performing" CCFs in the country will have their funding axed and the money reallocated to state schools' units.

The move is designed to "incentivise" CCFs in private schools to form partnerships with state schools, ministers say.

The plans come hot on the heels of the obligation for independent schools to pass the Charity Commission's "public benefit" test or face losing their charitable status, a development that has already led to mounting frustration and confusion across the private sector.

The cadets proposals emerged this week as ministers accepted a recommendation from the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions' social mobility report that all state schools should "have access to" cadet force activities.

However, the Ministry of Defence will not be receiving any extra money to fund new cadet units, because of its growing commitments in Afghanistan, and is understood to be looking to raise cash from third parties.

Currently, there are Combined Cadet Forces running in 200 independent schools and 60 state schools.

In 2008, the then schools minister Lord Adonis announced the Government would be committed to expanding access to cadet activities, and launched six new partnerships between state and private schools in London.

Andrew Grant, chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) representing elite private schools, said the move to axe underperforming CCFs would "cause uproar" if they were in the state sector.

He added: "It looks like another fine example of a Government destitute of ideas and money high-handedly bestowing on other people the freedom to spend their own money as the Government decides is appropriate."

Tom Garnier, who represents the HMC on the Cadet Force Association executive committee, said it was still not exactly clear what the government proposals meant for independent schools but there would have to be a "clear set of objective criteria" when CCFs were judged, and they should apply to both state and private schools.

"The devil will be in the detail and we are watching this space very closely," he said.

Meanwhile, the leader of the umbrella body for independent schools has hit out at criticism of private education implicit in the Government's response to the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions' report.

The document accepts recommendations to exercise forms of positive discrimination in order to recruit poorer students to universities.

David Lyscom, chief executive of the Independent Schools' Council, said the solution was not about granting pupils from poorer backgrounds "academic favours" to help them go to university.

He said: "Only a genuine meritocracy will guarantee the highly qualified staff needed to fill these top jobs, and universities and the professions themselves should keep their responsibility for recruitment, free from interference from the Government."

JOINING FORCES

Currently, there are Combined Cadet Forces running in 200 independent schools and 60 state schools.

In 2008, the then schools minister Lord Adonis announced that the Government was committed to expanding access to cadet activities, and launched six new partnerships between state and private schools in London.

The scheme involved independent schools with existing CCFs taking pupils from neighbouring state schools into their cadet section.

Cadets take part in a range of military themed activities, including first aid, adventure training and assault courses.

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Irena Barker

Irena Barker is a freelance journalist.

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