RAF News

Independent report celebrates positive impact of Cadet Forces

Female Cadet work together moving tires, while teachers and James Heappey watch on.
The four-year study conducted by the University of Northampton found participation in Cadet programmes like these Cadets from a South London all-girls school, led to greatly improved communication and leadership skills, personal resilience, confidence and more.

Exciting new research into UK Cadet Forces highlights the positive impacts on young peoples’ development, adult volunteers, and wider society. 

The UK currently has 130,000 cadets and almost 30,000 adult volunteers supporting them.  This follows the Cadet Expansion Programme launched by the UK Government in 2012 which saw the number of school cadet units double to over 500 by last year. 

James Heappey gives speech to female Cadets.
The study also showed increased social mobility, educational outcomes, employability, as well as improved mental and physical well-being.

During a visit to a local cadet unit based in a South London all-girls school, Defence Minister James Heappey explained that a four-year study conducted by the University of Northampton found participation in the Cadet programmes led to greatly improved communication and leadership skills.  Personal resilience, confidence and an ability to work effectively with a diverse range of people were also recognised as attributes of cadets and adult volunteers. 

“I am delighted to read the positive conclusions from the University of Northampton’s report into our cadets, which emphasises the importance of this programme for both young people and adult volunteers. Cadets form a vital part of the communities they represent, building confidence, resilience and friendship in a unique setting. This report clearly demonstrates how Cadet Forces benefit our youth by broadening their horizons and unlocking their potential.”

James Heappey
Minister for the Armed Forces

Not only were these positive attributes developed within the Cadet Forces; the study found the skills gained through cadets’ experiences are reflected in other aspects of life.  For example, participation was directly linked to increased social mobility, improved educational outcomes and greater employability. 

Additionally, improved mental and physical well-being and strong community links are included in the findings, particularly for those who experience economic or other disadvantages.  The well-being benefits from participation may result in fewer visits to the GP or less use of mental health support services.

The report outlines a significant return on investment in the Cadet Forces, with the cadet experience offering potentially life-changing opportunities for career progression and vocational qualifications.  This results in increased career prospects for those who may not hold traditional educational qualifications.

“Our research has concluded that the Cadet Forces provide structured challenge, discipline, training, education and, importantly, fun. Cadets and their adult volunteer instructors gain new skills and qualifications which increase their education and employment opportunities.  The positive impacts on social mobility are, frankly, amazing. The Cadet Forces represent a very good use of taxpayers’ money.”

Professor Simon Denny
Institute for Social Innovation and Impact, the University of Northampton

Earlier this year, the Defence Command Paper outlined a refreshed commitment to invest in the Cadet Forces, and the MOD will continue to work jointly with the Department for Education to develop and expand the programme to provide this opportunity to more young people.

The Ministry of Defence and Department for Education also announced a further £1.1 million of funding for the Cadet Expansion Programme (CEP) in April 2021.  The CEP builds on the Government’s support for children’s wellbeing as they make the transition back to the classroom, as well as its £1.7 billion investment in programmes targeted at young people who may benefit from additional help with academic, social or emotional skills.

“I have seen for myself how the values of our Armed Forces – those of resilience, self-discipline and perseverance – can benefit so many of our young people with skills they can rely on well into adult life. That, for me, is one of the biggest benefits of this growing programme and why we are expanding it into even more schools.  This study confirms the positive impact that being a Cadet can have, by levelling up outcomes in education, employment and health for young people.” 

Gavin Williamson
Education Secretary

Below we look at the experience of some cadets, and how the RAF Air Cadets have developed their careers and provided them with skills and opportunities.

Zain Aslam

Aslam taking a selfie while flying in the cockpit.

Zain Aslam is the youngest cadet to complete the intensive eight-month Qualified Aerospace Instructor Course (QAIC), when he was aged 17.  Zain is now trained to teach aerospace subjects and is also part of a working group under the ‘Aspire’ initiative, who have designed and delivered online awareness course on diversity and inclusion.

“The Air Cadets provides you with valuable life skills, it transforms you from a shy, young individual into a young adult and it really prepares you for the real world.  The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of their race, gender, disabilities, religion and sexual orientation. It’s about giving equal access to opportunities and getting rid of discrimination and intolerance.”


Flight Lieutenant Butler

Butler smiling.

Flight Lieutenant Butler, Officer Commanding at 2420 Squadron, re-joined the cadets in 2018 after leaving the RAF.  He shares his passion for the opportunities the RAF Air Cadets bring to young people, especially those that may not be doing so well either at school or at home.

“To me, being part of the RAF Air Cadets is not just a uniform.  It’s about investing in young people and helping them develop.  When I was a teenager, I was going down a wrong path and the Air Training Corps and my Officer Commanding invested time in me, allowing me to fulfil my ambition to join the RAF.  I believe that if I can help just one child achieve the same, it will be a job well done.”

Flight Lieutenant Butler
Officer Commanding at 2420 Squadron

Sam Aleksander

Aleksander smiling with aviation kit and helmet on.

Sam entered the BAE Systems Tempest cockpit design competition in late 2020.  After spending most of Lockdown studying for his GCSEs, Sam took inspiration from his GCSE Design and Technology project, which explored the concept of safe spaces.  He questioned how students’ welfare could benefit in an architectural space, with the idea to create a place where people can talk, particularly when times are difficult.  His entry also explored how colour psychology could affect a student’s feelings, and how this could help pilots understand information quicker.  Sam's design won, earning him a trip to BAE Systems to see the Tempest team in action and the processes involved in developing state-of-the-art technology.

The University of Northampton’s full report, entitled ‘What is the social impact and return on investment resulting from expenditure on the Cadet Forces in the UK?’ can be viewed here. 

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