CCF at Whitgift (Thomas More Catholic School, Purley)
Whitgift has CCF partnerships with two local schools as part of a government initiative for which Whitgift is one of the leading participants, and the only school to have fostered two partnerships. These schools now have over 50 boys and girls benefiting from joining Whitgift’s Combined Cadet Force at no expense to them. The pupils, and some staff from these schools, attend CCF every Tuesday at Whitgift, joining the Army, Navy or RAF sections, and are fully integrated with the Whitgift boys. In these sessions, they get the opportunity to participate in activities such as drill, shooting, battle craft and map reading, as well as CCF trips and camps. The CCF partnerships have been running now for over six years and are greatly appreciated by the participating schools and their pupils.
The whole aim of the CCF is to provide physical and mental challenges in a safe but challenging environment encouraging and developing self-reliance, citizenship, leadership, team building and communication skills. In addition, the CCF is designed to offer new and exciting, as well as challenging, activities, all with an element of fun. In particular, the Camps and Training Days are always popular.
Those students who remain in the CCF beyond Year 9 are taught to instruct and be responsible for the younger pupils and also have the opportunity to attend more camps and activities, sometimes abroad. Experience has shown that even those who are reluctant, do gain from being in the CCF environment and grow in confidence and self-esteem. This is a disciplined organisation which offers challenges to young people in an ordered and safe manner.
The CCF at Whitgift was established in 1874 and there is also a Corps of Drums which performs at many local events as well as national events.
Seven years ago, we established partnerships with two local maintained schools (Thomas More and St. Andrews) to allow their students to access our facilities and the opportunities of the CCF. During this time, it has been a great success as their students and ours have worked together at camps and at meets on Tuesdays, and also their staff and ours have formed a close working relationship.
The School provides use of the school grounds, classrooms, swimming pool, sports hall, our indoor and outdoor firing ranges, minibuses and photocopying. We have a dedicated full-time member of staff who is also provided with housing and have seven members of the Whitgift teaching staff involved in the CCF. Another two members of staff attend from Thomas More School and two from St Andrews. In addition, we have a large network of ex-students (Old Whitgiftians (OWs)) who come to assist with the CCF on a regular basis.
We have good links with the regular forces enabling cadets from all three schools to participate in training weekends and camps with the regular armed forces.
All Tuesday CCF sessions are provided free of charge and the training weekends and camps are heavily subsidised.
Whitgift has a tradition of boys joining the armed forces and currently we have 40 OWs in the regular or reserve forces. We have run the two partnerships with local maintained schools for the past 7 years and their pupils have participated fully in all CCF activities.
Cadets follow a core curriculum containing activities such as shooting on the indoor range and also the outdoor range, map reading, canoeing, sailing, climbing, orienteering, drill, leadership activities and problem solving exercises, and are trained so as to be able to shoot safely. Once at Camp, cadets will take part in a day walk, obstacle course, shooting, fieldcraft, signals (radios), PE and sport and also a military exercise to put all their training into practice. The pupils have also had the opportunity to attend camps with the Army and take part in an Adventurous Training Expedition to Dorset.
Students from Whitgift and our partner schools have been trained to teach the younger cadets from all three schools and have attended leadership courses, for example, the annual Royal Marines leadership course at Lympstone.
At the Annual General Inspection (AGI), which involves up to 400 students from Whitgift and the partner schools, a wide range of activities including leadership challenges, Tug of War competitions, shooting, archery, flight simulator, kayaking, diving, abseiling, climbing, obstacle courses, fieldcraft, rigging a boat, a simulated platoon attack and Beating Retreat by the Corps of Drums are watched by parents of all three schools. We have had a helicopter from the Army Air Corps and over 40 pupils got to fly during the afternoon. Senior Regular Forces Inspecting Officers have praised both the facilities on offer as well as the partnerships we have fostered and their annual reports have been very positive (see below).
The school was very pleased to host Sergeant Beharry Johnson VC at the most recent AGI when he met cadets from all three schools and gave a talk and presented trophies to the competition winners. This gave students the chance to meet and talk to an inspirational and distinguished soldier who gave them an insight into the realities of war.
Quotes from AGI Inspectors:
“The cadets are confident, articulate, reasonably smart and immensely enthusiastic. The NCOs are afforded genuine responsibility and crucially significant freedom to make and learn from mistakes. The atmosphere is entirely conducive to all involved getting plenty of benefit from their time in the CCF. I have nothing but praise for this organisation. The real point is that the ethos and atmosphere inculcated by the Commanding Officer, the Officers and NCOs is just right and this speaks volumes: for there are myriad alternative pastimes in this superbly equipped and motivated school. This is an outstanding CCF setting a benchmark for others to follow.”
General Sir Peter Wall, CBE, Chief of the General Staff (Professional Head of the Army)
“I was thoroughly impressed by everything that I saw and witnessed during the inspection, from the guard and Corps of Drums at the outset, to the Platoon attack at the end of the day. The day was well choreographed and was executed to time which shows organisation, flexibility and discipline. The day was characterised by enthusiasm and real effort from the cadets, who clearly benefited from, and more importantly enjoyed, their involvement with the CCF. I was struck by the breadth of activities on offer to the cadets and noted that they were taking full advantage of what was available. I must also highlight the time and effort that your officers and senior instructors put into the day and to the number of ‘Old Boys’ who return to offer their services to the School and more specifically the CCF, a true measure of the CCF and your success.”
Captain Paul Abraham RN
“I am writing to pass on my thanks and admiration for such a splendid AGI last week. From the turnout and bearing of those on Parade to the energy and enthusiasm of cadets and staff alike during all the activities that I witnessed, I was extremely impressed.
I cannot sign off without a mention of the particularly high standard of the Corps of Drums. The musical talent on display was exceptional and to achieve that standard with students of different ages and different experience levels is truly remarkable.”
Lieutenant Colonel J Swift, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
“Whitgift CCF is an absolutely first class contingent and, as the largest in London and one of the largest in the country, is definitely a yardstick by which other cadet units can measure success. The combination of dedicated CCF officers, well-motivated adult instructors, serving OWs prepared to return to assist and high quality leadership from the cadets themselves renders the CCF experiencer at Whitgift extremely powerful.”
Brigadier N D Sexton, Deputy Commander and Operations Director, Joint Helicopter Command
Quotes from Partner Schools:
“The link between Whitgift School and Thomas More Catholic School provides a wide array of opportunities that are not usually available to students at our school. Cadets benefit from the large variety of training on offer with equipment and expertise that are only found in organisations such as the CCF and, uniquely at Whitgift School, with its many contacts within the Armed Forces.
It is also unmistakeably clear that CCF training provides much more than just knowledge as proved countless times over the past 7 years of the partnership with cadets often filling the highest ranks of the student leadership structure at our school.
CCF also encourages students to be better learners at school through the motivation, discipline and confidence that are imparted through their training sessions. This is further evident in their generally higher attainment than their peers and eventually higher exam grades as well.
Camps and trips are often the highlight for most cadets as they are able to put in to practice the skills gained, have a lot of fun, and experience activities such as flying in Army Air Corps ‘Lynx’ helicopters, visits on board a submarine at the naval base Faslane and the forthcoming trip on HMS Ocean.”
Mr B Knott, Thomas More Catholic School
“The CCF opportunity that has been given to students of St Andrew's CE High School over the last 6 years has been absolutely amazing. The students that have been involved with the 3 years of CCF training through Years 9, 10 & 11 have grown and developed in ways that many of our other students have not. The discipline, routine commitment of Tuesday training sessions, the many camps, range days and training weekends have given our students a far greater skills set, improved confidence, an ability to lead others with respect to the different needs of individuals, as well as an opportunity to make new friends from other schools. Many of our CCF students have become School Prefects in Year 11 as well as one Head Boy and a Deputy Head Girl. This is a direct result of the behaviour and personal conduct expected of each student whilst taking part in CCF at Whitgift School.”
Mr J Kirk, St Andrew’s CE High School
Quotes from the students of the partner schools:
Patrick K – “I like CCF as it gives me the experience that I cannot obtain anywhere else, even above other cadets organisations. For example, going on board HMS Ocean in my forthcoming trip.”
Ryan A – “I enjoy CCF as it gives me a chance to do fun and extraordinary things. I can also understand my physical and mental capabilities and improve them.”
Emel K – “I enjoy CCF because I can experience things I never thought I would in my school life. For example, handling a rifle. I also enjoy the camps because they are amazing value for money and I get to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do in my own school.”
Celia H – “CCF is really good because you experience things you won’t anywhere else.”
Ahsan A – “It looks amazing on your CV and it provides you with many helpful skills for the future.”
In addition to the Whitgift boys, we have 50 boys and girls from Thomas More and St Andrew’s schools from Years 9-13. The CCF has also run sessions for the Croydon Turnaround Project for youth offenders, offering a range of activities including sport, leadership training and adventure training.
Highlights over the past 5 years have included students from all three schools going helicopter flying, climbing, canoeing, shooting on the range, extended visits at sea on HMS Ocean, including a voyage from Gibraltar to Plymouth. In addition, the School CCF takes part in local events such as the Croydon Remembrance Service and also the Royal Fusiliers Remembrance Parade in London. A group from all three schools helped with planting memorial poppies at the Tower of London in 2014. Students have visited the Army Air Corp at Middle Wallop and experienced helicopter flying as well as a select group going to sea in a nuclear-powered submarine.
CCF involvement by the two partnerships is highly valued and celebrated (please see above for quotes from the teaching staff and pupils from those schools).
The CCF meets every Tuesday from 3.55pm to 5.30pm during the School year. There are also camps in October (3 days), January (3 days), March (5 days) and, during the summer holidays, there are two one-week camps. Pupils from all three schools are involved in all of these.