I’m all for expanding opportunities for young people and so when Gordon Brown, the then PM said he would fund five new cadet forces in state schools, I was the first to apply. Thus Sidwell Company CCF was born at Haberdashers’ Academy Federation in Lewisham, SE London.
The CCF offers leadership and adventure training and a range of skills and qualifications to youngsters aged 14-18. It is just one of the many options from the co-curricular at the Federation. It has proved popular with boys and girls and all ethnic groups. Youngsters are proud of their achievements and rightly so, as are their parents whose support is clear from the packed stands at every show occasion.
The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are our parent body and their distinctive red feathers are proudly worn on the cadets’ berets but have to be earned of course. The Fusiliers have been a great support and we owe them much and are extremely grateful.
Today there are well over 100 cadets in the Company who meet and train every week after school on Wednesdays. There is also a very impressive marching band or to give it it’s proper title a Corps of Drums. They have played at a variety of venues and always a star turn at presentation events at the College.
I am always proud to join the cadets whenever I can. They are clear that the opportunities and disciplines learnt have changed their lives for the better. For the past two years I have attended the Annual Dinner a formal occasion with all the rituals one would expect. The cadets learn how to behave on such occasions and enjoy the formality and experience.
Apart from practical skills of all types, academic qualifications are also achieved. This included 15 cadets achieving BTEC Level 2 in Public Services last year. Sergeant Maya Campbell is now at Welbeck Military College and has been put forward for a Commission so well done to her. She is the exemption going for a military career! The majority leave for college courses or university but still return to help train the younger cadets. Their skills learnt in the CCF stand them in good stead whatever they decide to do in the future. One thing seems to stick in particular and that is the team spirit and fellowship among the Company.
The annual camps are popular despite hard work and tough conditions. 70 cadets recently went to North Court Farm training area and learnt new and important life skills. They lived in an old barn with a roll mat and a sleeping bag and had a fantastic time. These are youngsters from inner City London! The senior cadets had to produce a map with all the info necessary for a 12 mile hike. Other activities included Quick Move and Lantern Stalk which need to be experienced I believe!
Becoming a cadet is not for everyone and nor should it be but for some youngsters it has clearly been the making of them. I shall continue to support it and am grateful to the Contingent Commander and staff who give up their time to make new experiences available to youngsters. Making a difference is what is important.