The Defence Committee has today welcomed the expansion of apprenticeships for those joining the Armed Services in their report, published today, entitled, “The Armed Forces Covenant in Action? Part 4: Education of Service Personnel”.
Ofsted conducted a series of inspections on Army Apprenticeships in 2013. The inspections rated the overall effectiveness as good which was an improvement over the last inspection in 2009, rated as satisfactory (now called ‘requires improvement’). Ofsted inspections of other establishments in 2013 showed a small improvement on 2012—three were rated as outstanding but two required improvement. The Committee calls for improvements so that all establishments are rated at least good and more establishments, apprenticeships schemes and courses are rated as outstanding. The MoD has been told to provide the Committee with plans to address the areas for further improvement identified by Ofsted and its recommendations.
The Committee looked into the education of new recruits. The minimum entry age is 16 years of age, the earliest school leaving age. Some 28 per cent of Army recruits are less than 18 years of age, whereas the Naval Service only recruited five per cent and the Royal Air Force (RAF) eight per cent. Further information is needed on why the Army is so dependent on recruiting personnel under the age of 18 years compared to the other two Services, and whether steps are being taken to reduce this dependency.
Of those recruited in 2012, 3.5 per cent of the Army were rated at entry level 2 for literacy (that of a 7 to 8 year old) and 39 per cent had a literacy level of an eleven year old. If as the MoD states, it has to recruit personnel at whatever level of attainment is available, then it should boost remedial action when recruitment entry standards are particularly low. In light of changes brought about by Future Force 2020, it may be that recruiting personnel with higher levels of attainment would better meet the future needs of the Armed Forces. The MoD should identify how it might raise the basic entry level and still recruit sufficient personnel.
Whilst the Committee recognises that some recruits may not have done well in their previous academic careers and may not be eager to take further academic exams, the MoD should encourage more recruits to undertake English and Maths GCSEs which would stand them in good stead for future employment.
Ofsted have explained that instructors play a vital role in ensuring that recruits’ and trainees’ personal and educational needs are met effectively and that a well-planned professional development programme for these key personnel is important in sustaining improvement. The MoD should ensure that all instructors complete the ‘Defence Train the Trainer’ course before they take up their appointments. At the moment this does not always happen. The MoD should also institute a system of observation and feedback to all instructors in line with the recommendations made by Ofsted.
As most personnel will need to have at least one further career when they leave the Armed Forces, the Committee supports the provision of civilian qualifications for military trades. The MoD has carried out some useful pilot projects with paramedic training. The MoD should identify more potential projects to ensure that vital skills paid for by the MoD are not lost to the country.
Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says,
“It is vital we provide excellent education for our personnel not just for their own career development but also to give them confidence that when the time comes to leave the Service they will be able to transfer to a civilian career. They are more likely to remain in the Service if this is the case. We welcome the work that has been done to increase the number of areas where personnel can acquire a civilian qualification and we would like to see this work further extended.”
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