CADETS have won high praise after coming under the scrutiny of military top brass.

Barnard Castle School’s Combined Cadet Force showcased its strength during its biennial inspection, carried out by Wing Commander John Booth from RAF Boulmer.

Boasting one of the largest CCF sections in the north-east of England, split between Army and RAF cadets, the school has the largest RAF contingent in the North East.

Pupils at “Barney” start in the CCF on a voluntary basis in Year 9 when they learn field craft, basic drills and first aid. In Year 10 they move on to rifle drills, advanced first aid, map reading and other exciting activities, including tactical exercises and flying.

BARNARD-CASTLE-INSPECT1As well as having their own indoor shooting range, the school is on the doorstep of Catterick Garrison where students use the outdoor ranges. In Year 11 cadets undertake a Btec in leadership training and prepare to teach younger cadets once they reach sixth form.

During the inspection, Wing Commander Booth said he was exceptionally impressed by the sheer number of activities the cadets are exposed to during their time in the CCF. He was delighted to hear that the contingent had an opportunity to experience both Easter and summer camps.

The Army section, which is affiliated to the Rifles, benefits from close links to Catterick Garrison.

One of the school’s former cadets, Captain Ed Challis, was on the Queen’s latest honours list for commanding the last strategic outpost in Afghanistan. He said: “Strength of character came through the combination of things we did at Barney, including playing rugby and public speaking and the school operates in a way which teaches its pupils to be decent people, with a sense of responsibility.

“I meet a lot of young adults who haven’t learnt basic, practical life skills, the skills which give people a sense of independence. The CCF helps young people achieve many of these things.”

CCFs within independent schools came under scrutiny last year by the MOD and a review was held as to the value of their contribution. The overwhelming view was that they offered a huge amount to those pupils involved.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan recently spoke on Radio 4 about the value of the CCF and the soft skills learnt being put in to use in the workplace.

Head master Alan Stevens said: “CCF teaches pupils to take responsibility, be reliable, presentable and self-disciplined, all good traits regardless of their future career choices. On top of that they also gain friendship and have a great deal of fun.”

For more information about Barnard Castle, visit the school’s website.

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