As a parent, you’re bound to have lots of questions about the cadet forces and what your child will be doing when they become a member. This page should give you a comprehensive overview of the activities they undertake and the expectations that we have of them.
Will my child have to join the military if they become a cadet?
No. The Sea Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force and RAF Air Cadets are sponsored by the military, but there is absolutely no requirement for cadets to join any of the armed services at any time.
Will being in the cadet force help my child if they want to join the armed services in due course?
Joining the military-sponsored cadet forces provides a good insight into life in the Armed Services and helps young people decide whether it is the right path for them.
Cadets in the youth organisations get some military training and spend time in military training areas during the annual camp. This gives them a great advantage over those who have not had any cadet experience.
Does my child have to have short hair?
No, although they will need to keep their hair neat and tidy when on cadet activities and back from their face and ears. They must also be able to wear their uniform headdress properly, with no hair showing below the browband.
If they have a shorter hairstyle, this must not reach the collar and if needed can be kept in place with pins, clips, nets or ties.
Female cadets with longer hair may wear this as a bun, single ponytail, single braid, twists, locks, or in corn braids/rows but must not reach below the top of the belt. Male cadets with longer hair should secure the hair above the collar in a way that is neat and tidy.
How do you make sure my child will be safe when with the cadet force?
We have processes in place to keep our cadets safe when they are with the volunteers.
Each adult volunteer undergoes an enhanced disclosure check (previously known as a criminal records check) when they join the organisation and at regular intervals while they remain with us. We also have strict rules about how cadets are supervised, and every adult volunteer receives regular training on how to deal with safeguarding incidents when they happen.
We do not tolerate any form of bullying or discrimination in the cadet forces and have simple methods in place for cadets to report these to our volunteers who are trained on how to deal with incidents.
The safety of cadets on events and activities is supported by a team of national and regional training teams, as well as a full-time Training Safety Adviser in every cadet force county, who together make sure that training is conducted as safely as possible while still being exciting and challenging.
What is an annual camp?
Each year, Army cadets, Air cadets and Sea cadets are invited to join an Annual Camp and go away with other cadets in their respective counties for up to two weeks during the school summer holidays.
For most cadets, Annual Camp is the highlight of the year with the cadet corps.
Each Annual Camp is different, but all cadets will get to learn new skills as well as put into practice some of the lessons they have learned in detachments.
Does my child have to be a UK citizen to join as a cadet?
No, a child does do not have to be a UK citizen to join as a cadet.
How much does it cost?
It depends on the unit, but all charges are very low and heavily subsidised. We are determined that nobody should miss out because they can’t afford it, and help is always available. There are charges for training courses and camps but these are kept to a minimum. Sometimes you can get a bursary or grant for activities like our week-long voyages sailing offshore.
Thanks to the support of the Army we can keep the costs of being in the ACF very low. There will be costs for attending weekend training camps, annual camps and other activities, but we try to keep these as low as possible. Parade nights in detachments are free, but some detachments may request a small weekly subscription to go towards detachment events and visits.
Most RAFAC activities are centrally funded through the RAF which helps to keep costs down. Cadets may be required to pay for some activities, for example, an annual camp might be £40 – a small amount considering what’s involved. Most squadrons also charge subscriptions of around approximately £10 per month to cover running costs, transport, etc.
At what age can my son or daughter join?
It varies slightly with each of the military-sponsored cadet organisations but in general, they are able to join from 13, or 12 if they are currently in year 8 at school.
The Sea Cadets have a junior section for those younger. Check with the relevant organisation if interested. With all cadets are required to leave on their 18th birthday but both the Army and Air Cadets have Staff Cadets who remain until age 20.
How much time will they have to give each week?
Typically cadets will attend the unit twice a week for up to 2½ hours a night. Outside of these evenings, there are many activities to do at weekends and in the school holidays. The amount of time a cadet wants to commit to is up to them.