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Independent report praises training at Army Foundation College

Junior Soldiers at Harrogate

An independent panel has praised The Army Foundation College for its ‘professional and supportive’ care for the Junior Soldiers undergoing training at Harrogate in a special report released today (16 February 2011).

The annual report published by the College’s Independent Advisory Panel (IAP) focussed on the welfare and development of the teenage troops at the British Army’s flagship initial training establishment.

Former Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, Ms Della Cannings QPM, heads the panel, which was set up seven years ago.

She said:

“The College, its culture and dealings with the Junior Soldiers continues to be professional, supportive to their development and welfare and responsive to any concerns raised.  There have been no major concerns during the year.”

The College’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Ocock, responded:

“Frequently the College is ‘challenged’ by the Independent Advisory Panel.  They help us to ensure that there is no complacence.

“The relationship between the IAP and the College is a dynamic one – ensuring that issues are dealt with immediately they are identified.  It is for this reason that both OFSTED and the Army Inspectorate have both identified the relationship between the IAP and the College as a particular strength.”

The youngest soldiers in the British Army come to Harrogate from across the UK and are destined to join the infantry, Royal Artillery, Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Logistic Corps.

The Panel members are regular visitors to the College and are tasked with providing independent feedback and helping to identify possible areas for improvement.  This year’s report highlighted different aspects of College life including the role of the permanent staff, a visit to an overnight training exercise in Catterick and the annual ‘Realities of War’ tour to the D-Day landing sites in Normandy, France.

Ms Cannings explained:

“Our role is primarily focused on ‘safeguarding’ the Junior Soldiers – the 16 and 17 year olds who have committed themselves to an army career.  We see unimpeded what is happening and can raise concerns which we expect to see addressed.

“Each Junior Solider brings very different experiences and expectations: for many a first time away from home, a first time actually earning money and a first for stretching themselves educationally and physically.  It is a delight of being an IAP member in seeing these girls and boys turn quickly into young adults – developing confidence, acquiring new skills, elated by the challenges presented, and taking responsibility for self and others.

“To see the pride they take in their appearance, their achievements and the Army is immensely encouraging.”

With some 1,300 Junior Soldiers, aged 16-17 years old, under training at the College the activity of the members of the Independent Advisory Panel is an important assurance to parents and the Army that these young people are treated appropriately during their demanding training.

The report is published as the Army Foundation College celebrates its best educational results in ten years – with last year’s graduates gaining record achievement rates in the Level Two Diploma in Information Technology.  There was also a pass mark of 89.7 per cent in the Level Two qualification in maths and English.

Ms Cannings concluded:

“The on-going re-shaping of the Army and the ever tightening financial pressures will impact upon the College and we will continue to be vigilant that changes do not have an adverse impact on the welfare of the junior soldiers in the College’s care.”

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