26 May 2016 – New MoD statistics reveal that cadet forces numbers are slowly declining, which does not bode well for the shooting sports’ future.
Presented in the document ‘MoD Sponsored Cadets Statistics‘ (PDF, 9 pages), the figures reveal that cadet numbers in the Army Cadet Force (ACF) are dropping off noticeably, with Air Training Corps (ATC) headcount shrinkage not far behind.
Since April 2012, ACF cadet numbers have dropped by 11.9%, or 5,350. ATC cadet numbers have dropped 8.1%, a headcount reduction of 2,900, though the bulk of that reduction was in 2012-13; since 2013 ATC cadet numbers appear to have been stable.
In contrast, Sea Cadet Corps (SCC) numbers are up by 1.3%, having remained broadly static since April 2012.
The Air Cadets have seen a net reduction in adult volunteer staff of 0.9% since April 2012, though the accompanying graph shows staff levels peaking in 2013 and dropping off relatively sharply for the two years following that, bottoming out last year.
In contrast, ACF staffing levels are up 6.4% (530 people), and the SCC roughly static at half a percentage point, or a headcount increase of 30.
CCF cadet numbers are also down across the board, with CCF(RAF) sections showing the greatest reduction of 14.5%, a loss of 1,330 cadets. Army sections shrunk by 5.6% across the country, or 1,690 cadets, with even CCF(Navy) sections shrinking 2.9%.
Meanwhile, staff numbers sharply increased in the CCF Army and Navy sections, with the Army adding 830 personnel and the Navy 490. The CCF(RAF) declined, losing 30 RAFVR(T) officers.
It is, however, important to note that the Office for National Statistics says that the UK’s population of 10-19 year old children decreased by 400,000 between 2007 and 2014, a decrease of 5.2%.
What does all this mean for the shooting sports?
Broadly speaking it’s not good, as the cadet forces are usually a young person’s first experience of the lawful use of firearms, particularly in the open cadet units that serve local communities.
However, links between the cadets and the civilian shooting world are still notoriously poor, mostly thanks to risk-averse MoD pen-pushers creating ever more needless restrictions to stop cadets from shooting and keep them off civilian ranges. Indeed, the situation is so bad that MPs had to intervene a few months ago.
As fewer young people experience shooting through the cadets, so fewer and fewer of them will be tempted to take up the sport with us.