Combined cadet forces builds character, says Barney
4th August 2015

As questions on how schools can teach good character hit the headlines, leading independent school Barnard Castle School in County Durham explains how activities like Combined Cadet Forces (CCF) have shaped the mind-set of more than 10,000 of its talented pupils.

CCF, which exists in over 260 UK schools, is a partnership between schools and the Ministry of Defence which offers young people aged 13-18 a broad range of challenging, exciting, adventurous and educational activities which help them develop a sense of personal responsibility, leadership and self-discipline.

The popular CCF began at Barney in 1909 and currently has 160 students enrolled out of the 305 students who are eligible. 

Old Barnardian, Ed Challis, was on the Queen’s latest honours and awards list for commanding the last strategic outpost in Afghanistan and overseeing its closure. He used to be in the CFF and believes it has played a part in making him who he is today.

On CCF at Barney, he said: “There was lots of teamwork so I learnt how to interact with others.  I think I was subconsciously learning a lot of different skills during the activities.  I learnt why discipline is important and how to get on with a huge variety of people.

“Strength of character came through the combination of things we did at Barney: playing rugby, 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 you in achieving many of these things.

“I have fond memories of my time in the CCF: arduous march and shoot competitions, assault courses and sleeping out under ponchos in the snow as a 16 year old proved that we were capable of things we did not expect.”

CCF offers members opportunities to take part in a range of activities such as climbing, flying, gliding, camping, orienteering, canoeing, small-bore and full-bore shooting, mountaineering and adventure training.  Barnard Castle School’s contingent has its own indoor rifle range that gives pupils the experience of small-bore shooting under the safety of controlled conditions.

Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class One, Martyn Lewis, who leads the CCF at Barney said: “Ed, like a lot of the cadets in CCF, really enjoyed the sense of independence and adventure pupils get from these activities. The current cadets at Barney are constantly taking on challenges which test their fitness levels, stamina, and ability to think on their feet; they also develop vital teamwork and leadership skills.”

Current pupil and head of CCF Seb Hampson, aged 18, is training for the largest marching event in the world at Nijmegen. The four day challenge, which begins on Tuesday 28th July, sees over 40,000 competitors march either 30, 40 or 50km a day in Holland alongside participants from over 60 nations.

Seb opted to focus on the Army, rather than the RAF, in Year 10 when members choose a specialism after working as a group when they join in Year 9.

Barney CCF makes the most of its strong relationships with neighbouring military bases with Barney Air Cadets getting the chance to try flying or gliding at RAF Leeming while the Army cadets are partnered with Durham ACF (Army Cadet Force) and have close links with Catterick Garrison just half an hour away from the School.

Barnard Castle School CCF attends a national annual summer camp at Frimley Park in Surrey each year and enters regional and national competitions for First Aid, Shooting and Field Craft, in which they have been champions several years in a row.

CCF is one of more than 100 activities Barnard Castle School offers to its students, including the more traditional rugby, netball, tennis and athletics, alongside horse riding and fencing.

For more information on Barnard Castle School, please visit

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