Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Positive Armed Forces training experience marred by ageing and sometimes unsafe facilities

Ofsted has today published its 15th annual report on the effectiveness of care and welfare arrangements for recruits, trainees and officer cadets (OCdts).

Ten Armed Forces establishments, along with 6 Royal Air Force (RAF) University Service Units (USUs) and their headquarters, have been graded good for their initial training.

However, significant problems with ageing infrastructure as well as poorly-fitting uniform and equipment threaten the overall experience of recruits, trainees and OCdts.

The report draws on evidence from 11 inspections of initial training establishments for Regular Service personnel as well as a combined inspection of 6 USUs and the University Air Station (UAS) headquarters operated by the RAF. This was the first time that inspectors had graded a combined unit and headquarters in a single inspection.

All establishments were found to be providing good-quality training as well as effective care and welfare arrangements. Soldiers, sailors and aviators at each establishment benefit from a wide range of opportunities and engaging activities, leaving them well prepared to become skilled and knowledgeable members of the Armed Forces.

However, as we reported last year, long-standing failures in facilities, infrastructure and resources remain. Inspectors observed buildings in poor condition at 4 establishments and several UAS units. At one establishment, Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), inspectors noted examples of rotting infrastructure as the worst they have ever seen.

Despite concerns raised in last year’s report, problems also persist with uniform and equipment standards. Too many recruits, particularly smaller and female recruits, are not given suitable, properly fitting uniforms, body-armour and backpacks. This is affecting recruits’ morale and posing injury risks.

Ofsted has issued several recommendations for all training establishments including:

  • Urgently improve the condition of training establishment infrastructure, accommodation and welfare and training facilities. This includes areas that are out of bounds to personnel because they are unsafe to use.
  • Give commanding officers the support, guidance and funding they need to properly manage and maintain their failing infrastructure to make sure recruits, trainees, OCdts and staff can live and train in acceptable conditions.
  • Give recruits, trainees and OCdts military equipment and clothing at the appropriate time and make sure that items fit properly. In particular, give female personnel correctly fitting uniform and specialist equipment such as rucksacks and body armour.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

Senior commanders and their teams should be proud of their inspection results that reflect the high-quality training and support they are providing to such a valuable group of people.

However, we have yet again reported evidence of sub-standard and sometimes unsafe buildings and facilities, within which our recruits are expected to complete their training. I urge senior colleagues in the MoD to take urgent action to provide our young Services personnel with the facilities, infrastructure and resources they need to flourish and work safely.

All inspections were carried out between October 2022 and May 2023.

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