Any Ideas?

Hi all!

I know we have posts like these every couple of months, but believe me… I’ve looked through them all so I could avoid writing this post!

Our Sqn is going through a bit of a lull at the moment. The older cadets who aren’t NCO’s (around 10 cadets) and have been here for years are just so bored due to doing similar things over and over again and we aren’t getting a great attendance because of this and getting them to sign up to anything is nearly impossible. I will tell you everything we have done so far or have done too much of…

Classifications, Blue Leadership (so therefore most leadership exercises), Blue D of E, Blue & Bronze Radio and Cyber, Heartstart, YFA, AFA (for all those eligible), External Visitors, Flight Simulator Sessions, a few STEM exercises, command tasks, ELA, D of E Cook Offs, Sport, Modelling, Air Recc, Drill (lessons and competitions), BTECS (again for those eligible)… I think that’s about it, or at least all I can think of at the moment.

We also offer loads of weekend activities and have at least one thing going on every weekend whether it’s flying & gliding, sport, AT, fundraising and public events, wing courses and wing teams. So I don’t need help with weekend ideas.

We have a small handful who are starting to do D of E training and route planning for the Easter holidays. We are also starting up a band, but there are some who don’t want to be in it. We are also waiting for modelling kits to come in so those who aren’t in the band can help with our upcoming modelling competitions, but I don’t want them to do that every night. We have a padre who does padre’s hour once a month and can’t commit to more than that at the moment. We are not allowed to do any fieldcraft as none of us are trained to instruct this and we don’t have a range. We also have planned visits with local emergency services and local indoor climbing and trampolining centres. So I do try and cover EVERYTHING that RAFAC tries to offer.

I was thinking of trying another STEM exercise because it’s been a month since we did one, but none of our staff are extremely confident with STEM topics. If you have basic ones that aren’t too complicated that you wouldn’t mind sharing, that would be appreciated. We have done all the 60 minute ones on sharepoint but the 90 minute ones are a little bit more complex for us.

But if you don’t have STEM ideas, anything else would just be so useful! Again, sorry to post this, but I’ve tried having a chat with the staff team and they are all just as bored and can’t think of anything engaging or different.

Please help me before we lose more cadets to boredom :frowning:

Debate night.
Rank swap.
Cadets’ own sessions (especially those older cadets who are not NCOs… Get them to come up with something).

And, in terms of the Leadership stuff… Get them to come up with their own exercises. The one’s in the book only work so much, so I invent new ones as and when needed.

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Thanks newbie!

We have done many debate nights and some dragon’s den type nights too so might avoid them, and then also done nights where they come up with their own leadership exces. and all get to try them out but I will definitely do rank swap and cadet’s own sessions :slight_smile:

We run regular project nights - but are trying a few different ones.

We have got a couple of Arduino’s - and got the guys to look into programme them to make something we could later use in a PLT or (God forbid!) a night exercise!
They cam up with a gizmo that read the light levels, then tripped a set of lights / beeps if the light level went up or down i.e. a torch shone on it etc.

We have also tasked a group with producing some simple stop motion videos to eventually put on the squadron FaceBook or website.
Simple stuff like building a simple Lego model, or using Lego ‘people’ to show drill squad moves.
There are a few free Apps for phones that help with the techy bits.

Just a thought!

Off the top of my head, three ways to fix this -

  • Being reactive to the current group
  • Simply accepting that you may lose the current batch - but ensure it doesnt happen again
  • Try and do both (which could see you run yourself ragged as it’ll mean tackling the issue from both directions!!!)

For the reactive route, consider bouncing it back to them. Find out what engages them, excites them and would roll them back into the fold. Address these needs but give them ownership of the problem - maybe assign them an NCO to support and manage them.

If they are senior cadets, but not quite NCOs, why? Can it be addressed? Do they want to be NCOs but you have no space? Do they have the qualities you’re looking for or is something missing?

From your description, I get the impression they are a tight cohort, so could you work within that team framework for a bespoke project with them? Could you draw in Sector support for a Bronze Leadership badge? Push them through some road marching, shooting, first aid or radio courses together? Use some sector support as other squadrons may have a similar cohort.

Could this cohort be used as mentors for junior cadets? Offer them responsibility to step up to the plate, to lead and to inspire. You don’t have to be an NCO to lead or mentor. You could just be a solid follower - and theres nothing wrong with that!

For option 2, I would also broaden your training program to reduce the risk of duplication of activities. I appreciate this is very resource/staffing dependent, but think long term - not just a quarterly/seasonal thing, but consider the really long term view of the cadet experience and cadet life expectancy. Let them explain how I view it…

Cadets average life expectancy is 2 years - 3 at a push - by which time they are either an NCO or other teenager pressures will see a natural drop off. The move to 12 year olds a few years back hasnt really changed that. I dont see us keeping cadets that much longer, but what I do see is an increasing number of 14 year old NCOs across the Wg!

For year 1, everything is new and exciting. They are finding their feet and finding their role in their flight and in the larger squadron environment. They are junior cadet moving towards first class. If they are lucky, they might get to go in camp, get some flying or gliding, maybe get some shooting. Maybe a few blue badges and might be thinking about the “what next” stuff for PTS.

For year 2, their feet are found, and they may revisit the same kind of activities as they did in Year 1 - but their role will change. They should have a better idea of leadership, should have junior cadets lower down the food chain, and NCOs above them. When they undertake these activities they will be familiar, but see it from a different perspective, learning new skills and furthering their knowledge of how/why things are done that way.

In year 3 they should be approaching NCOness. I’d be looking for them to be actively leading on activities - the same activities they may have already done before, but now with an entirely new role, with bigger responsibilities and a completely different focus on managing a team or task, whilst balancing it with the individual needs of the Year 1 / Year 2 cadets.

We all know there are a few really good, well established “out of the bag” activities that work, which the cadets enjoy and make a solid fall back. And that’s great. But lock them away in a box and leave them for 12 months.

With reference to STEM activities, the RAF100 STEM project launched 10 seperate STEM activities which can be delivered in a classroom. Spread these out, one every 2 months, delivered as flight activities so that people get more “hands on” with them rather than getting lost on the bigger squadron. Deliver A flights in Feb, with something concurrent for B flight - in March, swap over (the benefit for you is that you are just replicating the same activity twice and can learn from mistakes!). Now dont run this exercise until Feb 2022!
https://www.raf100schools.org.uk/activities

IIRC, the HQAC sharepoint site had a Training Officer area or STEM area which has a series of similar exercises which could again be cycled through over 2 years.

Look at your existing squadron or sector staff and see if theres anything they could do that’s “different”. Untapped skills. Some of the OU Open Learn courses make great interest evenings.

If you use LinkedIn or have a squadron Alumuni, tap them up to reduce the pressure on you to magic up the answers - but also bring in fresh ideas of things to slip into the training program to offer something else.

Visit other squadrons and see how they do things. Tap up the Wg training team for some visits.

Just diversify and spread the load. Stretch it over a longer timeframe, but also across whatever resources you have available.

But, a word of caution… dont worry if this cohort go. Cadets simply grow out of being cadets. You have offered them a solid foundation in everything we offer but the draw of other teenager stuff could simply be to strong. Accept it and move on. Squadrons go and peaks and troughs, and this is just one of those cycles. You could bust an absolute gut trying option 1 and find yourself burnt out in a heap on the floor with nothing left to give only to find they outgrew cadets!

Cohorts that often join together will leave together, it’s just how peer groups work and is one of the downsides of intakes. Just accept it and move on.

Just an idea.
But you clearly say you have loads of weekend end activities. Some of these sound like normal parade night things.
Why not dial down what you do at weekends and therefore leave more to do on parade evenings?

Didnt see fieldcraft mentioned. Get a ESF aithroirised and get out and do some greens.

If it makes you feel better, most CCF(RAF) sections would kill for that range of activities, and time allocation…

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Another vote for the RAF100 STEM projects.
You could also give them to your group and see if they could - supervised of course - develop them into sessions they could run for your next recruit intake or more junior cadets.

Do try them out first though, some need bits and pieces made beforehand.

Hi all

Thanks for all your suggestions! It really does help and means a lot you guys took the time to help me :slight_smile:

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Sounds daft but are you sure it’s because there bored? Or is it one or two vocal ones making out that they all are?

We’ve had a noticeable dip in regular attendance, when we went through who we need to contact for who we haven’t seen I thought it would be a huge amount of them - it was actually only 5 we hadn’t seen properly.

So I ran an anonymous survey for attendance with 4 questions. The first question was if you attending less what are the reason

Currently 52% have said school work (it remains open until Monday)

The second question was a free text box on how can they squadron encourage higher attendance, third was about study leave, and final one was whether they were happy with their attendance.

It’s amazing sometimes what the cadets come up with, there’s some good things in there as wel as some daft things. I’ll be doing a. Feedback over view in response to suggestions or comments

We can’t do everything, and sometimes we do to much and end up not doing as well as those we do because we are knackered. Unfortunately you can’t interest everyone at the same time

I also think it’s a different generation of cadets and so much extra pressure/extra curricular outside of the Squadron there is very few cadets with 100% attendance but actually they are happy and achieving at 60%

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I realise it’s over 20 years ago since I was a cadet and in my 6th form, but I don’t ever recall taking time off cadets for anything other than sickness.

Definitely noticed a few cadets that aren’t exactly regular attendees and you do wonder what you could do to improve that.

I don’t think you can necessarily with everything Get 100% , and I wouldn’t expect it any more.

My main priority when discussing attendance with them is communication - let me know when your not going to be in.

Even the ACPs reflect this, talking about study leave and celebrating their achievements on the outside.

I feel we will alienate good cadets who have to take time off if we are berating them for not having 100% attendance, or make a big deal out of it.

What I’m focussed on is do they have a regular pattern, do they tell me, are they happy with their attendance.

It’s a different challenge to what we used to have - and I’m the same back when I was a cadet except the very few everyone attended every night unless they were sick or on holiday.

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I don’t why it should be expected that cadets (and staff come to that) are interested in everything and or come every single night. As a cadet and later member of staff, I wasn’t and still not, interested in everything. As a member of staff I’ll encourage them to do things, but that’s it. You can tie yourself in knots trying to appease every taste and it comes down essentially understanding what you can do at the squadron and if required invest in some kit to do things.

As for STEM and staff reluctance. I think some of this comes from a combination of not knowing what it really is and IMO the lack of basic tool and other manual skills being taught in schools along with lack of being required in modern society apart from the occasional flat pack, so if confronted with a ‘make’ there isn’t the confidence. Just after Remembrance we were given a shed load of k’nex (including motors) and we’ve given cadets the chance to just play making things with it and with a couple of cadets having had it and still got it, they have shown others the basic techniques of using it. We’ve looked online for some plans for things and been putting together ideas for longer term projects for groups of 4 or 5 that we will dress up as leadership tasks (kill two birds with one stone) that they have to design, cost, build, present, demonstrate and improve like you would in a real project situation. These are being looked at to be done over 4/5 nights, but it could be more. I’m considering speaking to the CWC and offering some sort of prize to each member of the winning group, to galvanise their minds and give it a competitive edge. As an accumulator of bits I took a load of old plugs, a few feet of twin and earth and 3 core and pliers and screwdrivers to the squadron and spent a couple of nights getting the cadets to wire plugs. They thoroughly enjoyed it and some said they remembered seeing it done at school, but didn’t get to do it.

We’ve done wish lists with cadets, narrowed these down to 3 things that appeared most popular. Then organised them and it should be no surprise, uptake was not as expected. When we enquired as to why, it was mostly “we were doing something else”.

We cannot compare today’s ATC with that of even just 5 years ago, let 10, 20, 30+ years ago nor the motivation for youngsters to join, nor can or should we compare them to ourselves if we were cadets. The world for teenagers has changed and not in a good way and unfortunately the ATC openly courts the biggest problems and societal blights … targets and SM.

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