Cadet promotion

Just to get a idea of what other squadrons do, do you promote cadets using some sort of matrix (seen one on here as example) so when they hit the requirement the get promoted even if you already have a load of cadets that rank or do you promote only when there is a gap in your rank structure eg. 1 cwo, a FS per flight, 1/2 sgts per flight 3/4 cpls per flight.

This is very much location-specific.

We have a minimum standards matrix which permits cadets to apply for promotion once an application period is opened by the OC. The standards are minimum thresholds for length of service and attendance.

We then run a competitive selection cadre for those successful applicants. This tests, more than anything, the ability of those cadets to survive under pressure.

Those that score highly in each component of the cadre will, once a sense-check is conducted, be promoted to Corporal. At no point before or during the cadre do we inform the cadets of how many or few promotions are available, so they keep competitive over the course.

The benefits of this system are that you only get NCOs who feel they’re ready for the responsibility, you get to see the level of a person’s resilience before they have the responsibility (and can therefore provide appropriate support if it’s not where it should be) and the new Corporals really feel as though they’ve earnt their rank.

We thorough debrief all candidates at the end of the cadre, whether they’ve passed, been deferred, or failed, with what they did well in and what actions they now need to take to ensure their future success.


Really depends on squadron. Promoting based on gaps in the structure isn’t (in my opinion) a good thing as it means you will have cadets who aren’t competent enough to be at that rank yet.

Usually on my squadron the staff team know roughly who they want to promote (considering things like older cadets leaving especially around this time of year, and new intakes coming in etc) and will ask for applications at each rank. Once applications are in we usually do an interview based on rank, basically asking about their experience (staff can’t see it all) and some knowledge questions etc. Once interviews are completed they will promote whoever has shown they are competent with the interview having confirmed that.

As a side note: CWO isn’t a squadron thing, the only thing the Sqn OC does is writes the CWO recommendation paperwork and sends it off to your OC Wing. Depending on your wing, CWOs may be few and far between or on every squadron.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, we do have sqn specific guidelines for each rank in terms of qualifications and experience. They aren’t requirements but at least shows cadets where they roughly need to be at each rank.

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For my squadron you have to both have the space and suitable cadets. So we have had space before but none of the applicants hit the minimum criteria so we didn’t promote.

We do a boarding process which also includes a 6 month competency based one - the average of a minimum of 3 staff as cadets can act different in front of different staff (CIs in particular)

Successful or not is a provide smart targets following a board to help them going forward.

The assessment parts of the boards are always open if cadets would like to practice, or remind themselves at any point in the year. I’ll place an advert which is then when it becomes “live” assessments. (Knowledge, drill, behaviour based questions)

Wasn’t suggesting promotion just to fill a gap, more like, you have 10 cadets of similar standard (cpl material) you run your cadre, and they all pass, using whatever your criteria might be, do you

  1. Promote all 10 or
  2. Because your rank structure only has space for 2, pick the 2 who performed best, again by whatever criteria to fill the spaces

Just interested in how others squadrons do this

Could you expand on your process?

It seems to have a lot of merit, and I’d be interested in learning from some of the detail.

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This is really tough.

There’s a risk both ways.

Devaluing Vs losing cadets who deserve it but don’t get it.

I also think that, with a wider corps view, holding good cadets back might have a disproportionate impact on their cadet career, when rank attainment is interpreted as their ability or general level of achievement.

There’s also then a real risk the ones you do promote can’t develop properly, because there’s no one left to lead.

I think the answer is flex your establishment, but not to the point it starts to negatively impact morale or development opportunities.

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This. I don’t mind going a couple of Cpls over for the right person. You can always find a role for them, but go too far and the additional roles become nothing ones.

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Of course.

Firstly, we assemble a project team. For the latest round that was the OC, the TrgO and myself. The project team acts as a steering committee and adjusts the programme if it is deemed necessary due to whatever reason (ie making reasonable adjustments for disabilities). The project team discuss how many places are available, and the OC confirms they’re happy with this number.

Once above is complete, we advertise to the cadets to say a cadre is coming up. We specificy the minimum requirements to apply; 18 months of service and 85% attendance (inc authorised absences and duty absences). We have previously included a requirement on holding Leading Cadet classification, but dropped this as we’re only a small unit and it was narrowing the field too much.

In the notice above, we specify that to apply for a place on the cadre, cadets must write an application letter addressed to the OC stating why they feel they should become an NCO. Essentially, this is just to gather names but it also shows us who is considering promotion for the wrong reasons (I DESERVE to be a corporal types, just in it for themselves). We review the letters, compare the names against the minimum requirements and then inform those cadets who are moving forwards at that stage, as well as having a sit down with those rejected at that point so we can explain why.

Next, a week after the letter deadline, we hold a briefing for the candidates. They are to attend in Wedgewoods, and we carry out a very informal inspection at this point, just to ensure that they’re giving the right level of effort and energy - demonstrating that they do actually want success in the cadre. During the briefing, which can also be attended by parents, we explain the upcoming activities with the dates that they can expect them to happen. We also explain that they’re always being watched, even when not on an activity. We then run through who to speak with in case the start to feel too much pressure/have a wellbeing concern (we call this person the Umpire, and they’re part of the project team but not necessarily the delivery team) and explain that there are fewer places than candidates without saying how many places there are - this just tells them that they might not be successful and should prepare themselves mentally for that.

We then carry out our assessments, with a minimum of 2 CFAV involved in each assessment. The assessments have changed each time so far, but always include leadership exercises, a discussion on moral dilemmas (so we can check their moral compass and see that they understand grey space) and a formal presentation to staff. The assessments are designed to cause a small amount of stress, so we can see that the candidates can handle and so that they can develop as they proceed through the cadre.

Once all activities are complete, we will call anyone not being promoted individually into the office for a chat. We explain whether they’re deferred (don’t need to wait for the next cadre and will get a re-run) or failed (must wait until next cadre) with the reasons why and what they can do to improve. If appropriate, we’ll also pair them up with an established NCO so they can learn from them. On the same night, on final parade, we will promote the successful candidates.

We then debrief the successful candidates as soon as is practical after their promotion, and look to put in place an action plan to address any weak spots they may have, as well as carrying out standard NCO training with them.

I hope to include an anonymous feedback system from the candidates to the project team for future iterations, but haven’t been able to stand that up yet.


Ah fair enough

So ours is with a score across all areas. There’s a minimum to be considered for each rank. So if I had 2 slots but 5 hit the minimum standard - I would then choose the top 2 score wise of the cadets so that it’s quantifiable

I like to pre-plan my promotions, I do them in batches throughout the year whilst maintaining a good balance such as 6 Cpl, 4 Sgt, 2 FS, 1 CWO etc - although it doesn’t always work like that but I know I’m working towards balancing it correctly but if someone is ready, they’re ready and I do not hold them back but they have to work hard.

We run a process where a group of senior Cadets are pre-selected by Staff and Cadet SNCOs, as it’s essential for their own development that they are involved in these decisions and training. The Senior Cadets (PJNCOs) are then given additional responsibilities, attend specific training and are closely monitored over a period of up to but not exceeding 12 weeks.

The key quality I want is maturity, our NCOs tend to be at least 15 years old and not younger, we do not promote early - there is absolutely no benefit to putting a teenager out of their comfort zone by accelerating a promotion if they are not ready - however this is practiced across the organisation and becomes clear at Camps whether they be Wg, Rg or National - I feel pride in the fact that Corporals on my Squadron can often be more capable than SNCOs elsewhere, but they work hard for their promotions - and they know they have to, luckily for us, they don’t get impatient and leave, they stick it out - we have a larger Squadron so confidence and maturity are essential qualities.

Do what works best for you and your Squadron, size will play a large part in the structure of your team, give them adequate training, do not promote until they’re ready and make sure your standards are maintained whether home or away and keep them involved, use your Cadet SNCO Team to assist in the development process of the PJNCOs! (Potential NCOs)


We have unfortunately fallen into the delayed covid trap, during the pandemic we lost around 1/3 of our cadets as they either lost interest or found other ways to spend their time, the majority of these were our more experienced cadets and some JNCOs. This left us with a very good and committed SNCO cadre, a few JNCOs, then a vacuum to our more junior cadets.

Luckily we have recruited back to slightly higher numbers than pre-pandemic, but our SNCOs are now leaving due to timing out, going to university or full time employment/forces. We had promoted the JNCOs to SNCO and the remaining experienced cadets to JNCO. But now have a very depleted NCO team and no obvious candidates to back fill the gaps as all but 2 cadets have 12 months or less membership. Of those 2, one is moving elsewhere in the country and the other is leaving to focus on a promising judo development.

But many have said here promoting someone too early will ultimately be detrimental to both individual and unit, the OC and my fellow staff have agreed that we may have to select those that are showing any potential and we will run “light” on the establishment and offer increased mentoring. We will eventually get through this bubble but it could take a longer than ideal time.

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Maybe “duty cadet” becomes a big thing for said development focus.

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So we went down the application for promotion route in my last few years as an OC, I had previously been opposed to the idea but my Adj (who was the OC in waiting) convinced me to go for it.

When an application process opened you had to do a paper application, detailing your achievements as a Cadet (lots of it being tick box) and then a personal statement. There was a minimum standard for each rank and if you didn’t meet that then you would be automatic defer. (However it was written into the policy that the OC was able to waive one element of the minimum standard, which I always did).

Minimum standard for Corporal the last time we ran it (it was always being tweaked as we learned from each process) was 18 months service, good attendance (70% including duty and authorised absences), leading cadet, blue leadership, bronze DofE and any 2 other blue badges.

Once those who didn’t meet the minimum standard had been paper sifted we would look at the rest of the applications and depending on how many spaces and how many applicants we might lost some of the lower scorers at this point.

There would then be a uniform and drill assessment done by the SWO and while not pass or fail the scores for this would carry forward to the final stage which was an interview with the Adj and myself. Usually about 5 questions of the “why do you want to be an NCO?” plus “what would you bring to the role” type.

We would set the pass mark in advance and then promote those who met the score, sometimes we ended up with a Corporal or two more than we wanted, or we might end up carrying a vacancy if not enough met the standard.

I had a flight structure but wasn’t afraid to break it slightly off we had loads of good candidates or not enough candidates.

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Ours is very much, OC has a few names in mind, asks the staff what they think. If the lists match away we go, if not, he promotes who he wants.

Sounds like my unit :grin:

What role did your flight structure actually serve?

Other than interflight comp, I don’t ever recall my flights ever really meaning much, or affording the NCOs much responsibility.

I wonder if we’d have been better structured according to the projects we enjoyed or something similar, with NCOs sorting all the admin to make the projects work.

We structured our training programme around them outside of Classifications with the flight NCO’s taking on a lot of the running of activities. Probably 3 nights per month were “flight nights” with the NCO’s planning activities for their cadets and then delivering them with staff overseeing/supporting as needed.

I’ve never subscribed to the organisations obsession with Instructor Cadets being the only ones who can teach or run events, I’ve always seen that as part of the role of an NCO and my Squadron structure was based on that philosophy.

As far as possible I always had parade nights delivered by the Cadets, it shouldn’t need a member of staff sorting out parades, lesson times or canteen, that should just happen.


We havent done Flight nights yet but we often have our Cadet NCOs running evenings because they are competent enough to deliver a fun, engaging evening without much CFAV input.

Sometimes I mighy need to advise a cadet Cpl to tweak their plan to improve it for future sessions but I have had to do that for new CFAV aswell!

On my squadron, almost every winter we hold a promotion time, so applicants will give in their forms with answered questions, and the staff will look over them. Afterwards, over the next few months there will be drill tests, inspections, and generally chances to aid newcomers in their drill and uniform.

They sometimes will let us know how many promotions there are. However they may not fill those gaps because of experience, and because those cadets may not be quite ready.

Lots of classroom work. Lots.