Ideas for a busy training programme

I’m in the joyful position of being a new-to-RAFAC training officer of a large squadron (~100) really engaged cadets.

I generally try and have the next quarter planned out to some degree at any one time but what I’m finding is that it’s extremely hard to build a programme that keeps everyone busy. For instance, I might have a course on, and maybe some projects or something running but I inevitably end up with cadets that don’t fit the above and need something to be engaged by.

Question is, do you have any filler activities cadets can do on a regular basis without too much prior thought? I’ve tried various table-top style exercises or good old fashioned drill or maintenance tasks but they only go so far.

Maybe it’s a good problem to have.

You can always run inter flight competitions or just competitions in general to make things like drill more interesting and productive, rather than having just another drill night - have a continuity drill competition. You can make the competition span over several nights as in the cadets get a few nights to plan and rehearse and then finally perform on competition night.

Stem activities also can be a good one, even if it’s just the classic bridge building or spaghetti and marshmallow tower building.

Presentation skills is something often overlooked but will fill up a few nights and it’s always interesting to see what cadets will present about.

Pre-DofE is another one that is still productive but fills up a few nights over the months you do it for.

You can also get some NCOs that are interested to run an activity for a parade night which is a good planning exercise for them.

Youve been dropped in at the deep end.

And youre on one of only less than 20 sqns with 100 plus cadets.


i didn’t even catch that part, id recommend getting a capable SNCO to be your “training officer support” so they can help with ideas for the training plan and organise some training nights.

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Congratulations on stepping up to take on one of the most challenging roles on the unit!! Let alone a Squadron of 100+ cadets - that’s awesome - and scary. All at the same time!!!

Obviously, i don’t really know your current set up, patterns and quarterly cycle, resources or staffing levels AND I speak from a smaller squadron perspective (at peak we had 70 cadets!). But, some ideas below…

First up, identify who those “floaters” are - and why. The first bit allows you to anticipate who is in this group - the why is critical as it enables you to identify the problem, how you got in this position, and avoid it happening in the future.

Having said that, it’s not entirely avoidable - most squadrons, even small ones, will end up with 1 or 2 cadets in the “floater” pool. Normally it’s the senior cadets and/or NCOs who’ve completed their classification training, or the flight NCOs - and you’re absolutely correct in that you need to keep them engaged in purposeful, meaningful activities.

Have they completed their Classification/PTS activities that are programmed in that evening? For classification, have a quick tally and see what’s gone on and how its got to this point so the same mistakes aren’t repeated. We generally only offer fixed subjects areas and run them in cycles - one year the cadets might study 3 subjects from Senior/Master (grouped in together) the following year 3 different ones. Giving them the tick in the box - but also keeping our subject delivery as tight as possible - and without cadets off doing their own thing and muddying the waters. I know a few squadrons who end up in a similar position who try and deliver ALL classification subjects - but it just makes your life harder… and your job is hard enough already!

For classification, there maybe times where cadets have already completed a subjects that has been programmed in. Perhaps they joined out of synch with their peers, or they passed it and others didn’t. Or, they flunked it on Ultifail and are now held back. Can they do a resit? Have they got SEND and needs some additional support - if so, have you got the flexibility and capacity to give them additional support? Can they be bumped up for their next classification subject, with resits in the background?

For those who have completed Classification training, can they start mentoring and supporting your instructional staff? They already know (allegedly) the subject - so can they offer support to those still going through it? Picking up skills and experience in delivery as they work towards their MOI. Sitting through a lesson you already know because you’ve already done it COULD be boring. BUT, if you reframe it, with a view to the cadet delivering this subject in the future, it could bring a new spin on things. Ask them how they would do things differently. Ask they to identify where practical activities could replace “chalk and talk” - get them to do some research on resources to help underpin and reinforce LOs. There are some vague ideas about this in the instructor guidance notes - but nothing comprehensive.

This upskilling and reframing could be applied equally across everything - from Junior Cadet training through to delivery of Master cadet training. Get the floaters to reimagine the training and see how they could improve delivery. They are closer to the target audience than most instructors; they are closer to what schools are doing now than most instructors - so harness their experiences to shape training going forwards.

Don’t be concerned about getting cadets to do activities they’ve done before. I always tried not to repeat STEM and Leadership stuff more than every 2 years. That way when cadets “resit” an activity, they bring with them 2 years of experience; they are often an NCO by that point, so bring a different perspective and outlook on a task. They might now be leading an activity, rather than being a follower - and that brings a different learning outcome for them personally.

If it’s PTS related, unfortunately, there’s not really a progressive step - moving from Blue to Bronze for example, normally needs an external course. BUT, if they’ve achieved Blue already, could they support delivery. Again, bringing their prior experiences to the fold and shaping how things are run.

Could the floaters run their own project? Or plan running their own evening? I’d imagine that with a squadron of 100, its an administrative nightmare, is there any support they could offer? Have they got any specialist knowledge or skills they could share or support with delivery on Squadron? Assuming they are older (and you have a range!) could they do a coaching course for shooting? Or CSLA to deliver sports sessions? Could they support or shadow a staff member undertaking their particular role?

There are a few standalone activities for small team activities on the RAF Stem 100 portal. They may still need a staff member to oversee them, but it could offer some insights.

Ultimately, I’d ask them what they want to do. How they want to be engaged and utilised. Find out what their skills and strengths are so you can utilise them effectively - OR - get them to identify their areas of weakness/development so that you can specifically tailor activities around this. They will/should know themselves; if they don’t, ask their peers or staff about it, and then build a bespoke package for them to help address these areas.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas!! Best of luck - and don’t be a stranger - we’re here to help!!! :slight_smile:


And whilst not addressing all this group explicitly, this thread might be of use in adding more diversity to your training program so you can get a two year cycle in.

It’s a few years old now, and RAFAC syllabus/activities have moved on a little; but lots of the content may still be relevant and appropriate.


This is absolutely normal on every single sqn as no one likes everything. Plus when in a group there will be ones who for what ever reason don’t want to do it, ask a PE teacher. If you get beyond it’s boring, don’t like it and the like, you’d have done well.

If you do the presentation skills only do non cadet related interests, we have found out all manner things cadets do and aren’t vocal about it. We have a mystery bag, cadets pick out an item and given 30 minutes to come up with a 2 minute talk, with no VA other than the item. We have containers all the same size that cadets and staff choose from, even the CO. In the past months we have had some interesting “for” and “against” debates about Henry Wales and his wife, cost of living, “climate change”, historic slavery and immigration. The ones about Henry Wales and historic slavery got quite heated

What is staff involvement like? I can’t imagine on a sqn that size you’ve only got ½ dozen staff. If the staff are involved and interested it can drag some of the more reticent cadets along.


this is a great thread for me, i’m not a TrgO yet but I am shooting for that position on my squadron, a lot of good ideas!

I’d lob in as much practical stuff as you can - you could look at expedition planning, with a focus on ‘round table’ conversations among the cadets about routes/terrain, food, equipment and clothing choices etc…

They are more likely to both learn, and be enthused, if they are involved, and get feedback from more experienced cadets, and conversely older cadets will find their ideas honed if they have to explain their thinking.

The other thing I’d put in is physical signalling: the ACO is far too focused on sending a radio message to Australia than it is in a DofE team signalling their location, or of attempting to catch the attention of a passing helicopter, or of communicating with it - I’ll bet £10 that less that 5% of the cadets who do Ten Tors or the like know how to signal 'we need help when a passing helicopter needs to know if they need help, or if they’re just waving…


Have you any contacts in the local police, fire and ambulance services, local aviation companies and airports or aviation societies who could come in and given a presentation and possibly arrange for a visit to then at a later date?

Merseyside police are undertaking this evening a session online about cybersecurity for the individual. I know that their cyber crimes officers have visited organisations and the drug squad has as well in the past.


I’d avoid cybersecurity for cadets. This is done to death in school. Most cadets should be able to deliver talks on this, by the time they get to us. IIRC our kids got a “stranger danger” chat or visit to a council exhibition with police and all sorts from when they were 5-15, this morphed into sharing things/chat rooms online. The schools I’ve worked in have them annually for all years including 6th Form. These are delivered by people experienced and knowledgeable many of whom have had to deal with the fall out, not amateurs like us, however well intentioned.
There are adults who need to be brought up tp speed on this more than cadets.

If something like this was to be looked at I would focus on personal, physical things. Our “beat police” do ‘meet & greet’ sessions with forums and other local groups, where they highlight the latest local crime, whoever attends can bring their concerns. The police normally have ‘security’ gizzits. I invited them last summer and invited parents. Went very well. The police spoke about being aware of the surroundings, avoiding being out in the dark in isolated spots, having lights on push bikes and wearing something bright, e scooters, quad bikes, drone usage (a parent mentioned this) and if they spot something ‘dodgy’ tell the police. A number of cadets and parents took key ring attack alerts, a ink pad stamp to obliterate information on letters/delivery notes/labels and another biggie was a 'flashing lights" plug in that simulated a TV being on. They used to have a dog barking simulator which they said fooled no one.

With a book of 100 things like this can’t be done in one go, the same as with lesser numbers.


Not sure if I agree on avoiding cybersecurity for cadets, I think rather than it being a “don’t share personal information online :slightly_smiling_face:” sort of thing (done to death, as you said), talk about more interesting things relating to cybersecurity - obviously don’t teach them how to do anything they shouldn’t be doing, but make them aware of some of the things attackers could do, maybe get them to research something and present their findings. Could be things like previous notable cyber attacks like WannaCry, types of attack like phishing, and similar things.

Cyber is a huge topic so as long as you have people knowledgeable I see no reason to not get cadets interested. Cyber security is a key role in the RAF after all.

Other than cyber security, lessons on programming, electronics, robotics, and all manner of other things are great things to teach.

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I facebook/twitter stalk squadrons. Seeing what works, what activities they do that i might not have thought of. Maybe they do variations on what ive done before.

I’ve actually had a few other squadrons from across the corps message me before, asking for info on what I did on X activity, as they would like to do something similar.


Hijacking this thread slightly (sorry), but I’m also running short of ideas to fill next month for some groups.

We’re a much smaller squadron. Vast majority under 16 cadets, no cadets ready to be instructing or really leading sessions yet, and a small staff team. Cadets are split across 4 groups (recruit, working to first class, leading, and senior master).

Things that we have done over the last few months:

  • Progression through classification training
  • Blue leadership
  • iDEA award
  • Presentation Skills
  • Flight sim training (inc av syllabus synthetic training)
  • Fieldcraft (Lessons 1, 3, 4, 5)
  • Essential First Aid, and scenarios
  • Comms
  • A handful of nights run by our JNCOs
  • Feedback sessions (to us)
  • STEM projects
  • Drill / uniform inspections
  • Visit to “local” reserve unit
  • Blue D of E sport

Obviously, some of this goes around again reasonably quickly, but I’m now finding gaps.

I’ve tried AFCO and got nowhere (as discussed elsewhere, they don’t really want to be caring with us at the moment, it seems). I’m always quite hesitant on other external guests in case we end up with poor turnout on a night (on a bad night we might only have 5 cadets show up), and visits are, frankly, too hard for me to admin at the moment.

Any ideas?

Reach out to Wg SMEs - see if your Aerospace, AT or DofE type might come along and deliver and inspiration session. Get the cadets engaged and motivated. Whilst you might only get 5 cadets in for it, they’ll still have a great time.

Any local squadrons you can double up with for an evening? Share some knowledge and skills? Competition?

Have you - or the Wing - got any MTA kit?

Could you run small 3 month long projects for every other night? Tick the DofE skills box?

Public speaking competition with 5minute lecturettes?

Landing paper planes on an aircraft carrier (bedsheet with HMS QE drawn on it (with two cereal boxes as the two islands). Trying different aircraft designs and different distances.

Interflight competition based on first class knowledge?

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Thank you.

Haven’t done this in a while actually. Might get something set up.

There are some around in the wing - good shout.

Definitely could do. What sort of things do people do as projects?
We don’t have the skill among the staff team for e.g. woodwork/metalwork projects (which, ironically, are the sorts of things that come up whenever projects are mentioned in staff meetings).

Kinda doing this with presentation skills, but putting it together as a competition is a great idea.

Definitely taking this one.

We’ve got a project running on Commonwealth War Graves / local history / Remembrance which started last year and will run through to November this year for this current group. We had a volunteer from the CWGC come in to do a talk. Cadets researched and presented on the Poppy and Remembrance, painted Poppy Pebbles (project ran by Forces Employment Charity) and laid them at their local Cenotaph. They’re now researching CWGs in the local area and we’ll be visiting them over the Summer, identifying graves that they’d like to research - who they were, what happened to them etc and they’ll go back to those in November to lay wooden crosses for Remembrance.
It doesn’t need any special skills or tools like woodworking, just some enthusiasm, keen inquisitive minds and access to the internet.


As @emz says, CWGs is a good starter for 10. Another good one is research related to your squadron, or any local historical links to RAF or Armed Forces. We’ve got a series of WW2 airfields around us, plus links to D-Day landings.

A few years ago we had a meteorology project, bought a weather station for £50, set it up on squadron and taught them some basic met principles over a few months: relating surface pressure charts to readings from the weather station - but also the impact of all these of RAFAC activities.

Cookery/catering; mess tin MasterChef, ready steady cook, or just working though a series of culinary staples.

We’ve had radio run as a project, with cadets working towards various licences or engaging with other squadrons across the UK on a parade night - seeing who can get the furthest contacts - and mapping them to help get the rest of the group involved.

It all depends on the resources available, but also cadet/staff interest.

Love this and would tie nicely into something else I had in mind.

What sort of station did you go for?

It was a Bresser jobbie I think. Had a WiFi connection to a digital display in the building and also populated a datalogger via their software. We never got the “publish it online” thing working.

I geeked out on it. 4 cadets showed a passing interest. It got occasional use for a few years afterwards - but cadets never really got into Met. Sacked off from classification training in the 80s. And no badge attached for the cool kids now. Sigh.

Weather station eventually exploded due to UV exposure, high winds and/or chavs throwing rocks at “the shiny thing”.