Maj Dan Reed of Cranleigh School, Surrey discusses the ways in which CCF develops teenagers’ resilience – and delivers thrills, spills and leadership skills along the way

Looking towards a post-pandemic world, where uncertainty and anxiety is more commonplace than ever, schools are working to counteract the external forces at play. This is where CCF can be of great value, offering the best possible experience for teenagers and a way to gain resilience, independence and leadership skills, Through CCF, Cranleigh pupils are equipped with an armour to help them navigate the modern world.

The school now has 175 recruits, with a mix of boys and girls, and we are finding that CCF is becoming more popular each year. We now have 10 members of staff involved, as well as outside volunteers helping us. To enrich the experience for our pupils, we have taken out a lot of the drill activities and added more outdoor experiences such as navigation training – a valuable and enjoyable way to improve both teamwork and discipline.

Cranleigh School on the importance of CCF adventures
CCF takes students out of their comfort zone and enables those who might not think of themselves as sporty to achieve

CCF is, as it has always been, all about teenagers gaining confidence and getting to understand more about themselves.  We do a lot to push our recruits out of their comfort zone with adventurous training in rock climbing, mountain biking and even parachuting – which is the ultimate test of mettle and an incredibly thrilling experience. The last group of Sixth Formers to try parachuting said it had a life-changing effect on their confidence.

Expeditions are part of the mix, too. Placing teenagers in situations where they might be uncomfortable, or have to fend for themselves, develops character and independence in a safe and controlled way. In an uncertain world, where parents do everything to remove risk for their children, such activities are a vital part of education, building the grit and resilience that young people need for their futures and building confidence too.

“At Cranleigh, the last group of Sixth Formers to try parachuting said it had a life-changing effect on their confidence”

We run a wide range of trips and training, beginning with Exercise TIGER CUB – where pupils learn how to live in a field and take care of themselves and their equipment – moving through to Exercise TIGERS FURY where they learn basic tactics. Our Easter camps offer a rich mix of adventurous training – mountain biking, abseiling, rock climbing – and at summer camp they’re trained by the army in a trip that includes shooting ranges, paintballing, confidence courses and escape rooms.

Modern leadership is all about motivation and empowering those around you and CCF teaches pupils about the softer side of leading people. It is an effective way of giving them skills in mentoring and encouraging others at the same time – providing a practical application for leadership skills they will need in years to come. The programme changes pupils so much in the years they take part, and it gives them a real morale boost. You can see pupils grow in stature as they tackle things they never dreamed they’d be able to do.

Ultimately the programme gives young people confidence and enables those who may not consider themselves to be sporty to believe in themselves. My advice to young people: if you’re thinking about it, just give it a go – whether you enjoy adventures, tactics or leadership, CCF offers something for everyone.

Cranleigh School

Further reading: Hurst College on the importance of expanding minds