Analysis of socio-economic and educational
background of non-officer recruits
The socio-economic background of Soldier recruits.
It is a generally accepted truth that the Army
recruits most of its soldiers from the lowest socio-economic groups
in the country. The status of a soldier, while often admired,
has never been high, and joining the Army has always been seen
as a good option for young people with few qualifications or difficult
Despite the general acceptance that the Army
recruits its soldiers from the lowest socio-economic groups, there
is very little evidence to substantiate this belief. While all
potential recruits are interviewed extensively throughout the
recruiting process, and a lot of what might be broadly called
`social' information is obtained on ad hoc forms and in
records of interviews, none of this available information has
in the past been formally analysed. The information collected
includes such things as general background, parents occupation,
employment history, education achievements and where the applicant
has lived in the past. This information is not formally analysed,
or collected in any set format.
The only information that can be analysed easily
is that which is entered on TAFMIS (ATRA's in house IT facility)
during the recruiting process. The TAFMIS fields capable of recording
information relevant to which socio-economic group an individual
may come from are educational qualifications, and whether an individual
was unemployed at the time of his or her application.
While roughly 45% of all young people leave
school with 5 GCSE subjects graded A-C only, 17% of all Army recruits
in 2003-04 had English at A-C level, with the figure for Maths
at about 10%. On average Army recruits have 0.9 of a GCSE at grade
A-C. These figures must be treated with some caution as some
records may not have been filled in correctly in those instances
where a soldier did not need a qualification for their particular
trade. However, it is possible to say that the educational qualifications
of soldiers is considerably below the national average. Records
also show that 24% of all Army applicants in 2003-04 were unemployed
for a significant period before applying.
In 1999-2000, research was undertaken into the
socio-economic background of Army recruits in the Cardiff catchment
area. Five hundred recruits who joined the Army between 1998 and
2000 were interviewed, and their records analysed. The analysis
illustrated the following:
69% were found to have come from a broken home.
50% were classified as coming from a deprived background.
16 % had been long term unemployed before joining.
35% had had more than eight different jobs since
leaving school (nearly all on a casual basis). Just over 60% had
left school with no academic qualifications.
40% were joining the Army as a last resort.
70 of the recruits had more than five GCSE grades
at A-C, and roughly 30% of all recruits were exceptionally motivated
and qualified young people who had wanted to join the Army for
a long time.
This is only one sample, but it probably gives
a rough snapshot of the socio-economic background of soldiers.
The lack of detailed information on the socio-economic
background of recruits is acknowledged and is now being addressed.
The next version of TAFMIS has been programmed to collect different,
and relevant information.
The Army has a long tradition of working with
Basic Skills (BS) needs among recruits. However, the increasingly
competitive labour market and the need for a multi-skilled workforce
capable of responding flexibly to changing demands and roles have
brought the Army's BS issues into sharper focus in recent years.
Latest Army research suggests that up to 50% of all recruits joining
the Service have literacy or numeracy skills at levels at or below
those expected of an 11 year old (ie Entry Level 3 or below).
This is broadly comparable with the recent national Skills for
Life survey conducted by DfES (October 2003).
Basic skills levels comparison table
|National Curriculum||Basic Skills Levels
|GCSE Level A-C||Level 2
|GCSE Level D-G||Level 1
|11 year old||Entry Level 3
|7 year old||Entry Level 2
|5 year old||Entry Level 1
Random sample of 4,265 recruits at ATRS in 2003-04 showing
basic skills levels
|Entry Level 1
||Entry Level 2
||Entry Level 3||Level 1
This is not to say that all soldiers are illiterate or innumerate.
The vast majority of those with literacy or numeracy difficulties
have them in particular areas and not across the board. BS underpin
the ability of an individual soldier to absorb and re-use information,
both in initial training and subsequently on operations. At its
simplest, if a soldier is unable to take legible notes, from verbal
instructions, and then to refer back to those notes in order to
guide his actions then he is unlikely to be able to play a fully
useful part in his/her team.
The scale of the BS problem combined with the Government's
drive to raise adult literacy and numeracy levels have warranted
the development of a cross-Army BS Improvement Model to tackle
the challenges. The Army is committed to establishing a system
of basic skills provision that meets the needs of all Army personnel,
wherever they are stationed.
The Army's on-going programme of review and experimentation
with "workplace" action has seen a number of initiatives
being put in place or planned for implementation in the very near
future, in particular:
Initial assessment of the literacy and numeracy
levels of all recruits is carried out during early training. Fuller
diagnostic provision and BS support tailored to individuals' needs
and preferences are being put in place across the Service. From
April 2004, initial assessment is to be conducted at recruiting
offices, before candidates are selected and enlisted. From the
same time, those candidates with literacy or numeracy skills assessed
at Entry Level 1 and below will be deferred. They will be offered
advice and directed to local FE colleges and approved private
providers to seek tailored BS support. Deferred candidates may
re-apply once their skills are shown to be at Entry Level 2 or
A wide range of learning opportunities is available
through in-house provision delivered via the Army's extensive
network of 33 Army Education Centres (AECs) and over 100 ICT-based
learning centres in the UK and overseas (including a virtual learning
centre). Learners can access the paper-based national BS tests
through AECs. By Spring 2004, access to on-line tests will be
available across the ICT network.
42 Army locations are supported by qualified Basic
Skills Tutors (BSTs), recruited to manage/deliver in-house provision
and to co-ordinate external BS services (eg from FE Colleges,
and private providers) for Army personnel. Support is also being
extended through networks of local BS volunteers and mentors.
A programme of BS awareness training for all AEC and associated
staff is making for an integrated BS service and specifically
aids the effective introduction of learner referral systems.
The majority of the analysis of recruits' backgrounds is
based upon study of the recruiting criteria set out at Ev 236-8
and is aimed towards predicting success in training or in informing
the social requirements of trainees (eg age and marital status).
Examples are set out below:
|Age of RAF Ground Support Trades Recruits Entering Basic Training
||1 April 2001-
31 March 2002
|1 April 2002-|
31 Mar 2003
|1 April 2003-|
31 March 2004
|7||26 and over
Little other analysis of recruits' backgrounds is carried
out; however, the RAF Brand Audit, completed last year, analysed
the youth cohort and its aspirations to give the Service a clearer
picture of who the Service appealed to and how to improve its
promotion. Seven discrete areas for further work were identified
falling from the Brand Audit work. The first of these is an objective
to look at the backgrounds of those we have recruited in a "customer
relationship management" context with a view to optimising
our recruiting and training performance. Because of the resource
implications of this work, we are investigating taking it forward
on a tri-Service basis.
The Royal Navy/Royal Marines are an Equal Opportunities Employer.
All Applicants, having satisfied Eligibility Criteria, are assessed
on individual merit and irrespective of their gender, sexuality,
racial or cultural background, social or educational history,
etc. The Naval Service is interested only in the potential of
candidates to respond successfully to the demands of training
and Naval life. Limited data are collected but have not yet been
analysed, and cannot be provided in the time available. These
include for example: age, marital status, religion, educational
qualifications, type of school attended, and previous membership
of uniformed organisations.