The Armed Forces Covenant in Action? Part 4: Education of Service Personnel - Defence Committee Contents

1  Introduction


1. On the education of Service personnel, the Armed Forces Covenant states that:

    Service personnel should expect to receive appropriate training and education for both personal and professional development, including the opportunity to gain nationally recognised qualifications, in order to support them through their Service career and to prepare them for life after leaving the Service.[1]

2. The Defence Training Board, chaired by the Chief of Defence Personnel, oversees Defence training and education. It sets overall policy, gives strategic direction, prioritises and makes balance of investment decisions on training and education. The three Services and the Joint Forces Command are responsible for setting the requirements for education and training in their areas.[2]

3. The Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, Minister of State for Defence, Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, described the purpose of education in the Armed Forces as:

    [...] to prepare personnel for their role in operational capability. Given that that training is progressive and continues throughout an individual's service, the military requirement is paramount—after all, these are people in the Armed Forces—but where there is a comparable civilian qualification, we accredit the military course so that our people are awarded nationally recognisable qualifications. It is worth adding that the Ministry of Defence also supports elective learning and provides training to facilitate the eventual transition back to civilian life.[3]

4. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) summarised its view of the education of Armed Forces personnel as follows:

    While the military requirement is paramount and the focus is on training our people for operational capability, the Armed Forces recognise the importance of education and civilian qualifications which offer recruiting, developmental, retention and resettlement benefits. The Services are amongst the largest training providers in the UK, with excellent completion and achievement rates, and the quality of our training and education is highly respected. With support for education ranging from entry level literacy and numeracy to full postgraduate degrees, Service personnel are offered genuine progression routes which allow them to develop, gain qualifications and play a fuller part in society either in the Armed Forces or in the civilian world which awaits them beyond.[4]

Scope of the inquiry

5. This inquiry is the fourth in a series looking at the Armed Forces Covenant. The Committee's first inquiry into the Armed Forces Covenant was on the support and treatment of military casualties. The Report was published on 15 December 2011.[5] The second inquiry was into the accommodation provided for Service personnel and their families. The Report was published on 26 June 2012.[6] The third inquiry, running in parallel with this inquiry, is examining the education of the children of Service personnel.

6. The scope of the inquiry covered the provision of education to all Service personnel throughout their careers. We focused on what happens to new recruits in the early stages of their careers and how education and training allow personnel to obtain civilian qualifications useful in their post-Service careers.

7. In particular, we examined:

  • The provision of education to new recruits including help with literacy and numeracy;
  • The provision of education to Service personnel throughout their careers;
  • The provision of higher education to those personnel for whom it is relevant and useful;
  • The progress made by the Armed Forces in ensuring that training undertaken by Service personnel leads to civilian qualifications;
  • The impact of education on the resettlement of Armed Forces personnel; and
  • The adequacy of oversight of the education of Armed Forces personnel.


8. At the start of the inquiry, we received a detailed oral briefing from the MoD on all aspects of education in the Armed Forces. We followed this up with a visit to two training centres—Army Recruiting and Training Division, Pirbright and the Defence Logistics School at Deepcut—where we had the opportunity to talk to recruits, trainees, instructors and managers. We also took oral evidence from MoD officials and the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans. Written evidence was submitted by the MoD, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) and Child Soldiers International. The National Audit Office (NAO) hosted an online survey on the education of Service personnel and produced a report for the Committee analysing the results of the survey.[7] We are grateful to the witnesses, the NAO and those who submitted written evidence. We are also grateful for the assistance of our Specialist Advisers[8] and the staff of the Committee during this inquiry. We considered other relevant reports including:

  • Welfare and duty of care in Armed Forces initial training - Ofsted's 2012 report to the MoD;[9]
  • Welfare and duty of care in Armed Forces initial training - Ofsted's 2013 report to the MoD;[10]
  • Directorate of Educational and Training Services(Army) Army Apprenticeships - report by Ofsted;[11] and

Armed Forces Basic Skills Longitudinal Study by National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and the National Research and Development Centre commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the MoD.[12]

1   The Armed Forces Covenant, /  Back

2   Ev 14 Back

3   Q 46 Back

4   Ev 16 Back

5   Defence Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, The Armed Forces Covenant in Action? Part 1: Military Casualties, HC 762 Back

6   Defence Committee, Second Report of Session 2012-13, The Armed forces Covenant in Action? Part 2: Accommodation, HC 331 Back

7   NAO publication at Defence Committee website Error! Bookmark not defined. or NAO website Error! Bookmark not defined. Back

8   The Specialist Advisers' declaration of relevant interests are recorded in the Committee's Formal Minutes which are available on the Committee's website.  Back

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11   Error! Bookmark not defined. Back

12 Back

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Prepared 18 July 2013