Cadet units: guide for government-funded schools

How state-funded schools can set up or join a cadet unit.

The cadet expansion programme (CEP) establishes cadet units in schools to give students the chance to learn new skills such as:

  • leadership
  • self-reliance

based on the traditions and values of the armed forces.

Schools can have 2 types of units:

Register your interest

Complete an expression of interest form if your school is thinking of setting up or joining a cadet force.

After receiving your expression of interest, we will decide if your school is eligible. If you are eligible, we will arrange for a regional schools cadet expansion officer (SCEO) to meet with you.

They’ll listen to your needs and advise on the options available to your school, including the possibility of entering into a partnership with an existing combined cadet force (CCF) unit in another school.


The cadet expansion programme (CEP) is open to all types of government-funded secondary schools and 16 to 18 colleges, including:

However, we will prioritise expressions of interest from:

  • areas that are less affluent
  • areas where there is currently limited access to the cadet experience
  • areas where the Ministry of Defence (MOD) wants to raise awareness of the armed forces
  • schools, academy trusts or school partnerships that offer education for pupils aged up to 18

What you need to set up a new cadet unit

To set up a new cadet unit, your school must:

  • have full backing and commitment from the headteacher and governing body to enter into an agreement with MOD
  • have enough adult volunteers to run the unit
  • have access to suitable facilities
  • allow volunteers and cadets to attend activities that take place during school hours
  • keep the unit running for a minimum of 5 years to allow at least 1 group of students to complete the full cadet experience

Adult volunteers

All units need at least 2 adult volunteers.

Volunteers can be:

  • staff from your school
  • parents
  • members of the local community
  • ex-military personnel

All volunteers will receive training and uniforms from MOD.

Read guidance from MOD on becoming an adult volunteer.


Cadet expansion team

Published 25 March 2014
Last updated 10 February 2016 + show all updates
  1. Clarified which schools are eligible to join the programme.
  2. Removed information on the cost of setting up a cadet unit because it is free of charge.
  3. First published.