UK

Army Foundation College Welcomes Largest Ever Intake Of Junior Soldiers

The college runs a 23-week course and a 49-week course, and those who graduate can go on to serve across the Army. 

The Army Foundation College in Harrogate has welcomed its largest ever intake of recruits. 

The college, which trains junior soldiers aged between 16 and 18, is the only one of its kind in the country and is now operating above its capacity.

It comes after last month's announcement that the British Army was on course to meet its recruitment target for the first time since it began working with private firm Capita in 2012.

The college's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Rich Hall, told Forces News that "the intake is huge".

"We are now overloaded, over 100% capacity," he said.

A total of 1,392 junior soldiers have been enrolled into the college this year - an increase of two platoons on last year.

The recruits are paid around £1,000 per month after tax during their training period. 

Critics have claimed the Army recruiting under-18s breaks United Nations convention and equates to training child soldiers.

Recruits to Army Foundation College Harrogate were given a talk upon arrival 100320 CREDIT BFBS
Lt Col Hall addressed the recruits and their families on arrival at the college.

However, the Ministry of Defence argues the college offers important life skills and that the trainees are free to leave at any point.

The young soldiers can also not deploy on overseas operations until they turn 18.

"We have this mindset of junior soldiers are very precious," said Lt Col Richard Hall.

"They are the future leaders, in many ways, of the British Army and that losing a single one of them we feel it personally. It is a bit of a travesty if one of them doesn't make it through.

"So, I think there is this rich cultural mindset that, yeah, we are busy but it is good-busy because it just means more people are going to realise their potential."

Last September, the college banned smoking as it was not "compatible" with the college's philosophy of "health, fitness and developing potential".

Lt Col Hall said at the time he hoped the new rules would "reverse the recent trend" of recruits becoming smokers when finishing their course.

Like any training establishment, the Army Foundation College is checked by Ofsted and has been rated as 'outstanding'.

According to the Army’s website, it "plays a vital role in providing basic military training and developing future leadership".

The college runs a 23-week course and a 49-week course, and those who graduate can go on to serve across the Army.