News: top stories for Spring 2023
Catch up with some highlights from around the Corps over the last few months
Going big on volunteering
Sea Cadets is excited to be marking King Charles III’s coronation by championing The Big Help Out campaign to encourage volunteering.
Beginning on 8 May and continuing throughout the summer, The Big Help Out is supported by the royal household and has created a fantastic opportunity for Sea Cadets and other charities to promote local causes. As well as joining in with The Big Help Out events in their communities, many of our units are getting ready to host open days and activity demonstrations to attract new volunteers and cadets.
The Big Help Out was officially launched on 20 March by Shaping the Future with Volunteering, a coalition of national charities of which Sea Cadets is a member.
More activities and events are being added to The Big Help Out app every day, and there should be lots of exciting activities for everyone to join in with on the coronation bank holiday.
Cadets and volunteers around the country have been challenged to participate in a national playing of the Call the Hands on the boatswain’s call on the morning of 8 May, which will mark the start of The Big Help Out for everyone.
We can’t wait to share the highlights in the summer issue. In the meantime, find updates here and find your nearest volunteering opportunity here or download the app from Google and Apple stores.
Inspiring the female marine engineers of the future
Almost 8,000 schoolgirls were able to engage in our Marine Engineering Programme (MEP) in 2022 thanks to funding from the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB). MSSC’s Director of Fundraising, Daniel McAllister, recently visited the MNWB to thank them for their support.
As well as showing MNWB Chief Executive Stuart Rivers some of the equipment used for MEP sessions, we also updated our funders on why they have been so well received by female pupils – a promising sign of progress amid industry-wide efforts to improve the historically low rates of girls gaining science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) qualifications.
By delivering free sessions in schools across the UK, MSSC has been able to bring science, technology, engineering and maths to life in a way that can be more engaging for girls – including by emphasising the need for more environmentally-friendly practices in marine engineering. Three out of five of our MEP workshop leaders are female, giving young female pupils great role models in the field.
Nine-year-old Molly was certainly inspired by the MEP session, saying: “I didn’t know about all the environmental problems because of engineering. I would like to try and be one and help fix them and make the world better in the future.”
Meanwhile, over 96% of participating teachers said they would recommend our MEP programme to other schools. “There’s been a lot of media attention on fewer female pupils choosing STEM subjects, and we’re on a mission to change this,” said Stuart. “The MEP workshops showcase all that engineering has to offer and what a rewarding career choice it is.”
Work gets under way on new building for Midlands Boat Station
After an epic fundraising effort to secure £5m, we were delighted to receive confirmation in March that we can start building a new residential facility for the boat station at Edgbaston Reservoir. As well as providing a new home for Birmingham Vernon Unit (pictured below) and its 60+ cadets, the building will create a centre of excellence for boating that will train, educate and inspire thousands of young people.
It will allow 1,500 sea cadets in Birmingham and the wider region to access a variety of inshore boating training and benefit from over 1,000 residential places over weekends and school holidays. In total, the boat station will facilitate more than 30,000 cadet sessions a year across boating, watersports and indoor education – with its nine activity spaces providing a purpose-built environment for learning.
Another major part of our vision for the new boat station is to make it a real community asset. On a typical day, up to 150 people from local schools and community groups are expected to benefit from the building, which will be available to hire for neighbourhood meetings and events.
Finally, the new boat station will also help us to increase the number of Birmingham’s hard-to-reach young people we can engage with each summer to 600, as part of our On The Water programme, which gave 423 of the city’s nine to 14-year-olds their first experience of boating in 2022.
With the old building demolished and the site cleared by the end of January, work is planned to get under way this spring. We are on track to open the new boat station in spring 2024, but in the meantime our Midlands Boat Station team supported by local volunteers continue to offer boating opportunities to local young people from a temporary office. Find out more here.
Breaking records with Duke of Edinburgh Awards
Following the pandemic, one aim of our recent two-year Regeneration strategy for Sea Cadets was to increase participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. DofE is the world’s leading achievement scheme for young people, and a cherished link to the late Duke of Edinbugh, our Admiral from 1952 to 1992. So we’re delighted that 2022/23 was a record-breaking year for enrolments and completions!
Thanks to a growing desire for adventure among our 14- to 25-year-olds, the year to March 2023 saw us register over 1,200 cadets and young volunteers for DofE – up from the previous record of 1,105 set last year.
We’ve also set a new high for completions, with over 400 participants earning their Awards – topping the previous best of 381, set in a pre-pandemic 2019/20. And with only five participants achieving the prestigious Gold Award last year, it was incredible to see 27 cadets take Gold this time, reflecting 18 months of skill and determination.
“It’s fantastic to see even more DofE Awards giving external recognition to the Sea Cadets Experience,” says Virtual Training & Programme Manager, Amy Fletcher. “We’ve also introduced DofE sectional courses – from volunteering working groups on community activities, to skills in RYA Day Skipper Theory. DofE is the participants’ programme; the Sea Cadets Portal allows them to ‘favourite’ expeditions they want to do, so we can add these to the programme.”
The expeditions remain the most satisfying parts of the challenge – with lasting bonds forged through teamwork. Sea Cadets can offer a unique variety of expeditions, with the traditional hill walking complemented by paddling, mountain biking, rowing, sailing and – from 2023 – offshore sailing on our yachts.
Sea cadets on the ball
Our National Five-a-side Football Competition returned to Grantham Meres Leisure Centre in Lincolnshire in February, with players showing the best of their skills. Over 200 cadets travelled from across the UK to take part, and an overnight stay at the nearby Beckingham Army Training Camp brought their excitement to fever pitch.
Saturday’s group games set the tone, in both crowd noise and sportsmanship. “Today’s been so good, hearing the chants and everyone supporting not only their own areas, but other areas as well,” said POC Josie of Rickmansworth and Watford Unit.
The knock-out games on Sunday delivered some excellent matches, with teams from all areas competing with great passion and determination. In the senior boys’ final, player of the competition, Cadet Charlie of Huyton with Roby Unit, helped North West Area earn a hard-fought 1-0 win over Eastern Area. They were presented with the overall winners’ trophy by Captain Sea Cadets, Captain Neil Downing RN.
A great effort from Eastern Area, who triumphed in the junior boys’ final, saw them finish just one point behind, in joint second place with Northern Ireland. It was an impressive effort from Northern Ireland, who beat North West Area 1-0 in the senior girls’ final, with Bangor Unit’s Cadet 1st Class Miya named player of the competition and RMC Jessica of Belfast Formidable picking up the junior girls’ award.
BZ to everyone who took part in such good spirits, and particularly to the volunteers who made the event such a roaring success.
New ways to learn watersports
Thanks to a new project led by our Inshore Boating Team, cadets and volunteers will be even better prepared to make the most of boating season.
We recently released Activity Session Cards showing how to run fun, educational activities during boating sessions – a great resource for instructors. Now, we’re creating video versions to make it even more engaging. And, as well as inspiring cadets to get on the water, the quality of the videos means they can also help us promote Sea Cadets to potential new recruits online.
In the videos, an instructor explains the uses and benefits of each activity and how to run a session, while running through equipment and safety. Using drone footage, we’ll give a bird’s-eye view of each skill, with graphics to show wind direction – crucial knowledge for most of these sessions. A body camera will provide footage from the instructor’s perspective, making the viewer feel they are actually in the boat.
Videos are available for paddleboarding, windsurfing, powerboating and sailing, to be followed by rowing. Look out for these fantastic new resources here.
More news & Events
To mark International Women’s Day, we asked former cadet and volunteer Caz Palmer about being the first female Captain of cruise ship Hebridean Princess and the only female Master
Course spotlight: The Earthshot Challenge
This challenge for junior cadets encourages them to think about ways to reverse the climate emergency and repair the planet by 2030