Army Foundation College

Coordinates: 53°59′38″N 1°35′51″W / 53.9939°N 1.5974°W / 53.9939; -1.5974
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Army Foundation College Harrogate
AFC Logo
Active1947–1996 (as the Army Apprentices School, Harrogate)
3 August 1998–to date
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
RolePhase 1 Training Establishment
Size~1,300 soldiers under training
~500 permanent staff
Part ofInitial Training Group (ITG)
LocationUniacke Barracks, Penny Pot Lane, Harrogate HG3 2SE
Motto(s)Trust, Courage, Team Spirit
ColoursRed, Yellow, Blue, Black & Green          
Commanding OfficerLt Col Mike Butler ETS
Army Foundation College gates

The Army Foundation College (AFC) is located in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England. It is the only British Army establishment that delivers initial military training (Phase 1 training) to Junior Soldiers (aged between 16 years and 17 years, 5 months when they start).[1]


The Royal Signals Apprentices School was established in Harrogate to provide military and vocational training for the Royal Corps of Signals, Royal Artillery (RA) and Royal Engineers (RE) in 1947.[2] It was renamed the Army Apprentices College in 1961 when the RA and RE were relocated, providing Royal Signals training until it closed in 1998.[2] In September 1998, the site reopened as the Army Foundation College to provide initial military training to the army's youngest other ranks trainees, aged between 16 years and 17 years, 5 months, for a range of combat arms and services.[1][3] It was rebuilt by Jarvis under a private finance initiative contract worth £526.6 million between 2000 and 2002.[4]

Tom Moore was appointed as the first honorary colonel of the college on his 100th birthday, in recognition of his fundraising success during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.[5][6] When acting in that capacity, he was addressed as 'Colonel Tom'.[7]


Welcoming board to the Army Apprentices School, Harrogate in March 1965
The Army Foundation College in August 2006

AFC delivers two Phase 1 (initial military training) courses:[1]

Despite the differing course lengths, all recruits are trained to the same standard of the Common Military Syllabus (see Selection and Training in the British Army).

Intake and retention[edit]

There are two entry points annually, in September and March; and two graduations, in August and February.[1]

Each year, approximately 1,200 boys and 100 girls begin their army training at AFC, of whom approximately 500 are training for infantry roles.[10]

Official figures for the period from 2017–18 to 2020–21 show that, on average, 70% of recruits on the 49-week course complete their year at the college.[11]


In addition to initial military training, Junior Soldiers can study Functional Skills courses in maths, English and IT at Levels 1 and 2, provided by TQ Pearson.[12] Those who already have qualifications in mathematics and English have the option to study two units of a BTEC Certificate in Public Services at Level 3, however not the full qualification.[13]

The education provided has drawn both praise[14] and criticism.[15]

Running costs[edit]

In 2017, it cost the British Army approximately £62 million per annum to operate AFC.[16]

Junior soldiers graduation


Cost of service delivery[edit]

As of 2018, the cost of fully training an infantry soldier through AFC, at £103,000, was twice that of training an adult recruit to the same standard for the same job at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, at £53,000.[17]

The British Army's policy of enlisting from age 16 has also been criticised for leading to lower trainee retention than is found among adult recruits.[18]

Age of enlistment[edit]

In view of developing children's rights standards and evidence showing a detrimental impact of military training and employment on younger recruits,[19][20][21][22][23][24] several bodies, including the Children's Commissioners for each of the four nations of the UK and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, have also called on the armed forces to raise the minimum age of enlistment to 18.[20][25][26]

In response to these concerns, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has defended the current policy, stating in 2016: 'The army needs to attract school and college leavers at the earliest opportunity.'[27] In the same year, the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, added: '[T]he fact that our junior entry is always 100% manned is indicative of people finding that it is something that is really positive to do.'[28]

Duty of care[edit]

Ofsted grade[edit]

In 2018 and 2021, the education inspectorate Ofsted awarded the college an 'outstanding' grade for its duty of care. The 2021 report noted: 'Recruits speak consistently of fair and respectful treatment from all staff...'[29]

Abuse cases[edit]

Between 2014 and 2022, recruits made 72 formal complaints of allegations of assault or other ill-treatment by staff at the college.[30][31] 13 of the allegations were proven following investigation, of which seven occurred since 2017.[32]

In 2021, nine investigations were opened into sexual offences against 22 girls at AFC; in one investigation, three of the suspected perpetrators were members of staff.[33][34] The revelations were the subject of a Vice News report in July 2022.[35]

In 2021, an instructor was convicted for abusing recruits.[36][37] In 2023, another instructor was convicted of eight counts of disgraceful conduct of a cruel or indecent kind and one count of sexual assault, which took place over nine months between 2020 and 2021.[38]

Recruit abuse investigation 2014–18[edit]

In 2017, the MOD confirmed reports that 17 instructors at AFC would be standing trial at court martial for 40 counts of alleged physical abuse of recruits during battle camp at Kirkudbright, Scotland, in 2014.[39] ForcesTV, and the Guardian reported that the allegations included assault, holding trainees' heads under water, and forcing animal dung into their mouths.[40][41][42] The case was reported as the British Army's largest ever investigation of abuse.[43][44]

At a preliminary hearing in September 2017, the accused pleaded not guilty to all charges.[42] The trial in February 2018 collapsed after the judge ruled that the investigation by the Royal Military Police had been 'seriously flawed', and that a fair trial for the defendants would no longer be possible.[45]

An internal review confirmed multiple failings by the Royal Military Police. It noted that, in addition to recruits who had lodged formal complaints, 'a considerable number of JS [junior soldier recruits] who had been the subject of ill treatment / assaults' had not wished to do so.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d British Army (n.d.). "Army Foundation College Harrogate". Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Home – The Harrogate Apprentice". The Harrogate Apprentice. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Army Foundation College Harrogate – Regiment History, War & Military Records & Archives". Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  4. ^ "PricewaterhouseCoopers advises MoD on £86.2m PFI deal for Army Foundation College – Accountancy Age". Accountancy Age. 9 February 2000. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  5. ^ Laycock, Mike. "Captain Tom made honorary colonel on his 100th birthday". York Press. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  6. ^ @DefenceHQ/ (30 April 2020). "In recognition of his incredible fundraising achievements for @NHSuk charities, @captaintommoore has been appointed as the first Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College, Harrogate. May we be one of the first to say, happy birthday Colonel Tom!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  7. ^ Ministry of Defence (30 April 2020). "Honorary Colonels in the British Army". Medium.
  8. ^ Coach Mike Chadwick (25 April 2020). "Individualise to Optimise".
  9. ^ Lt Col Mike Buttler (1 March 2020). "Op Achilles".
  10. ^ Westminster, Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons. "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 23 Jun 2014 (pt 0004)". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  11. ^ British Army (23 March 2022). "Freedom of Information request ref. FOI2022/02428" (PDF). Retrieved 16 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ T Q Pearson (1 August 2019). "Army Foundation College, Harrogate". Retrieved 17 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Army Foundation College: Qualifications:Written question – 198354". UK Parliament. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  14. ^ Williams, Zoe (21 February 2014). "Why an army education is hard not to admire | Zoe Williams". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Education in the British army: Comparison with civilian standards for the 16–17 age group". Child Soldiers International. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  16. ^ Westminster, Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons. "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 23 Jun 2014 (pt 0003)". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  17. ^ Lancaster, Mark (19 February 2018). "Army: Training". Retrieved 17 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Gee, David; Taylor, Rachel (1 November 2016). "Is it Counterproductive to Enlist Minors into the Army?". The RUSI Journal. 161 (6): 36–48. doi:10.1080/03071847.2016.1265837. ISSN 0307-1847. S2CID 157986637.
  19. ^ UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. "General comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  20. ^ a b Committee on the Rights of the Child (2016). "Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  21. ^ Gee, D (3 July 2017). "The First Ambush? Effects of military employment and training". Veterans For Peace UK. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  22. ^ Medact (8 March 2018). "Written evidence submitted by Medact". Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  23. ^ Medact (2016). "The recruitment of children by the UK armed forces" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  24. ^ Child Soldiers International (2018). "Why 18 Matters: A rights-based analysis of child recruitment". Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Letter from UK Children's Commissioners and others to the Ministry of Defence". 2016. Archived from the original on 8 March 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  26. ^ House of Commons and House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights (2009). "Children's Rights" (PDF). Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  27. ^ Earl Howe. "Armed Forces Bill – Report: 27 Apr 2016: House of Lords debates – TheyWorkForYou". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  28. ^ "General N Carter, cited in Oral evidence – Armed Forces Bill 2015–16 – 18 Nov 2015". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  29. ^ Ofsted (20 October 2021). "'Welfare and duty of care in Armed Forces initial training 2020 to 2021'". Archived from the original on 20 October 2021. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  30. ^ British Army (13 December 2021). "Freedom of Information request, ref. Army/PolSec/C/U/FOI2021/13445" (PDF). Retrieved 17 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ Ministry of Defence (23 March 2023). "Freedom of information request, ref. Army/Sec//U/A/FOI2023/02395" (PDF). Retrieved 31 March 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. ^ British Army (11 January 2022). "Freedom of information request, ref. Army/Sec/C/U/FOI2021/15645" (PDF). Retrieved 17 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. ^ Docherty, Leo (14 April 2022). "Armed Forces: Offences against Children". Retrieved 17 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ Docherty, Leo (16 May 2022). "Armed Forces: Offences against Children". Retrieved 17 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. ^ "Teenage Girls Serving in British Army Report Record Levels of Sexual Assault". Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  36. ^ Shaw, Neil; Teale, Connor (9 November 2021). "Army instructor 'punched' teen recruits asking ' who thinks they're hardest?'". YorkshireLive. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  37. ^ Brown, Larisa. "Army recruits 'abused and humiliated' by college staff". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  38. ^ Robinson, Calvin (2 March 2023). "Former Harrogate Army Foundation College instructor sentenced for sex assault". The Stray Ferret. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  39. ^ Ministry of Defence. "Defence in the media: Sunday 13 August 2017 (Court Martial of 17 Army instructors)". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  40. ^ "17 Ex-Army Instructors To Face Court Martial". Forces Network. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  41. ^ Perraudin, Frances (13 August 2017). "17 army instructors charged with assaulting teenage recruits". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  42. ^ a b Morris, Steven; agency (21 September 2017). "UK army instructors in court over claims they physically abused teen recruits". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  43. ^ Farmer, Ben (13 August 2017). "Army instructors 'punched and kicked teenage recruits'". Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  44. ^ "British Army's 'largest ever abuse case' begins". iNews. 12 February 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  45. ^ "R v Girault and Others Ruling on Abuse of Process" (PDF). 28 February 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  46. ^ Guinness, Mark E (June 2018). "A Review of the Royal Military Police investigations into allegations of the ill treatment of Junior Soldiers at the Army Foundation College (Harrogate) (AFC(H)) 2014/15" (PDF). Retrieved 17 August 2008.

External links[edit]

53°59′38″N 1°35′51″W / 53.9939°N 1.5974°W / 53.9939; -1.5974