The UK armed forces visit thousands of schools each year. They offer school presentation teams, youth teams, ‘careers advice’ and lessons plans. The Department for Education is promoting 'military ethos in schools'. Should the armed forces by given access to children within education? Should 'military values' be promoted in schools? How can we challenge these activities? How can a more balanced view of what life in the armed forces involves be given to young people? Read more about the Military Out Of Schools campaign
How to approach your school with your concerns
This ForcesWatch briefing is for parents, students and teachers concerned with military activities in their school. It looks at:
how and why the armed forces engage with schools and colleges
perspecitves on armed forces activities in schools and colleges
things to think about before raising concerns with the school
"The army careers advisers who operate in schools are skilled salesmen." Head of Army recruitment strategy, quoted in New Statesman, 2007
The armed forces have a growing involvement in secondary schools, colleges and even primary schools. While the Army, Navy and RAF have long run activities in schools as part of the Ministry of Defence's Youth Engagement programme, the Department for Education promotes 'military ethos' within education, and parts of the armed forces, along with the arms industry, are developing their involvement with curriculum provision and sponsorship of education institutions.
This A4 leaflet (updated 2017) outlines the issue and what the concerns are.
With the presence of the military in public spaces increasing and a high level of popularity for the armed forces, it is not always easy to respond to challenging questions that people pose in when faced with concerns expressed about militarism. Here we explore some responses to questions about how much the armed forces should be involved in our everyday lives, how they relate to young people, and the effectiveness and consequences of military action.
Science4Society Week is a collection of science education activities, co-ordinated by Scientists for Global Responsibility, and designed to inspire young people. It takes place in March each year.
The activities focus on the contribution that science, design and technology can make to peace, social justice and environmental sustainability. The project was set up to provide an alternative to activities funded by the arms and fossil fuel industries.
The resources include debates and discussions, problem solving and practical activities.
This paper, published by ForcesWatch in 2016, explores ways in which teaching remembrance in schools can be used as a way of encouraging critical thinking about what and how we remember, and how this can be used to foster a culture of peace.
It discusses the importance of encouraging emotional engagement in the consequences of war and of avoiding euphemistic language that overly sanitises and simplifies its causes and consequences. The paper looks at educational opportunities in exploring the meaning of the white poppy as an alternative to the red poppy and alternatives to violent responses to conflict.
The paper includes some ideas for how to teach remembrance and provides links to education resources and background reading for use around remembrance and wider education for and about peace.
Teach Peace, a new resource from the Peace Education Network, is a set of eight assemblies, follow-up activities, resources, prayers and reflections on peace for primary schools.
From the UN peace day, 21 September, to the International Day for Children as Victims of War, 4 June, the school year is ﬁlled with opportunities to use the assemblies and activities in Teach Peace. This resource will help to ensure peace is a key theme in our children’s education and help you to celebrate peace and the peacemakers in your school.
The entire resource is free to download below. Hard copies of Teach Peace are available from the Peace Education Network for £5. Also available in Welsh.
The Unseen March - short film made by Quakers in Britain with former SAS Ben Griffin, activist Mark Thomas and educationalists on ‘military ethos’ in schools.
Step by step, a military presence is entering schools across Britain. This is part of a conscious strategy to increase support for the armed forces in the wake of unpopular wars. Quakers in Britain have produced The Unseen March, a short film to start a public debate about the militarisation of education.
There are also briefings, resources and action ideas to accompany the film
This report explains why the British Armed Forces Learning Resource (published in September 2014 by the Prime Minister's Office) is a poor quality educational resource, and exposes the resource as a politically-driven attempt to promote recruitment into the armed forces and “military values” in schools.
This educational resource investigates the diverse experiences of Australian school communities during the Great War. Each investigation uses primary and secondary sources to look at what students were learning about the British Empire, its Allies and enemies, the consequences on daily life at school, the values taught, the patriotic activities undertaken, the reasons why some students and teachers enlisted and responses to the loss or wounding of people from school communities.
Each investigation has ‘tuning in’ and ‘going further’ learning activities. Additional sources on the CD-ROM are also provided.
The report, compiled by ForcesWatch, is based on figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the armed forces on their visits to Scottish schools. It has been co-sponsored by the Educational Institute of Scotland which has expressed concerns that some armed forces visits may have a recruitment purpose.
The report discusses the aims of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces’ ‘youth engagement’ programme and concludes that: “Despite assurances by the Ministry of Defence and the three armed services that the armed forces do not recruit in schools, it is evident that many of the activities provided by members of the armed forces in schools are recruitment-related and the recruitment potential of visits is a key purpose of many, if not most, of their visits to schools.”
by David Aldridge, Principal Lecturer, Philosophy of Education, Oxford Brookes University
Each year a national day of commemoration of the war dead is celebrated on 11th November in the United Kingdom. Despite public controversy about the nature and purpose of remembrance, there has been no significant discussion of the role schools should play in this event. In this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, with the government planning to send groups from every secondary school in Britain to tour the battlefields of the western front over the next four years, the question of how war should be remembered in schools is more pressing than ever.
In this bold and rigorous pamphlet, David Aldridge takes a hard look at the reasons usually advanced for involving children and young people in commemorating the war dead, and finds many of them wanting. He critically examines the high profile in schools of charities, like the Royal British Legion, with vested interests in certain kinds of commemoration. And he argues forcefully for a justification of remembrance in schools that requires a major rethink of established rituals and practices.
This is a compelling treatment of a topic high on the agenda of teachers and education policy-makers and will be an invaluable resource for anyone involved in planning centenary commemorative events for children and young people.
Conviction can supplement existing lesson materials in subjects such as History, Religious Education or Citizenship, and be used to support the delivery of Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) or Spiritual Moral Social Cultural (SMSC) education.
Through engaging with speaking and listening activities in pairs and groups, children can discuss and reflect on historical source materials including documents, letters, posters and images.
A short film made by Headliners and ForcesWatch, 2014
Why does the military have a 'youth engagement' policy and why is the government promoting 'military ethos' within education? What is the impact of military activities taking place in schools? ForcesWatch have been working with the charity Headliners and a group of young people in London to produce this short film which explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.
The film focuses on military activities in schools, including presentations and other visits by the armed forces and the Department for Education's 'Military Ethos in Schools' policy - as well as community cadet forces. It looks at young people's experiences and views and ask questions about the agenda behind the 'youth engagement' policy and the reluctance of the Department for Education and Ministry of Defence to discuss it with young people themselves.
This film will encourage young people to reflect on and debate military-related activities aimed at them.
A BBC resource. Includes a final section on 'could this happen today'?
At the outbreak of war in 1914, the British Army had 700,000 available men. Germany’s wartime army was over 3.7 million. When a campaign for volunteers was launched, thousands answered the call to fight. Among them were 250,000 boys and young men under the age of 19, the legal limit for armed service overseas.
Choices Then and Now is a cross curricular resource that suggests strategies for teaching about World War I, recent and current conflicts, extremism and resilience and the choices available to people then and now.
The full colour booklet provides a scheme of work, differentiated mid term plans and a range of untold stories to engage primary, secondary and post sixteen students. The accompanying CD ROM contains limited stories and activities for Key Stage 1 and a wide range of materials for teaching and learning across all phases, largely drawn from items in the Peace Museum UK’s extensive collection. Visit www.peacemuseum.org.uk to find out more about the diverse items in the collection.
"Our aim is to have great fun, but also to try and develop children’s self-confidence and build their awareness of society around them.
"Through our activities, outings and camps we help our members understand important issues like the environment, world debt and global conflict and, in recent years, we have focused on sustainable development."
The Woodcraft Folk are campaigning to challenge military activities in schools.
This ForcesWatch briefing outlines the methods and rationale of the military's engagement with young people within the education system and highlights potential developments in this area, including projects under consideration or development by the Armed Forces and the Department of Education.
Up and down the country on the 30th June street parties, picnics and military tattoos are taking place for Armed Forces Day. Despite the rhetoric of tradition, the day is relatively new to Britain's military history, with the first occurrence taking place in 2009, replacing Veterans' Day, which ran from 2006-2009.
Some see the institution of another national occasion relating to the Armed Forces (i.e. in addition to Remembrance Day) as indicative of a growing culture of militarisation across the country. After consultation with parents, teachers and students who are concerned with the unquestioning attitude of acceptance towards the military and their activities in the public sphere, ForcesWatch has produced the following lesson plans and activities for those working in schools and other youth organisations to use, free of charge, with their students or group members. This is a direct response to the materials produced by the Armed Forces for teachers.
"We call on the National Assembly to urge the Welsh Government to recommend that the armed forces should not go into schools to recruit.
Britain is the only country in the European Union that allows a military presence in its schools. Britain is the only country of the 27 European Union countries to recruit 16-year-old children to the armed forces. The armed forces target their recruitment in schools in the most deprived areas of Wales."
A 14 minute film made by the American Friends Service Committee and Veterans for Peace, updated in 2011. An informative deconstruction of a US army recruitment video and moving reflection on the effects of going to war. With testimony from a number of young and older veterans.
This research published in 2010 has found that the army visited 40% of London schools from September 2008 to April 2009 and disproportionately visits schools in the most disadvantaged areas. The researchers conclude that, “the army's recruitment activities in schools risk jeopardising the rights and future welfare of the young people contacted.
Strategies to counter military recruitment, end war, and build a better world
Aimee Allison and David Solnit, 2007
This is a book from the heart of the vibrant counter recruitment movement in the United States. It looks at the many ways in which schools and communities have become targets for military recruiters and how those schools and communities have responded - with a powerful movement that seeks to resist the militarisation of young people.
Before You Sign Up has a useful page on Recruiting in schools and colleges. This website also has a lesson plan devised for Citizenship Key Stage 4. The learning outcomes are: an outline understanding of life as a soldier, including the pros and cons; understand and speak about ethical issues involved in recruiting young people from age 16 into the armed forces; ability to deconstruct a TV advertisement; and, bring critical awareness to an important social issue.
This archive and educational materials resource has an extensive collection of materials which tell the stories of the men and women conscientious objectors of the 20th century. It documents their experiences, videos their recollections, promotes their ideals and publishes teaching resources.