ForcesWatch comment

14/03/2017

The military and arms industries are putting large sums of money into our education system and into STEM educational material for schools. Science4Society Week is a chance to focus on learning from less destructive employers.

07/03/2017

Our petition lodged at Holyrood along with Quakers in Scotland on military visits to schools has taken a significant step forward.

24/02/2017

We report on the recent debate in Parliament arguing that the age of recruitment to the UK armed forces be raised.

18/01/2017

Telling adolescents that they can resolve their need to belong by joining the Army is simplistic and one-sided. The reality is many aspects of army life are potentially harmful, especially to vulnerable individuals. The other side of the story needs to be told.

09/12/2016

A history teacher from Coventry got in touch with ForcesWatch to share her experience of teaching Remembrance to year nine classes this year after reading the resource Rethinking Remembrance in Schools: 'Teaching about Remembrance this year was a vastly different experience for me than previous years'.

30/11/2016

Members of the Scottish Parliament have agreed to seek further evidence on our joint petition – with Quakers in Scotland – calling for greater scrutiny and guidance around military visits to schools.

12/11/2016

The Royal British Legion is asking the public to 'Rethink Remembrance'. Can we remember without obscuring the realities of war and overlaying this important act with militarism?

18/10/2016

This article was first published in the Morning Star.

The Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, recently announced that 25 out of 150 proposed new school cadet units would soon be opening. Despite the presentation of this development as new policy, the Cadet Expansion Programme promoting cadet forces in state schools, was first announced in 2012. While the Government heralds the cadets as a silver bullet in terms of improving pupil attainment and development, the sight of ranks of pupils as young as 12 in military gear and handling weapons will ring alarm bells for many. That this is happening within education raises additional concerns.

21/09/2016

Back in March we asked Holyrood to ensure ‘guidance is provided to schools', ‘information is collected to provide public monitoring’ and ‘parents/guardians are consulted’ when it comes to visits by the military. Last week we gave evidence to the Public Petitions Committee.

23/06/2016

This letter from ForcesWatch staff member Douglas Beattie was first published in the Camden New Journal on 23 June 2016 in response to Camden Council's support of Armed Forces Day.

25/05/2016

Are 16 and 17 year olds developmentally mature enough to make rational decisions about enlisting and once they have joined? The Chair of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania says: 16 years olds "may be more prone to being stressed, to maybe malfunctioning under stress and also not using more rational a decision making approach when they are in that split second."

24/05/2016

This week the long-awaited consideration of the UK's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child takes place. There are numerous issues being discussed, including many ways in which the rights of children are compromised or not adequately recognised by UK authorities.

Also under scrutiny is the recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds, who are still legally children, into the UK armed forces, and UK's lack of education provision on peace and human rights. As an open letter to the MoD points out, the youngest recruits are 'actively sought' for frontline roles.

12/05/2016

Lauren Bryden & Poppy Kohner explore the implications of Rosie Kay’s production of 5 Soldiers: The Body Is The Frontline, a dance piece exploring the ‘physicality’ of war and its effect on soldiers' bodies.  While captivating and enlightening, does placing the body at the centre of the narrative of war obscure political comment on what these bodies do and, crucially, why they do it? The support of the production by the British Army and their presence at the event raises important questions about the role of the military in public arts spaces.

24/03/2016

Before the closing date of our petition to the Scottish Parliament on military visits to state schools in Scotland, the ForcesWatch team went on the road to spread the word and raise awareness of the issue.

16/03/2016

This article, summarising our work, was first published on the White Feather Diaries website"Publishing the diaries of conscientious objectors of WWI. To refuse to kill is a cause worth dying for."

26/02/2016

Good news – after months of hard work ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland have now formally submitted our petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for an inquiry into armed forces visits to schools. We are urging MSPs to strike a ‘new deal’ on armed forces visits to schools, ensuring greater scrutiny, transparency and guidance over visits.

There’s already been a hugely positive response to the petition, with more than four hundred signatories in the first four days. You too can sign it, whether you live in Scotland or not. You’ll find it here and it’s live until the 20th March.

23/02/2016

An account of a school trip in 2015 to the First World War battlefields by Joe Brydon, who was in Year 13 at the time, which raises various important questions about some of the ways that school students are being encouraged to remember war.

05/01/2016

Take part in the Education Committee's 'purpose and quality of education' in England inquiry! Here's a short guide on how to make a quick submission that emphasises the importance of critical thinking education.

11/11/2015

We explore remembrance within education in the context of the plethora of military activities, commemorations, celebrations and military values that schools are being encouraged to take on. And, in the light of, the absence of a compulsory and organised curriculum of peace education within UK schools, our new report shows.

30/09/2015

Our reaction to today's Welsh Assembly debate on armed forces visits to schools in Wales, which represents a major step forward in the scrutiny of the ethics of the military's engagement with the education system.

30/06/2015

Following our recent piece on the news story that the Ministry of Defence requested access (which the Department for Education rejected) to the database of sensitive data of school students in England, to help the Army better target its recruitment practice, it has emerged that the Army - in collaboration with Royal Holloway College and the mobile phone app specialists DotNet - was specifically seeking to match individuals’ data with specific Army jobs, with a mobile phone app an apparent intended output.

This and other revelations undermine the claims by the MoD quoted in the original news coverage of the story that they aren’t targeting individuals for recruitment, and that the request was an error that had been “halted”.

27/06/2015

Letter to The Independent (see all signatories below)

Towns and cities across the UK will today be 'celebrating' Armed Forces Day. Many councils hold these events as signatories to the Armed Forces Community Covenant; almost every local authority has now pledged support to the armed forces in perpetuity, and hundreds of businesses, charities, and even schools have signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant.

Many of today's events are packaged as 'family fun' with military vehicles and weaponry to entice young people, and cadet and armed forces careers marketing to recruit them. War is not family entertainment. The school assembly packs on offer from the Ministry of Defence display a breath-taking economy with the truth about the purpose and consequences of military action.

27/06/2015

A year ago we wrote how Armed Forces Day symbolises the creep of militarism into our civil institutions. Far from being merely a reflection of public respect, this creep is the result of a concerted effort, which can be tracked through policy initiatives and is fuelled by concern that the military are losing control of the public narrative around defence. We noted how these public displays, which are ostensibly about supporting 'the men and women who make up the Armed Forces', (including Camo DayReserves Day and the Poppy Appeal), act to market the military as an institution and to build a positive and uncritical narrative around it and support its recruitment needs.

A year, and another Armed Forces Day, later, we look here at how militarism continues to creep into schools and colleges and how recent developments further embed military approaches and interests within the education system.

09/06/2015

The Department for Education has given out its £3.5 million ‘Character Awards’ and its £3.5 million Character Education grants, both championed by Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan, to 27 schools and youth organisations in England, and 14 youth projects, respectively.  Despite the DfE's heralding of 'military ethos' as an  excellent means of developing character, none of those awarded mention military-style activities in their descriptions (see here and here).

09/06/2015

Looking back on being part of a school-based cadet unit, the author reflects that, despite the fun and experience to be gained, the benefits could be achieved with non-military activities which would not present a dangerous and risk-laden career as an enjoyable and exciting activity or expose young people to an environment where bullying and hazing are normalised.

05/06/2015

Schools Week today report that the Ministry of Defence requested access to the National Pupil Database. The request was for the most sensitive pupil data and was refused by the Department for Education. There is substantial evidence that the armed forces already engage with schools for recruitment purposes so we ask why, if 'targeted messaging' in schools about armed forces careers is not for the 'well-being' of students, are they allowed to visit schools - and run military activities such as cadets in them - at all? 

07/05/2015

The DfE's recent communication to schools about the 70th anniversary of VE Day on 8 May suggests that schools 'will want to celebrate and commemorate' the event. This is the third set of learning materials promoted by the DfE within the past year around military issues. Do 'celebrations' around remembrance events inevitably drown out the more cautious messages about the price of victory?

22/04/2015

Here we provide two sample questions that you can ask candidates as well as key points and further sources of information. You can find your candidates contact details using https://yournextmp.com/. Let us know if you get any responses!

Do you agree that the UK should raise its age of recruitment to 18 in line with the international human rights standards established by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child?

Is the promotion of the armed forces and 'military ethos' appropriate within education? Should parents be consulted about the involvement of the military at their school?

See here for key points to make and sources of information

10/12/2014

On 7 December 2014, Michael Gove’s successor as Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan made her support for the Military Ethos in Schools programme clear by pledging a further £4.8 million to eight ‘alternative provision with a military ethos’ schemes. This follows previous funding between 2012 and 2014 that amounted to £8.2 million. The Quakers have written a letter with their concerns about the new announcement to Nicky Morgan, which can be read here. Below are our key initial concerns.

22/10/2014

This year over 550 schools around the country have had a Red, White and Blue Day on 11th October, which involves pupils raising money for three military charities by wearing red, white and blue clothing (the colours of the Union flag), or holding another fundraising event.

19/08/2014

This article was originally published in Red Pepper

Vron Ware reports on how the Armed Forced Community Covenant is a crucial part of the creeping militarisation of UK society.

As politicians have sought to prove their own commitment to the troops in an effort to control ‘the message’ about the wars, they have effectively turned this public concern into a political instrument. One consequence has been that, within the last two or three years, local authorities up and down the country, from borough to county level, urban, metropolitan and rural, have been ushered into an unprecedented programme of support for the armed forces in their areas. This development is symptomatic of a wider process of integrating military work into civil society, but it also reveals the social costs of maintaining a professional military force at home.

01/07/2014

On Thursday 26 June 2014, we launched our new short documentary film 'Engage: the military and young people', at Friends House in London. A packed and diverse audience watched the film, which was very well-received. Speakers included Ben Griffin, founder of Veterans for Peace UK, Sam Hepworth from Headliners (the youth journalists charity who made the film) and some of the young filmmakers, and Owen Everett, Education Campaign worker at ForcesWatch.

28/06/2014


This article was originally published on openDemocracy

Armed Forces Day represents a major shift in military-civil relations over the last 6 or 7 years that has seen the embedding of the military in civilian institutions in a way never seen before. What will be the impact on how we, as a society, view and accept military activities and military approaches? How will the promotion of the military affect young people as the next generation of 'future soldiers'?

28/06/2014

Letter to The Times (see all signatories below)

On this day 100 years ago, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo in an action that led to the First World War. Unchecked militarism in Europe was also a major factor. 

Today is also Armed Forces Day, one of the clearest indications of the re-militarisation of British society. Established in 2009 to increase public support for the forces, there are over 200 public events, many billed as 'family fun days'. This week also saw Uniform to Work Day promoting the reserve forces and 'Camo Day' in schools. 

13/05/2014

This article explains what we mean by  'military academies' and 'military free schools', and explores the concerns that they raise: the lack of evidence that they will raise attainment; that they can employ unqualified teachers; their limited accountability to the local community; the fact that they can set their own curriculum. Crucially, there are various agendas behind military academies and free schools, including providing employment for the growing number of veterans, and encouraging pupils to join the armed forces after they leave school. There is also unease about what military-style discipline would look like in a school environment.

06/03/2014

The Defence Select Committee have today released their report of inquiry into the MoD's Future Army 2020 plan. Amid the concerns about the strategy of increasing the proportion of reservists in relation to regular forces, the report calls on the MoD “to respond in detail to the argument that the Army could phase out the recruitment of minors without detriment to the Army 2020 plans”. Read our submission to the inquiry here.

26/11/2013

Many areas of society in the UK have seen a growing involvement and/or visibility of the military and military approaches in recent years - from schools, to local communities, to ‘militainment’ (military-themed films, TV programmes, video games etc). This process of privileging and prioritising the military is often referred to as ‘militarisation’; Cynthia Enloe, one of the foremost thinkers on the subject, states that “To become militarised is to adopt militaristic values and priorities as one's own, to see military solutions as particularly effective, to see the world as a dangerous place best approached with militaristic attitudes.”

In response to the recent developments in the UK, there has been an increase in critical academic studies, media coverage, and work by campaigning organisations and others on these issues. On 19 October 2013, around 70 academics, activists, campaigners, and writers came together in London at the Militarisation in Everyday Life in the UK conference organised by ForcesWatch.

21/11/2013

On 15 November 2013, the Department for Education announced "£4.8 million to projects led by ex-armed forces personnel to tackle underachievement by disengaged pupils".

ForcesWatch has a number of concerns about the military-led 'alternative provision' being developed in schools: who benefits? the armed forces certainly will; military-led 'alternative provision' targets young people seen to be 'failing' - precisely those who need more options and, if channelled into the forces, are most at risk in warfare; the policy is based on limited evidence and ideological assumptions; will there be space for ethical issues around conflict to be addressed?

08/11/2013

ForcesWatch are among 24 signatories of an open letter to Mark Francois MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces which calls for an end to the recruitment of under-18s.. The signatories include the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales, the Unitarian Church and Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and Quaker groups and Child Soldiers International. The letter notes that as the centenary of the outbreak of World War One approaches, the recruitment and deployment age of British soldiers is lower now than it was a century ago. The signatories call on the Ministry to raise the recruitment age to 18 as a “fitting memorial” to the thousands of young soldiers killed in World War One.

07/11/2013

When I was about seven, my dad took me to the local Remembrance Day memorial. Neatly turned-out elderly men were stood in equally neat rows while The Last Post was played. I wondered why everyone looked so sad. Dad said it was because their friends had been killed in the war; this day was to remember them. I wore a poppy then and I am glad that I did.

 

A photo from the British Legion website (now removed but available here) showing children wearing 'Future Soldier' t-shirts - the poppy as remembrance or as a recruitment tool? 

30/10/2013

This article was originally published on Student Voice.

My first job after graduating with a BA in History in June 2012 was a one-year joint placement at War Resisters' International (a global network of antimilitarist/pacifist groups) and ForcesWatch (a research and campaigning organisation focusing on the ethics of military recruitment in the UK).

My main focus over the year was researching and raising critical awareness about the ‘militarisation’ of youth: the process through which young people encounter the military and military approaches – from the presence of military personnel and hardware in public spaces; military youth groups such as the cadets; Armed Forces advertisements online and on television; video games developed by or with the military; and military involvement in education – and are encouraged to see them as normal, necessary, often the best solution to problems/conflicts, and, crucially, to be supported, not questioned.

30/10/2013

This article was originally published on Information for Social Change.

The encroachment of the UK military and ‘military ethos’ on the UK education system means that alternatives to war and peaceful ways of resolving conflict will be more difficult for young people to explore.

Young people – children – around the world encounter the military and military approaches in many different ways, from the presence of military personnel and hardware in public spaces; to military youth groups such as the cadets; Armed Forces advertisements online and on television; video games developed by or with the military; and military involvement in education. They are encouraged to see the military and military approaches as normal, necessary, often the best solution to problems/conflicts, and – crucially - to be supported, not questioned.

16/03/2013

Our education campaigner looks at the MoD's assertion that the armed forces do not go into schools for recruitment purposes. This is based on a definition of 'recruitment' that limits it to 'signing up' there and then. We argue that the armed forces are indeed recruiting in schools and that 'recruitment' is a broader activity that involves interesting young people in the idea of enlisting by engaging in the range of activities from careers talks to visits to bases.

15/03/2013

A study published in the Lancet called Violent offending by UK military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan has found that men in the UK armed forces are more likely to have been convicted of violent offences than their civilian peers. The study shows a strong link with age – that fighting and being traumatised by it tends to make those in younger age groups more likely to be violent afterwards.

15/02/2013

2012 was the the first year 'in at least a generation' in which a greater number of currently-serving US Army soldiers killed themselves (177) than were killed in active duty (176).

14/12/2012

A play about and starring injured veterans, and recent government data and policies, highlights their suffering.

28/11/2012

This article was originally published on Bright Green

Earlier this month the Department for Education published a statement on their website outlining their ambition to promote a military ethos in schools across the country. Through developing projects such as Troops to Teachers and expanding schemes such as the cadets and other alternative military provision in schools (such as Challenger Troop), the government is now actively encouraging schools, especially newer Academies and Free Schools, which tend to exist in more disadvantaged areas, to foster a military ethos.

27/11/2012

This article was originally published on openDemocracy

The incursion of the military into the British education system will mean that alternatives to war and peaceful ways of resolving conflict will be more difficult for young people to explore. In the long term we will all pay a heavy price.

26/11/2012

Each of the episodes from both series of Our War focuses on a different platoon or company, with varying missions during their tours in Helmand Province (which dated from between 2006 and 2012). Common themes to each of them include the youth of those involved, and the gravity of what is being asked of them.

19/10/2012

There are two plays on in London's West End currently that depict life in the UK military, and they do so critically. Our Boys', by Jonathan Lewis, at the Duchess Theatre is a revival, having first been performed in 1993. Sandi Toksvig's Bully Boy is at the St James Theatre. There is considerable similarity in the themes of the two plays: why young men join the armed forces, how they are often neglected when injured, and the horror of contemporary war in general.

17/10/2012

Will the Olympics normalise the military 'on the streets'?

In an article called 'Olympic Medals for the Military', Professor Michael Clarke, director-general of the Royal United Services Institute argues that the involvement of the military in the Olympics will bring in "a new relationship between the Armed Forces and the general public", in which the former appear "a normal and average part of a relaxed and self-confident British society.” Clarke notes that "The Chiefs should bottle that spirit for the difficult years to come" and that such "goodwill" will be useful in post-Afghanistan roles, which could include greater involvement in "home security".

Is normalisation of the military within everyday life a good thing? Is it the mark of a "self-confident British society" or would a better indicator of that be a far less visible presence of the military?

18/09/2012

A recent article called The Morning After: Unfriendly Fire by James Poniewozik in Time Magazine critiques a new reality TV show from the US TV channel NBC. Stars Earn Stripes, "in which celebrities are paired with soldiers to carry out special-forces-type maneuvers, was denounced by nine Nobel laureates, including South African bishop Desmond Tutu, for glamourising war and its violence by making them into entertainment."

17/09/2012

A parliamentary question reveals that during 2011 there were 228 allegations of bullying or harassment reported to the Service Complaints Commissioner. Another parliamentary question has identified that 'Over the past two and a half years, there have been 53 reported rapes and 86 reported sexual assaults in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force (one per week). Labour MP Madeleine Moon said she was concerned there was a 'culture of silence', with hundreds of victims never reporting attacks.

17/07/2012

Over the past month, amid announcements of major cuts to the armed forces, came some unexpected news on public spending: £10.85million to expand cadet forces into state schools, a £1million grant to promote a military ethos in schools and senior Labour politicians calling for a series of 'Service Schools', staffed entirely by former members of the armed forces, to be established. Unexpected, that is, to anyone who hasn't previously been aware of the importance that military policy makers place on access to young people within education.

29/06/2012

Today is 'Camo Day', established by SSAFA Forces Help to encourage school children across the country to 'dress up like our troops' as a fundraiser. 'Cam your face, wear green or come to school as a soldier, sailor or airman.' Camo Day is a non-uniform day to fit these increasingly militaristic times when supporting the armed forces is a badge of honour for celebrities and military involvement in the education system is commonplace and uncontroversial. Camo Day promotes the value of helping ex-service men and women but also reinforces military activities as fun, normal and desirable. Questions about why so many young men and women are killed or maimed or in need of welfare are unlikely to be explored.

01/06/2012

The UK armed forces visit thousands of schools each year. They offer school presentation teams, 'careers advisors', lessons plans, away days and more. While they claim that this is not recruiting, the Ministry of Defence itself states that the activities enable them to "provide positive information to influence future opinion formers, and to enable recruiters to access the school environments." Their youth policy, including school-based cadet forces, aims to create "the conditions whereby recruiting can flourish." This is a long-term approach to recruiting young people both as supporters of the armed forces and, for some, softening them up for actual enlistment.

02/05/2012

The deaths of 6 soldiers recently in one incident was particularly tragic because of how young some of them were. Four of the six who died were under 21 years old; one was only 19.

24/04/2012

On the 9 April 2012 the UK group of Veterans for Peace was launched. The movement has been long established in the US – ‘exposing the true costs of war and militarism since 1985’.

20/04/2012

Poetry about war is perhaps the most immediate way of understanding what it is to be involved, or caught up in, conflict.

The War Poetry website is a great resource, listing famous poets from the first world war alongisde little known contemporary poets with much to say about modern warfare. Most of the poems on the site are written by people who have expereienced conflict, many from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falklands war.

Below is a favourite by Danny Martin. 

10/01/2012

Michael Gove is again talking about extending the cadet forces within schools, this time with the support from the Schools Commissioner (and a senior advisor to the Education Secretary)....Why is the military considered uniquely able to develop a ‘spirit of service’ or promote a disciplined approach? Why does the Schools Commissioner regard Cadet forces amongst a small handful of activities that are seen as broadening the curriculum and offering more opportunity with state schools? Who is being served by children in schools doing drill in the school playground or taking part in adventure activities?

11/11/2011

The intervention of Prince William and Downing Street to compel FIFA to allow the England team to wear poppies during a match rather belies the royal statement that the poppy has 'no political' connotations. In fact, wearing the red poppy has never been free of political values, not least because it reinforces the view that war is acceptable, however regrettable.

07/11/2011

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