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ForcesWatch press release
A petition calling for increased transparency and scrutiny of armed forces visits to schools in Scotland comes before Holyrood this Thursday 15 September.
The Scottish Government is being urged to investigate the way the armed forces operate in secondary schools, after the Welsh Assembly agreed to take similar steps in 2015.
According to available data the military make a disproportionate number of visits to schools and colleges in Scotland, compared to England.
A 2014 ForcesWatch report highlighted how over four-fifths of state secondary schools in Scotland were visited by the armed forces during a two year period. (1)
In some areas every school was visited, and some as many as 20 times or more over a two year period. About one third of the visits were explicitly about careers in the armed forces, while other visits will also have had a careers related element.
The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament Education and Culture Committee to hold an inquiry into armed forces visits, and for the Scottish Government and local authorities to:
- Produce guidance for local authorities and schools on how visits by the armed forces should be conducted, taking account of the unique nature of armed forces careers, and ensuring political balance.
- Increase scrutiny of armed forces visits to schools, including monitoring the number and location of visits and seeking to establish whether there is a link with deprivation indicators.
- Ensure schools always consult parents/guardians as to whether they are happy for their child to take part in armed forces activities at school.
The Public Petition, lodged jointly by ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland, gathered over a thousand signatories earlier this year and has the active support of the SNP Youth. The SNP Youth, as Scotland's largest political youth organisation with over 15,000 members, regularly campaign on issues affecting the wellbeing of young Scottish people
On Thursday representatives from ForcesWatch, which monitors military recruitment practices, and Quakers in Scotland, will appear before the Parliament's Petitions Committee to put forward the case for greater clarity and guidance around military visits.
The five member committee will hear evidence before deciding on a range of possible next steps.
ForcesWatch coordinator, Emma Sangster, said: "As things stand there is a lack of clarity regarding the nature of armed forces visits and who is responsible for overseeing them. There is no clear guidance and that is a real concern.
"Our fear is these visits are being used as a recruitment tool in schools, with the military promoted only in a positive light.
"Surely it is only right that young people encounter a balance of views and discussion about the risks and consequences of joining up.
"Schools, in our view, must ensure the unique risks, legal obligations and ethical questions faced in the armed forces are given due and proper consideration.
"We hope this petition will spark a wider public debate and see Scotland follow Wales in accepting recommendations to increase scrutiny of armed forces visits and broaden the range of employers going into schools." (2)
Mairi Campbell-Jack, Scottish Parliamentary Engagement Officer for Quakers in Britain, said: "This issue needs scrutiny and public debate by all in Scottish society, especially parents and children themselves.
"Quakers in Scotland are led by faith to be concerned about increasing militarisation in Scottish state schools."
Rory Steel, Vice-Convener of the SNP Youth, said: "Given the unique nature of the military as a career, we feel it is essential to have transparency and accountability on recruitment in Scottish schools and crucial that parents be given power over their child's involvement in military sponsored activities."
The petition (PE1603) will be heard by the Public Petitions Committee on Thursday 15 September 2016 in Committee Room 6, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH99 1SP
The petition and background information can be found online at:
For more information and media enquiries contact:
ForcesWatch - 07752 304 113 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Quakers in Scotland - Anne van Staveren, Media Relations Officer
020 7663 1048, 07958 009703, email@example.com
ForcesWatch scrutinises armed forces recruitment practices and proposes changes in policy aimed at better serving the interests of young people. See http://www.forceswatch.net
For information about Quakers in Scotland see http://quakerscotland.org/
1. ForcesWatch, 2014. 'Armed forces visits to secondary schools in Scotland',http://www.forceswatch.net/resources/armed-forces-visits-secondary-schools-scotland
2. For details of the Welsh Government's position see:http://www.forceswatch.net/news/forceswatch-welcomes-welsh-government-stance-over-military-visits-schools