resources: ForcesWatch materials

updated 2017

"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.

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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.

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February 2016
  • ForcesWatch welcomes the Education Committee’s inquiry. We strongly believe that a key purpose of education in England should be to equip students with the ability to think critically. This will help students make informed decisions about issues and institutions which is both a crucial life skill, and will aid them to contribute to the improvement of our democracy and our society.
  • Currently, the UK military has significant, and growing, influence in the UK education system which raises a number of concerns around critical thinking about the military, armed forces careers, and issues of peace and conflict resolution. These pro-military messages are not balanced by the inclusion of a structured framework for peace education within the curriculum, and the UK government is failing to implement recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as a result.
  • We outline a range of general educational and more detailed concerns and questions that need to be addressed in the wake of the growing influence of the military in education.
  • We make a number of recommendations for ensuring wider public debate and consultation around these developments and increasing the monitoring and oversight of military involvement in schools.
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December 2015

This report highlights seven recommendations from the Defence Committee’s report Duty of Care: Third Report of Session 2004-05 which have not been partially or fully implemented, and around which substantial concerns remain.

This report goes on to present additional evidence and arguments about the experience of the youngest recruits including lower educationlal standards within the armed forces; evidence that the youngest recruits are subject to higher physical and mental health risks, than older recruits, and have poorer long-term outcomes; and, understanding that adolescence is a period of on-going maturation and vulnerability.

This report then discusses the concept of 'in loco parentis' and 'moral obligation' with regard to the army's duty of care towards young recruits, noting that the Defence Committee were concerned in 2005 that the MoD distinguished too rigidly between legal and moral obligations, with the latter as less important. 

In 2005, the Defence Committee discussed the lack of balance beween training needs and considerations for operational effectiveness, and thus made its recommendations. Ten years on, it is apparent that operational arguments, and current difficulties meeting recruiting targets, continue to prevent the armed forces from reviewing both their position on enlisting under-18s, and their recruitment practices and materials.

Raising the age of recruitment would prioritise the best interest of young people recruited in the armed forces, who would benefit from recruits who are more mature and do not need additional duty of care requirments. 

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November 2015

Alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the Occasion of the UK's fifth periodic review report

This report highlights that peace education is not being promoted in schools. This is counter to the recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to the UK Government that peace education should be part of the curriculum. 

This raises concerns particularly with the increased promotion of the military within schools through the Department for Education's 'military ethos' programme and free military-related learning resources, and as the armed forces continue to conduct a substantial 'youth engagement' programme. 

This report focuses on:

  • The absence of a compulsory and organised curriculum of peace education within UK schools.
  • The increased promotion of the military within the educational system by the Government and by the armed forces.
  • Concerns regarding this activity taking place within education, including the process of recruitment to the armed forces.
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August 2015

This briefing is a response to the 2012-13 Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee’s investigation into UK armed forces ‘recruitment’ in schools in Wales, following the petition Stop the Army Recruiting in Schools (P-04-432) submitted by the Fellowship of Reconciliation Wales. The Petition Committee’s final report on their consideration of the petition was published in June 2015.

This briefing supports the Petition Committee’s recommendations to the Welsh Government by presentingthe key evidence that armed forces visits to secondary schools in Wales:

  • are disproportionately high to schools in more disadvantaged areas;
  • do not present a balanced view of the armed forces;
  • and, are more numerous and more career-focused than visits by most other employers(particularly the emergency services).

This briefing also presents evidence that:

  • armed forces visits to schools are motivated by an agenda of engaging students in a long-termrecruitment process;
  • quality and transparency of armed forces record-keeping makes a full study of the extent of visitsto schools problematic.
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2015

This 2-sided ForcesWatch briefing (updated 2015):

  • outlines the extent and nature of armed forces visits to schools
  • details the Department for Education's 'Military ethos in schools' policy.
  • outlines the concerns about these activities 
  • suggests what students, parents and others can do to challenge them.
May 2015

The armed forces make around 11,000 visits to secondary schools and colleges schools in the UK each year, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) spends around £26 million each year on school Combined Cadet Force (CCF) units, both of which have a strong recruitment agenda behind them, contrary to the repeated denials of this in recent years by the MoD.

This briefing is a compilation of evidence that contradicts the MoD and armed forces' claims that they don’t recruit in schools and that 'engaging' with students does not have a recruitment purpose.

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March 2015
March 2015

The report is published in conjunction with the video The British Armed Forces: Propaganda in the classroom? produced by Quaker Peace & Social Witness

 

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.

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December 2014

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.” 

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October 2014

By David Gee, published by ForcesWatch

At a comfortable distance from warfare, our culture easily passes over its horrific reality in favour of an appealing, even romantic, spectacle of war. Militarism, past and present, attempts to control public opinion by aligning it with its own worldview. In his new book, Spectacle, Reality, Resistance: Confronting a culture of militarism, David Gee takes a fresh look at a culture of militarism in Britain, exploring these dynamics – distance, romance, control – in three essays, accompanied by three shorter pieces about the cultural treatment of war and resistance to the government's increasingly prodigious efforts to regain control of the story we tell ourselves about war.

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September 2014

This paper, published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International, shows that the taxpayer would save approximately £50 million per annum if the minimum age of recruitment were raised to 18; it would also result in the army needing to find about 211 fewer new recruits annually, based on current numbers joining the trained strength.

The paper concludes that the case to cease recruiting from age 16 is now overwhelming and urges a full, independent review of the policy, with a view to phasing out the recruitment of minors as an unnecessary, cost-ineffective, and fundamentally unethical practice.

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June 2014

 

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.

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March 2014

ForcesWatch's submission to the Defence Select Committee inquiry on Military Casualties draws on our research published in The Last Ambush and concludes that:

  • The continued targeted recruitment of minors from disadvantaged backgrounds deserves to be re-appraised from the perspective of long-term mental health risks that this group faces. 
  • Where possible, we hope that the development of military health research will better specify personnel who face higher and lower risks.
  • Future research could also better account for personnel who show some symptoms of mental ill-health but are not counted as full ‘cases’ of a specific ‘disorder’. 
  • A large number of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are likely to need mental health support services for years to come.  It falls to the state to take prime responsibility for ensuring that the long-term welfare needs of injured veterans are met.  That is an expensive undertaking, which it behoves any government to appreciate and accept before deciding whether to send young men and women to war
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November 2013

A ForcesWatch poster showing policy, cultural and other recent developments affecting the extent of military influence in young people's lives.

 

 


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We call on the UK Government to stop its policy of allowing 15 year olds to apply and 16 and 17 year olds to be recruited into the Armed Forces. The recruitment and targeting of young people and vulnerable groups has been criticised by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

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Why is this important?

What better way to commit our country to peace during the commemoration of World War One and remember the hundreds of thousands who died from the UK alone, including boy soldiers like Rifleman V J Strudwick who was killed at 15? Why is it that in 2014 the UK is the only country in Europe - and the only country among the permanent members of the UN Security Council - to recruit 16 year olds into its armed forces?

Initiated by Pax Christi and supported by:
Baptist Peace Fellowship, Child Soldiers International, Christian CND, Columban Justice Peace & Integrity of Creation, Conscience, Fellowship of Reconciliation, ForcesWatch, Movement for the Abolition of War, National Justice & Peace Network, National Union of Teachers, Network for Peace, Northern Friends Peace Board, Peace Education Network, Peace Pledge Union, Quaker Peace & Social Witness, Student Christian Movement, War Resisters International, Woodcraft Folk, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom.

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