ForcesWatch scrutinises the ethics of armed forces recruitment practices and challenges efforts to embed militarist values in civilian society.

ForcesWatch comment

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.

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our projects

The armed forces visit thousands of UK schools each year, offering presentation teams, free resources and other activities. The Department for Education are integrating activities with a 'military ethos' into Britain's education system. Should the armed forces by given access to children within education? Is the military's agenda and the development of a 'military ethos' appropriate within schools?

August 2015: Concerns about armed forces visits to secondary schools in Wales

This briefing is a response to the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee’s investigation into UK armed forces ‘recruitment’ in schools in Wales.

This briefing supports the Petition Committee’s recommendations to the Welsh Government by presenting the 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. See more

May 2015: The recruitment agenda behind the UK armed forces’ ‘engagement’ with students in schools and colleges

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

March 2015: A critical response to The British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014

This report, published by ForcesWatch in confunction with the video The British Armed Forces: Propaganda in the classroom? produced by Quaker Peace & Social Witness, explains why The British Armed Forces Learning Resource (published in 2014 by the Prime Minister's Office and MoD) 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. See more

December 2014: Armed Forces Visits to Secondary Schools in Scotland

The report, published by ForcesWatch and co-sponsored by the Educational Institute of Scotland, is based on figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The report 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.” See more

See our other materials on the military in education here 

ForcesWatch respond to ways in which the military is being promoted as a normal part of everyday life. We believe that uncritical support for the armed forces stifles concerns about how young people are recruited and limits debate on alternatives to war.

Militarisation in everyday life in the UK
This conference brought together academics, writers, activists and campaigners who are researching and campaigning on the implications of militarisation of UK society. See more here.  

Spectacle, Reality, Resistance: Confronting a culture of militarism
This book takes a fresh look at a culture of militarism in Britain, public resistance to it, and the government's increasingly prodigious efforts to regain control of the story we tell ourselves about war. See more and buy the book.

 

ForcesWatch has been working with others to raise concerns, including the recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds into the armed forces, the lack of recognition of conscientious objection and restrictive and unclear terms of service.  

September 2014: Army Recruitment: Comparative cost-effectiveness of recruiting from age 16 versus age 18

This paper, published by Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch, finds that approximately £50 million would be saved annually if the minimum age of recruitment were raised to 18. It argues for a full, independent review of the policy of recruiting under-18s, with a view to phasing it out as an unnecessary, cost-ineffective, and fundamentally unethical practice. See more

28 October 2013: The Last Ambush? Aspects of mental health in the British armed forces
This ForcesWatch report, shows that post-war mental health problems are most common in young soldiers from disadvantaged backgrounds; also in veterans who left the forces in the last decade. It draws on over 150 sources, including 41 British military mental health studies, as well as testimony from veterans. It calls for the policy of recruiting from age 16 to be reviewed so that the greatest burden of risk is not left to the youngest, most vulnerable recruits to shoulder. See more

August 2013: Young age at Army enlistment is associated with greater war zone risks: An analysis of British Army fatalities in Afghanistan
This paper, published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International, indicates that the risk of fatality in Afghanistan for British Army recruits aged 16 who have completed training has been twice as high as it has for those enlisting at 18 or above. This increased risk reflects the disproportionately high number of 16 year olds who join front-line Infantry roles. This is mainly the result of recruitment policies which drive the youngest recruits into the Army’s most dangerous roles. See more

our new book on militarism

At a comfortable distance from warfare, our culture easily passes over its horrific reality in favour of an appealing, even romantic, spectacle of war. Yet, over the last decade, most Britons have opposed Western military ventures abroad. This book takes a fresh look at a culture of militarism in Britain, public resistance to it, and the government's increasingly prodigious efforts to regain control of the story we tell ourselves about war. 

See more detail here      Buy the book

Events 

David Gee, author of our book on militarism in the UK, will be speaking at the Just Festival in Edinburgh (in partnership with Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre) on 31 August on the militarisation of young people and whether there is 'ever a justification for recruiting children to the armed services?'

We will be giving a presentation on the military's influence in the UK education system at the Stop The Arms Fair's Conference at the Gates, ExCel Centre, London, on 10 September. 

We will be speaking and running workshops at the conference on 'Militarisation in our Society' (organised by Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in partnership with Central England Peace Committee, ForcesWatch and Quaker Peace and Social Witness) from 12-14 February 2016.

Security for the future: In search of a new vision

2014: UK peacebuilding professionals invite you to participate in a new civic conversation about alternatives to the current approach to national security.

Here they outline their concerns about the existing model, and offer a different vision for the future, welcoming input from anyone who wishes to engage in this debate. Read more

Watch our new film - Engage: the military and young people

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? This short film which explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.

Watch the full film and see more info

Watch the film trailer below:

Watch with Welsh subtitles here

Sign the petition to raise the age of recruitment

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.
sign petition   download paper version   
sign here if not in the UK

your questions

whats the problem with military recruitment?

ForcesWatch believes that armed forces recruitment practices in the UK are largely unethical. The military are reaching out to children and young people using sophisticated strategies to interest and involve them in military activities which do not deal adequately with the risks of an armed forces career but tend to glamorise and sanitise war. The military also fail to adequately inform young people of the legal obligations of an armed forces career.

See here for more.

what are your other concerns?

Taking an active part in conflict involves serious ethical questions regarding the justification of killing and the political purposes of military action. The armed forces fail to adequately address these concerns during recruitment and for serving personnel.

The more government and national initiatives which are created to show support for the armed forces, the more difficult it will become for individuals and society to reflect on the ethics of conflict and peaceful alternatives. See here for more

what should I think about before I join up?

There are ethical questions and questions about why you really want to join up and about what risks you face and what happens if you decide you want to leave. There are some very useful independent sources of advice about your legal situation as a member of the armed forces and other issues. We also have a selection of materials looking at some aspects of what it is like to serve. See here for more.

what can I do about military recruitment activity in my school or community?

The military make visits to many schools and colleges and are also active at local events. If you are unhappy about the presence of the military in your community, here are some ideas of how to address it and some materials to use. See here for more.

what have other people said about their experiences?

Very often the most useful insights into what it is like to be involved in anything is to hear directly from other people about what they have experienced. Here are some accounts of both what it is like to serve in the armed forces and what it is like to challenge the presence of the military in a community. See here for more.

how do you respond to those who don't agree with you?

We don't expect everyone to agree with us but we think there is significant cause for concern about military recruitment practices and about the way that a climate of uncritical national pride in the armed forces is being fostered which makes debate about the activities of the armed forces difficult to question. We think there should be more room for that debate. See more here.

Support our work

Make a donation to our work or find out more about how you can help.

Donate £36 or more for a FREE COPY of our book 'Spectacle, Reality, Resistance: Confronting a culture of militarism' See here for details

A funny short film by a young boy on The Militarization of Boys

Raise the age to join the army to 18
By William and Noah

Before You Sign Up

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British army: one young recruit's story, The Guardian 2013

A 4 part investigation of 'the soldier myth' - talking to soldiers about recruitment, training, fighting and coming home

Action Man: Battlefield Casualities - watch the film and join the campaign to end armed forces recruitment at 16

The Unseen March - short film with former SAS Ben Griffin, activist Mark Thomas and educationalists on ‘military ethos’ in schools.

latest news

28/07/2015 The Citizenship Foundation

The Citizenship Foundation's new resources focus on facilitating primary school students' critical thinking skills. Discussing the military in this rigorous way would give students a more balanced impression of armed forces life.

28/07/2015 Isle of Wight County Press

One way of challenging the problematic further incursion of the military in the UK education system is to start a debate about it in your local paper, and by writing to your MP, as Roger Bartrum from the Isle of Wight has done.

28/07/2015 The Independent; The Telegraph; 38 Degrees

The government's planned 'review' of the Freedom of Information Act is likely to significantly restrict it, making it harder for organisations like ForcesWatch to shed light on important issues regarding public institutions such as the armed forces. A petition calling for the Act to be protected already has 76,480 signatures.

13/07/2015 Schools Week, Children & Young People Now, Ekklesia.
08/07/2015 Schools Week

The number of cadet units in state schools is to increase five-fold by 2020, George Osborne announced today in the Summer Budget.

08/07/2015 UK Government

The Academies Enterprise Trust, the largest multi-sponsor of academies in the UK, has signed an Armed Forces Corporate Covenant, committing it to supporting: Military Ethos in Schools initiatives, teachers being in the Reserves, and Armed Forces Day. This represents a major shift.

06/07/2015 hmarmedforces.com

A 'Character Building' series of armed forces toys licensed by the MoD is discredited by the new Veterans for Peace UK short film on some of the things that these toys don't show, and by developments in 'character education' that indicate there is no need for 'military ethos' initiatives in UK schools.