news, info, resources

Recent news & articles

18/10/2016 Guardian Recruiting children aged 16 and 17 into the British army places them at greater risk of death, injury and long-term mental health problems than those recruited as adults, according to a new report.
17/10/2016 Various The Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, choose the Conservative Party conference to announce the next phase of the Cadet Expansion Programme with 25 new cadet units being set up in state schools.
16/09/2016 various On Thursday 15 September, ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland went to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence to the Public Petitions Committee about armed forces visits to schools.
13/09/2016 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.
30/08/2016 The Guardian Britain is the only EU country to enlist 16-year-olds into the armed services and, say objectors, it starts with access to the classroom.
13/07/2016 ForcesWatch press release ForcesWatch is raising ‘serious concerns’ about aspects of the Farnborough International Air Show designed to engage children and young people in careers and ‘exciting’ activities. The‘air show’ is taking place this coming weekend. Associated events this week include a major arms fair, civil aerospace exhibition and hosting of military delegations from some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

latest resources

October 2016

Medact’s report on the long-term impacts of the British military’s recruitment of children under the age of 18, presents evidence linking ‘serious health concerns’ with the policy, and calls for a rise in the minimum recruitment age.

The report’s findings include:

  • Child recruits are more vulnerable to PTSD, alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicide, death and injury during an armed forces career when compared to adult recruits.
  • Military recruitment marketing takes advantage of adolescent cognitive and psychosocial vulnerabilities.
  • The current practices for recruiting children in to the British armed forces do not meet the criteria for full and informed consent.
  • Those recruited as children, upon turning 18, are more likely than adult recruits to end up in frontline combat roles which carry greater risks than other roles.

The UK is one only a handful of countries worldwide to still allow recruitment from age 16, a policy which has been strongly criticised by multiple UN and UK parliamentary bodies, child rights organisations and human rights groups.

October 2016

Listen to talks given by David Gee (writer on militarism and campaigning to raise the age of recruiting into the UK armed forces) and Ben Griffin (Veterans for Peace UK) from the conference on Creeping Militarisation of Everyday Life organised by Movement for the Abolition of War Youth. 

June 2016

The Committee on the Rights of the Child recently reviewed the UK's position on implementing the articles and protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They made a number of recommendations relating to the armed forces recruitment of under-18s and the military's activities in schools.

May 2016

Rethinking Security: a discussion paper

How do we best build long-term security for people in the UK and worldwide?

  • Across the world, insecurity is growing, affecting everyone, especially the world's poorest but also people in rich countries like the UK.
  • Responses to insecurity, centred on offensive military power and restrictions on civil liberties, are proving ineffective and generating greater insecurity.
  • The greatest threats to our security - climate change, inequality, scarcity, militarism, and violent conflict - are not being addressed.
  • Security is often described as a national duty, but is better seen as a common right. It cannot be gained in one place at the expense of another, nor is it built on dominance, but on the health of our societies. Principles such as these could help to shape better responses to insecurity now, including immediate risks, while also helping to develop the conditions of lasting security over the long-term.
  • But the conversation about 'security' is too narrow: it is dominated by a small and exclusive group, supported by business interests that benefit from the status quo. Building a safer world needs a new approach - and it needs all of us.

Download the report

Go the the Rethinking Security website

March 2016

Published by Child Soldiers International, this short and accessible booklet addresses questions often raised about under-18s in the armed forces, presenting the facts - based on extensive research - rather than the fiction. Also contains very useful quotes and statistics. Great when talking to your MP or for those thinking of enlisting!

Despite this widespread unease about the policy of recruiting 16 and 17 years olds into the armed forces, a number of common misconceptions still lead many under-18s to leave their education early and enlist. This booklet examines these ‘myths’ in light of the evidence available.

‘The fact that the British armed forces continue to recruit from the age of 16 sets a poor example internationally and impedes global efforts to end the use of child soldiers. The Army surely does not need to make youngsters sign up formally at such a young age – there have to be other, better ways to meet our requirements whilst respecting our human rights obligations.’

Major General (retd) Tim Cross CBE

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.
revised 2016

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.

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.